BERLIN – A Berlin entrepreneur asked for and got the blessing of the Berlin Mayor and Council this week to offer Segway tours of the historic town.
Gerard DiCairano sought approval from the town council Tuesday night, riding up the aisle in the council chamber on a Segway, a two-wheeled personal transporter.
“I’ve never made a speech on a Segway before. I hope it goes alright,” said DiCairano before presenting his idea, which he believes would be the first Segway tour on Delmarva.
“There are around 125 Segway tours around the nation and the world,” said DiCairano. “The closest to us are in Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.”
DiCairano plans to run two tours a day, six days a week. Each will take about two hours, including a break, as well as a 15-minute training session.
“They will see a video. They will practice,” he said.
Each tour will cost $59 per person, which, according to DiCairano, is $10 or $15 less than similar tours in other cities. His plan is to conduct tours from mid-April to mid-September.
“It’s really not much fun to ride a Segway when it’s cold out,” DiCairano said. “It’s a fair weather activity.”
While he has not nailed down where exactly tours will begin and other details, DiCairano does know what he wants to feature.
“I would like to cover on the tour all of the places on your current walking tour,” DiCairano said.
The Segway devices have a maximum speed of 12.5 mph but can be set not to exceed lower speeds. DiCairano said he would limit the devices to six mph. The tour would proceed at a slower pace in general, he said.
Michael Day, Main Street coordinator, said DiCairano successfully tested the concept by riding a Segway through town during Spring Arts Night with no problems.
The devices, only 26 inches wide, must stay on the sidewalk.
“He’s not allowed on the roadway unless there’s no sidewalk by state law,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing. “This is considered the same as pedestrians.”
DiCairano said Segways were designed for use around pedestrians and can be operate in a slow manner.
“It’s a very maneuverable machine. It’s not like a bicycle. It has a zero turning radius,” DiCairano said. “If it goes too fast, it gives you a warning signal. It has quite a bit of redundancy built into it.”
DiCairano’s tours will not resemble the rental of Segways in Ocean City, where 14-year-olds are allowed to rent and use the machines unsupervised, Day said. “It’s not like setting them loose,” he said.
“The tour guide is going to be pacing the tour,” DiCairano said.
The town council consulted Downing for his opinion of the tour.
“Safety is the key,” he said.
The use of helmets, minimum age of 16, and the training period are all positives in the idea’s favor.
“We’re definitely willing to give him a chance,” said Downing.
As far as the law is concerned, Segways may be used on sidewalks. The only question, Downing said, is whether the town council wanted to permit DiCairano to do tours.
Mayor Tom Cardinale noted the inclusion of a liability waiver.
Segway publishes materials on how to conduct tours and recommends liability waivers, DiCairano said.
Council member Ellen Lang asked whether, if someone falls off a Segway during a tour and breaks an arm, who is liable?
Liability is no different than if the victim was a pedestrian, said town attorney Dave Gaskill. The town could potentially be liable, in this case.
“Anybody can sue anybody any time,” said Councilman Gee Williams.
This is a chance to get some positive publicity for Berlin at no cost to the town, Williams said.
“I think we should definitely try this as a one summer experiment and see how it goes,” said Williams.
Williams further suggested giving DiCairano permission to operate the business till the end of September, with the intent of reviewing the results then, and getting feedback from the business community.
“I can’t think of any significant meaningful reason not to give it a try,” Williams said.
DiCairano agreed, saying the town should benefit from the added exposure.
“I consider the tour a kind of rolling commercial for the town,” DiCairano said.
DiCairano plans to meet with local merchants to determine what they want the tour to say about their establishments.
“What I’m trying to do is provide unique entertainment,” he said. “I’m not here to be an irritant or to cause trouble.”
Council member Paula Lynch believes it’s a win-win situation for the town.
“I don’t think we have anything to lose. You might. I think it’s a bit pricey,” Lynch told DiCairano.
Williams responded, “Compared to a round of drinks at any bar in Ocean City it’s cheap.”
DiCairano envisions a profit with a handful of Segways operating.
“With three or four Segways I should be able to make a profit the first year,” DiCairano said.
The council voted unanimously to permit DiCairano to go ahead this summer.
“Welcome to Berlin,” said Cardinale.