Since the first Segway stand-up scooters went on the market two years ago, they've been hailed as a vehicle from the future, ridiculed as a fad, banned in some cities and even recalled in late 2003. But with all the hype, few can say they've piloted one.
Now, for better or worse, this "unique self-balancing electric-powered transportation device" can be yours for $45 an hour at the Santa Monica Segway dealership, the only official rental shop in L.A., Orange, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.
Before you can rent one, the staff gives you a tutorial. After some practice, it becomes second nature -- more or less. Point your toes down; the scooter moves forward. Tilt your heels back; the scooter stops. The key is finding the sweet spot -- directly over the center of the axle -- that will give you maximum control, although it's not too hard to do. Turning a little dial on the left handlebar steers the Segway right and left.
But is the future safe? "You really can't flip over," salesperson Abi Richie assures us. "Even on carpet it won't fly out from under you."