Faced with the daunting task of finding all of the places where Bellevue's sidewalks may be inaccessible to people with disabilities, the city has hit upon a unique solution -- a Segway Human Transporter equipped with high-tech hardware that can track potential obstacles in its path.
The "streetwise" Segway is the centerpiece of a pilot project to collect data on Bellevue's sidewalks, part of an ongoing effort to make all 336 miles of city sidewalks accessible and comply with requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bellevue will use the customized, high-tech Segway electric scooter free under an agreement with the Office of Pavement Technology, part of the Federal Highway Administration, which developed the device at a cost of approximately $120,000.
Data collected by the Segway will be used in a "transition plan" that evaluates Bellevue's sidewalks and ramps for problems that could prevent a wheelchair from being used. Such transition plans are required by the ADA, but few cities have complied so far due to the high cost and complexity of conducting a survey.
If successful, the pilot project could save Bellevue hundreds of thousands of dollars it would otherwise pay for an evaluation. Cities nationwide also could benefit by having a relatively low-cost method for surveying sidewalks, helping them to complete their transition plans.
What makes the streetwise Segway different from a standard model, which sells for about $5,000, is the addition of high-tech inertial profiling hardware designed to survey potential obstacles such as misplaced signs and poles, buckled sidewalks and missing curb cuts.
The hardware includes a displacement measurement laser, a vertical axis accelerometer, an optical trigger and a distance measurement instrument. Together, these devices will enable the city to capture detailed information about sidewalk slope and small surface variations that can make a sidewalk difficult to navigate.
The Segway also includes a camera system that records time and location data, along with video footage that will tie into the city's computerized mapping system. Once the survey is complete, it will allow planners to zoom in on a section of sidewalk, making it easier to check on accessibility and ADA compliance.
Beginning in early August, a pair of summer interns for the City of Bellevue will take turns operating the Segway. The goal is to survey all of the city's sidewalks by the end of September.
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