An UNEMPLOYED factory worker has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of riding an electric Segway scooter on the pavement.
In a test case, a judge decided that the Segway was a motor vehicle and Philip Coates, 52, had broken an ancient law by using it on a footpath.
Mr Coates was on a shopping trip from his home in Cudworth, near Barnsley, when he was reported by a retired officer who still works part-time.
He denied one offence of riding a motor vehicle on a footpath, in contravention of the Highways Act of 1835, at a trial last Friday on the grounds that the Segway was not a motor vehicle.
But, giving his judgment yesterday, Barnsley district judge Michael Rosenberg said he was satisfied that the prosecution had proved their case.
Mr Coates was found guilty, fined 75 with 250 costs and can no longer ride his Segway on the pavement. Afterwards, his solicitor Victoria Molloy said they would consider an appeal.
She said: "We are disappointed at the verdict. We are going to take some time to consider the judgment and take instructions on whether to pursue it or not."
The court heard that Coates was seen riding his Segway at 1.50pm on February 12 last year by ex-policeman Raymond Flear on the pavement at Pontefract Road near his home.
In a statement read to the court, former West Yorkshire Police road traffic officer Mr Flear said: "There were no other pedestrians around but I consider the use of this vehicle to be dangerous as it took up most of the pavement and any pedestrian might have to step out into the road."
When Coates went to his local police station to contest the matter, he was seen to ride home on his Segway afterwards.
Another officer, PC Colin Mackie, said he had also seen Coates riding his Segway on the pavement on another occasion.
When interviewed Coates said the machine only had a top speed of 12mph and he did not know it was illegal to ride it on the footpath.
The defence challenged the designation of the low-energy, no emissions machine as a motor vehicle and argued that the scooter was not a motor vehicle and there was no legal precedent.
Mr Rosenberg said the issue was whether the Segway fell within the legal definition of a motor vehicle.
The defence argued it was not adapted or intended for roads.
Mr Rosenberg said that, when interviewed by police, the defendant admitted he had ridden the Segway on pavements "or the road" if the pavement was full.
His decision was not swayed by whether it was legal to ride Segways on footpaths in other countries. He said: "My only concern is to interpret the law of this land."
He said any reasonable person would agree that it could be used on the road and in "large measure" he preferred the prosecution case.
Mr Rosenberg said: "I am satisfied to the required standard that the Segway is a motor vehicle and the allegation is therefore proved."
Mr Coates bought the 5,000 Segway after trying one out during a holiday in Florida. He said after he was charged: "They are perfectly safe and I even let my mum who is 86 have a go on it."
He first used it to go to work then for five-mile shopping trips into Barnsley town centre.
Mr Coates, who lives on 100-a-week Jobseekers Allowance, left court without comment.
Segways are legal in 30 US states and in Portugal, Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Multi-millionaire philanthropist Jimi Heselden, 62, who owned the Segway company, died in September last year after falling off a cliff near his home.
Ex-mp welcomes clarification of law
FORMER Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who has championed the Segway and came out in support of Coates at a previous hearing, said he hoped yesterday's ruling would "break the log-jam."
The I'm A Celebrity star said: "This has been a grey area for years and if this has forced the issue of clarification that is all for the good.
"I have been working for years to try and get the Segway status clarified. We only had this vague guidance from the Transport Department. If this breaks the log-jam that will be useful."
Mr Opik has ridden a Segway to the Houses of Parliament and is among campaigners who want the law to be changed.