Johannesburg - A group of journalists had the pleasure of zipping through Sandton’s normally congested streets on Segway personal mobility vehicles on Thursday.
Standing upright on these two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric scooters is great fun.
Kasi Tours is running Segway tours through Sandton during EcoMobility Month in preparation for the Soweto tour launch.
Climbing onto a Segway for the first time makes you feel like you have sea-legs – a bit wobbly.
But with a little guidance from accomplished Segway driver and guide Jacob Penyenye, the group are soon whizzing and wobbling around a parking lot practice ground.
The good thing about these strange vehicles is that it’s very difficult to fall off, so even the most nervous drivers quickly feel confident.
“It’s very easy, it’s self-balanced,” Penyenye reassures.
You lean forward to go faster, backwards to slow down or reverse, and to the side to turn.
Very soon we’re ready for a quick drive through Sandton. Some of the normally packed roads are blocked off and eerily quiet – a relief for us novice Segway drivers.
Other roads, such as Rivonia Road, don’t seem to show a decrease in traffic, despite the City of Joburg’s request for drivers to ditch their cars during October and use public transport.
At least two motorists hoot impatiently as we cross the intersection.
Kasi Tours director Claudia Ferro told The Star they were invited to participate in the EcoMobility festival in preparation for a Segway Soweto tour they are hoping to launch.
“We’re here for people to see what it’s about.
“Segways are not authorised to be on the roads yet. We are working with the City of Joburg and the Department of Transport to get permission to be on the roads.”
After the company has been given the thumbs up, it will launch various tour options for corporates and tourists.
These novel machines can reach a top speed of between 24km/h and 30km/h, and when fully charged – which takes about eight hours from flat – can travel as far as 40km.
Meanwhile, the Gautrain has reported a passenger increase of 7.7 percent since the festival started. On Monday, 60 120 passengers used the train compared to the normal average of around 55 800.
The bus service increased by 512 passenger trips.
“The recent increase in the usage by Gautrain passengers shows commuters are making a conscious shift from private car use to public transport, and public transport is safe, reliable and affordable,” spokeswoman Barbara Jensen said in a statement.
However, minibus taxi drivers who have been hired to take commuters from the Innesfree Park park-and-ride facilities say they haven’t had much support.
When The Star visited on Thursday around 2.30pm, there were seven cars parked there and more than double the number of taxis. The park-and-ride co-ordinator, Vusi Macheke, said he expected the numbers to increase as more people became aware of the facility.