Routt County Veterans Affairs officer Michael Condie shows off his Segway x2 Adventure, which he received two months ago from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist his mobility.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Veterans Affairs officer Michael Condie shows off his Segway x2 Adventure, which he received two months ago from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist his mobility.

Veteran hits town on Segway

Michael Condie receives machine to assist with mobility

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— There are many things Michael Condie has been forced to give up.

He can no longer race along highways on his beloved road bike. He can't run or hike like he used to, and he can't ski down Mount Werner any longer.

Because of injuries suffered during his 28 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and a case of degenerative multiple sclerosis, Condie's activities have been curtailed throughout the years.

But there is one compromise Condie is not willing to make. A wheelchair.

"Once you get transitioned to a wheelchair, you're stuck, and it's comfortable," he said. "Once you get into a wheelchair, chances are you'll stay there."

That's why Condie, Routt County's veterans affairs officer, began petitioning the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for an $8,000 Segway x2 Adventure, a two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter to help him get around town. He said as a VA officer, he is also encouraging other qualified veterans to look into funding for mobility devices.

"It's easy. I can either ride (the Segway) or an electric wheelchair," he said.

Condie said his first injury came in 1991 as he dove out of a car in the Kuwaiti desert to avoid artillery fire. As 1st Sgt. Condie jumped in his 'fighting hole,' he broke both his feet.

But the most "insidious attack" came later, Condie said, when he was diagnosed with MS.

"I have MS. I'm stuck," he said as he wheeled around the street in front of his house Friday afternoon. "I thought I could beat MS."

Instead, Condie is working around the disability, which attacks the right side of his body.

He has used the Segway for two months now and said he's still learning the finer points of maneuvering.

"It has a mind of its own. If you're not careful, it will eat you up," he said.

He has traveled as far as Central Park Plaza and Curve Plaza from his Old Town home. The 120-pound scooter can travel as many as 15 miles on a charge, at a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour. It is all electric and does not produce any emissions.

Condie said he has driven the Segway to the Routt County Courthouse, where he still uses the stairs in lieu of an elevator. He said he also rides along Lincoln Avenue, an area usually prohibited to scooters.

"I'm curious how the police look at me and my Segway," he said.

Captain Joel Rae of the Steamboat Springs Police Department said that strictly speaking, the Segway is not allowed on sidewalks, city streets or the Yampa River Core Trail based on current laws.

But because it's a mobility device for a disabled veteran, Rae said, its use by Condie is not something he plans to stop.

"It's one of these common-sense situations," he said. "And it's also an (Americans with Disabilities Act) issue."

City laws allow bicycles and skateboards on the Core Trail but prohibit them and any motorized vehicle on city sidewalks, which are reserved strictly for pedestrians. Motorized vehicles also are prohibited on the Core Trail.

And Rae said the Segway falls within the city's definition of toy vehicles, which are prohibited on city streets. But despite the fact that city laws vastly limit Condie's use of his Segway, Rae said his department views Condie as an exception.

"This is different, it needs to be treated different, and we are going to treat it differently," Rae said. He emphasized that Condie's use of the Segway in no way allows other violations of city codes, such as riding skateboards on sidewalks.

"For a disabled veteran to have mobility and get around on a Segway is completely different than a juvenile getting around by riding a skateboard on the sidewalk," Rae said. "If we need to remodel our model traffic code to allow for these exceptions, that's what we will try to do."

Condie said he appreciates the funding he received to buy the scooter from a Boulder dealer, but he would prefer to not need the device at all.

"I think money is nice, but I'd rather get this problem fixed," he said about his MS.

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