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Segway sightseeing firm fights ordinance that curtails mobility

Boston Gliders’ Andy Bartlett led Natasha Steinberg and Matt Simmers on a North End tour on Segways in February 2010. Boston Gliders’ Andy Bartlett led Natasha Steinberg and Matt Simmers on a North End tour on Segways in February 2010. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
August 20, 2011

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Boston may have found a new way to balance its books: Handing out tickets to a rogue tour operator who offers sightseeing trips on the upright, two-wheeled contraptions called Segways.

Police have issued 50 citations to Boston Gliders in the last three weeks, after a new law took effect banning Segways from parks and sidewalks.

At $500 a ticket, the company has a bill of $25,000, and it is climbing.

“We’re going to fight the tickets; we have to,’’ said Joe Ingram, vice president of marketing for Boston Gliders. “We just are feeling very, very singled out.’’

Some context: The North End-based company drew the ire of City Hall several years ago when residents complained about a proliferation of Segways zooming up and down cobblestone sidewalks.

The company struck a defiant tone as the City Council took up the issue and drafted an ordinance to regulate Segways.

“Are we singling them out? No,’’ said Councilor Salvatore LaMattina, whose district includes the North End. “This is a public safety issue. They don’t belong on the sidewalk.’’

Boston Gliders, the only Segway company in the city, has continued its tours, although it now stays off sidewalks except when using them is unavoidable, Ingram said. The ordinance has forced its tours onto busy streets, slowing traffic and eliciting angry shouts from drivers.

“It’s more than just the safety of the people here that is the city’s concern,’’ Ingram said. He believes the company has been unfairly targeted while bicycle scofflaws operate with impunity.

“Is there a reason,’’ Ingram asked, “to put a company out of business?’’

ANDREW RYAN