THE BLOG
28/09/2011 04:37 BST | Updated 27/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Rock And Roll People, I Hate You

Last month the Court of Appeal decided Segways couldn't be used on pavements. It's a pity, because they appeared to be safe and easy to ride, at least for people who are good at staying on things. Not so good, perhaps, for people with a track record of falling off.

Passing through Amsterdam airport a couple of weeks ago I was reminded how good those Segway machines are - small electrically propelled platforms on two wheels, on which you stand clutching a control bar, held upright by a gyroscope. At Schiphol Airport the security staff use them, skimming around efficiently and silently.

I'd always thought these things might be the future of the British high street - everyone on silent moving platforms, taking no more space then a normal walking person. But last month the Court of Appeal decided they couldn't be used on pavements.

It's a pity, because Segways appeared to be safe and easy to ride, at least for people who are good at staying on things. Not so good, perhaps, for people with a track record of falling off. George W. Bush, for instance, was a repeat faller-offer. In between falling off a sofa in a dead faint when he choked on a pretzel in 2002, and falling off a pushbike at his ranch two years later, he managed to fall of a Segway during his summer holidays in 2003. Mainly because he didn't realise you had to turn it on before it would hold you upright. No power means no gyroscope - no gyroscope means over you go.

'Over you go' also happened to the British millionaire who bought the company in 2009. Jim Heselden predicted a great future for the Segway and stressed the vehicle's safety record, then did its image no good at all by riding one over a cliff and killing himself.

However, what the British appeal court was concerned about was not the danger Segways might present to their riders, but to other people.

What can and can't be used on the pavement is a complicated matter. Motorised vehicles for disabled people are OK if they go no faster than 8 miles an hour. But prams, in which mothers push babies, are actually illegal. Consequently the laws of pavement usage are enforced with much turning of blind eyes. Technically, pushing your infant around in a pram is only legal if you fit it with a motor that goes no more than 8 mph and the baby is disabled.

But back to Segways. While I admit I'm somewhat in favour of them, I can't help remembering I was once the victim of an irregular piece of pavement transportation. And it wasn't pleasant. I was run over by a refrigerator.

In 1978 I was in Germany with Japan, a group I managed. They'd just played a midnight gig at the Batschkapp Club in the centre of Frankfurt and at 2am we still hadn't eaten. We set off to try and find some food but Frankfurt 1978 proved not to be a midnight festival of gourmet cuisine. The only place we could find was an outside cafe opposite the railway station - beer, wine, sausages, and potato salad.

Actually it wasn't too bad. It was August, and warm, and we ordered wine and a huge communal dish of potato salad and sat outside at cheap metal tables in the early hours of the morning, not at all unhappy. Until suddenly a fridge appeared from nowhere and ran me over. It was a Westinghouse.

The lady in charge of it was around eighty and was pushing it along the pavement on a single roller skate, moving rooms in the middle of the night. As she approached us she encountered a slight downward slope and lost control. The result? One minute I was sitting gracefully holding a glass of red wine and scooping up a forkful of Kartoffelsalat; the next I lay crushed on the pavement under a 10-cubic-foot freezer-refrigerator in white with automatic ice dispenser.

Worse still, she was a hit-and-run driver. No sooner had I been smashed to the ground than she gathered up her fridge, re-positioned it on its roller skate and skittled off, leaving me floored and bruised, and everyone potato-less, because the dish of Kartoffelsalat had fallen underneath me.

And if that wasn't indignity enough, my companions thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen and sat roaring with laughter.

The owner of the cafe hearing the commotion came running outside. He saw me lying next to an upturned table, the potato salad mashed beneath me, the broken glass on the pavement, the wine dribbling down to the gutter, the group in stitches.

"You're all drunk," he shouted. "Rock and roll people, I hate you. Go home."

He carried the tables and chairs inside, put up the 'closed' sign, turned out the lights, and at 2am left us hungry and without food with nowhere else to go.

So yes - on reflection I think the appeal court is right. Pavements should be for people and nothing else.