Segway rider guilty of travelling on pavement

An unemployed factory worker today became the first person in the UK to be convicted of riding a Segway on a pavement.

Phillip Coates's prosecution has been seen as a test case by users of the distinctive two-wheeled personal transporters.

But District Judge Michael Rosenberg ruled at Barnsley Magistrates' Court that the Segway is a motor vehicle under the meaning of the law and, therefore, it is an offence to ride one on the pavement.

Coates, 51, of Park Avenue, Cudworth, South Yorkshire, was fined £75, and ordered to pay £250 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

The case has attracted nationwide interest from campaigners for wider Segway use.

They say they are effectively barred from using them on pavements if they are classed as motor vehicles yet cannot drive them on roads because they do not meet all the requirements of a motor vehicle for use on the highway.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik turned up at one hearing to offer his support for Coates.

Coates was summonsed after he was spotted riding on a pavement in Pontefract Road, Barnsley, in February by a civilian police inquiry officer.

He was prosecuted under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835. It was alleged he "wilfully rode a motor vehicle, namely a Segway, upon a footpath or causeway by the side of the road, made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers".

The district judge said the case hinged on the legal definition of a "motor vehicle" which, he said, was "a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads".

Judge Rosenberg said the crux of the case was whether a Segway was "intended or adapted for use on roads".

He said his task was "for me to interpret whether or not the Segway is a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road".

He concluded: "If I am satisfied, from all the evidence presented, that a reasonable person was to say 'Yes, the Segway might well be used on a road', then, applying the test, the vehicle is intended or adapted for such use.

"In my judgment, the conclusion must be that general use on the roads is to be contemplated."

The judge continued: "It requires no stretch of the imagination to contemplate that any user of a Segway on the pavement will be tempted, as the defendant appeared to be, to ride upon a road when this is convenient, due to a 'full' pavement or for other reasons.

"Although this is by no means an easy matter to determine, I am inexorably driven to the conclusion that I am satisfied to the required standard that the Segway is a motor vehicle and the allegation is therefore proved."

The evidence in the case was heard at a trial in Barnsley earlier this year and the judge reserved his decision until today.

After the 20-minute hearing, Coates said he did not want to comment.

His solicitor, Victoria Molloy, said they were considering whether to take the case to an appeal.