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Alderman wants to put brakes on downtown Segway tours

Chicago architecture tour participants use Segways near Soldier Field this 2005 photo. |  Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Chicago architecture tour participants use Segways near Soldier Field in this 2005 photo. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 5, 2014 8:33AM



Segway tours have become a popular way for Chicago tourists to cruise the lakefront, Millenium and Grant parks, but they’re getting a little too popular for downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Reilly introduced an ordinance that would put the brakes on Segway tours now dominating too many crowded sidewalks.

The ordinance would limit individual Segway tours that currently approach 30 tourists to “no more than eight devices per tour.” And if the tour includes more than three Segways at a time, the tourist speed could not exceed 8 m.p.h. while the tour leader could not go faster than 12 m.p.h.

Those speed limits would coincide with a state law that, Reilly claims, is not being enforced.

Segways would be prohibited from using the soon-to-be built Navy Pier Flyover, which would be confined to bicycle traffic. And Segways could not be used to “tow billboard advertising or trailers,” the ordinance states.

Violators would face fines ranging from $25 to $200 with the tour leader — not the tourists — held liable.

Reilly said he’s well aware that Segways provide a unique way for tourists to see and enjoy Chicago. But he doesn’t want them to get out of hand. He noted that he worked with the Chicago Park District and the Police Department to draft the ordinance and that both departments are on board.

“We’re having all sorts of pedestrian versus Segway conflicts. These tour groups can mushroom up to 25 and 30 Segways at a time, which leaves very little sidewalk space for pedestrians,” he said.

“Pedestrians have complained about large Segway tours monopolizing sidewalk space. There have been near-misses due to excessive speed. This is designed to make Segway tours safe, not only for the tourists, but for the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians who use our sidewalks every day.”

Also on Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel followed through on a promise to restore paid Sunday parking to neighborhood commercial strips that have suffered from the lack of parking turnover since he negotiated free Sunday parking as part of a revised parking meter deal.

The impacted areas are located in five wards: the 2nd, 32nd, 44th, 45th and 46th Wards. The aldermen of those wards have been clamoring for a return to paid Sunday parking for months in parts of Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Portage Park.

“They never spoke to chambers [of commerce] and small businesses that they ended up hurting. They should have sat down with them and asked, `How is free Sunday going to help or hurt you?’ This rush to get the deal done without talking to the actors most affected [was wrong]. They’re finally getting heat from businesses that they deserve," Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told the Chicago Sun-Times last month.

To force the mayor's hand, the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce went so far as to issue an emailed “call to action” to its members, according to communications director Padraic Swanton.

“It’s about business turnover. The same car could park from 9 p.m. on Saturday all the way until Monday morning. During that time, customers at local businesses are finding it challenging to find an open parking space,” Swanton said last month.

“Some businesses have reported a 10 percent loss of revenue on Sundays. Many restaurants point to Sunday being their third-busiest day. And while they offer valet parking, people aren’t looking to pay for valet parking on Sunday.”

When the City Council approved the mayor’s plan to trade a longer parking day for free neighborhood parking on Sundays, it was with the understanding that individual aldermen would be allowed to opt out.

“Some don’t want free Sundays. A lot of people do want free Sundays,” the mayor said on that day.

In fact, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s floor leader, promised the change would be made within weeks and said his own ward would likely be one of those returning to paid Sundays. He obviously changed his mind.



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