The Renegade Rip

Rebel with a cause

Coumba Tamboura

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His silhouette strolls down the campus sidewalks, perched on top of a modern-looking Roman chariot.

This warrior in the bicycle helmet is Dr. Clark Parsons, instructional technology specialist at Bakersfield College, and owner of a contemporary marvel called the Segway Human Transporter.

Intrigued by the technology of the device, Parsons said he saw the Segway as a means to not only protect the environment, but also save money on energy and car repair.

“I’ll prevent pollution, it will cost me 25 cents a week for electricity to keep it charged, and I will also prevent wear and tear on my car,” he said.

However, the main reason he bought the Segway was to avoid the inconvenience of the hot summer.

Living about a mile and a half away from the college, the usual walks he takes leave him sweaty once he arrives at work.

“I thought it was a great way to get back and forth to work in the summer when it’s too hot to walk.”

People often wave at him when he passes by, or stop to chat and ask questions. Others simply follow him with astounded eyes as he disappears from their sight.

He also has been asked for rides.

“There are some people that don’t like it, and some others jump on it,” he said.

Campus security is probably among those who will not jump on the opportunity of testing Parsons’ Segway.

“The problem is they consider it a motorized vehicle, because it has a battery and it has motors in it. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the internal sidewalks unless they are campus vehicles,” Parsons said.

Mark Graf, campus security chief, confirmed the policy.

“An individual bicycle, moped, skateboard and Segway are not allowed to ride on campus,” Graf said.

For him, allowing a Segway or any other kind of motorized vehicle would not be safe for students.

“I have nothing against the Segway at all,” he said, “but there is just too many people walking around on campus, and there is an expectation from students that walking on the sidewalk they don’t have to worry about any vehicle coming their way.”

Although he is allowed to ride the Segway on the streets of Bakersfield, Parsons could not get a permit for it on campus when he asked for one.

For him, it is a “much more sophisticated” machine that people don’t know a lot about.

“I think it is easier for them to just say no to everybody because then they will have to take everything as a special case.”

Graf said that he understands Parsons’ point of view. and even wishes that they had found a common ground.

“Since the interior of the college is designed for pedestrian traffic, it will not only be unsafe, but also create chaos if a person is allowed to go against the policy,” Graf said.

But Parsons explained that two faculty members at MiraCosta College north of San Diego own a Segway and ride on campus without encountering trouble. According to Parsons, they never asked for permission, but just did it.

“I am not going to try to be a bad boy or anything,” said Parsons as he smiled. “But safety is not an issue.”

“It is not a safety issue because you can drive more carefully with that than you can with any other vehicles on campus. I believe even more so than a wheelchair.”

Even if the machine has been recalled for a safety-related software upgrade, Parsons insists that it is safe even without it.

He was among 31 winners of an essay contest that gave him a free trip back to the Segway factory in New Hampshire, where he was “factory-trained” to safely ride themachine.

“We had an obstacle course and safety lessons. I always wear a helmet when I ride it and we were told how to give demonstration rides,” he said.

Even though he can’t use his Segway inside the campus, Parsons is still thrilled with it.

“For short folks like me, it’s neat.”

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Rebel with a cause