By Becky Pritchard
BAR HARBOR — Residents and visitors have begun to notice groups of people riding Segway scooters around town and along the waterfront here. Bar Harbor Segway Tours opened in July at 8 Mount Desert Street. The company is leading five tours per day and plans to continue tours through October.
Every state has laws for the use of “electronic personal assistive mobility devices,” the technical term for the scooters. In Maine, they can be used on sidewalks, bike paths, and roadways with some restrictions. Riding a Segway in the road is only allowed if the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less.
Glen Soucie, who owns the business with his wife Tina Soucie, said he brought the company to Bar Harbor because “times are changing” in how people want to sightsee.
“This is a fun way to see a city or town up close and personal,” he said. “We can cover four times as much ground as people walking, and twice as much ground as on a bicycle, and without the fatigue.”
Tours begin with a brief training on how to operate a Segway scooter. Participants learn how to mount a Segway and balance, which is assisted by a computer chip in the platform that keeps the device balanced. Participants also learn how to start, stop, steer and rotate. By the end of the training, participants can zigzag through an obstacle course of cones and stop quickly on demand.
Participants are guided into the back roads and lesser-known neighborhoods of Bar Harbor.
“We go to into the areas that have history,” Glen Soucie said, viewing landmarks like the Abbe Museum, Bar Island, LaRochelle House, Nelson Rockefeller’s birthplace, the Shore Path, and other sights.
Sticking to less-travelled roads also cuts down on encounters with pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
“That’s what’s most important, is the safety aspect,” he said.
Originally from Belgrade, Maine, Soucie has run a driving school for the past 35 years. With a background in driver education, teaching people to safely use a Segway is a natural fit.
According to Police Chief Jim Willis, Bar Harbor does not have special limitations on use of the scooters. But other Maine municipalities, including the City of Portland, do have restrictions.
Tina Soucie said they would like to open in Portland next, but the ordinance there would have to change. The couple’s goal is to have seven locations throughout New England. “People look for these [Segway tours] when they travel,” she said.