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The zip is gone

After a four-week trial using a scooter to deliver mail, a letter carrier is walking his route again and missing his wheels.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 22, 2002

J.J. Collazo misses his "Roman chariot." Two big wheels in back, two sleek handlebars in front. The ride was so smooth, so fine.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Arriving at a Tampa news conference last month were letter carriers J.J. Collazo, from right, and Robert Rhodes, followed by Gary Bridge, Segway's marketing vice president, and Tampa postmaster Rich Rome.
"It was perfect," Collazo said.

The Tampa letter carrier is back on his feet these days, feeling a trifle bereft after a four-week trial using a scooter to deliver mail on his route, which covers a large chunk of Hyde Park.

"I miss the ride. I miss the machine," Collazo said one warm afternoon as he held a large pile of mail, a heavy mailbag slung over his shoulder. "I would be whistling down the street right now."

The battery-operated scooters, billed as human transporters, made worldwide headlines last month when five letter carriers in Tampa were the first to test them. The Segway Co. donated the scooters both to promote and to test the $3,000 devices. During the trial, engineers gathered data about the machines' performance.

Postal officials also are interested in seeing whether the scooters help letter carriers, who routinely tote 35-pound sacks of mail. They don't know when the data will be analyzed or whether they will get the scooters back. Collazo said the machine made it easier for him to carry large bundles of mail and cover long distances.

Initially, he had trouble sorting mail on the scooter because he had to concentrate on steering, but he adapted quickly.

"I got the hang of the machine so fast," he said. "You have to practice balancing and delivering the mail. Then, it was so easy."

[Times photo: Thomas M. Goethe]
Times photo -- THOMAS M. GOETHE
J.J. Collazo walks his route on Rome Avenue recently after a four-week trial using his "Roman chariot." Collazo said the battery-operated scooter made it easier for him to carry large bundles of mail and travel long distances on his route, which covers a big chunk of Hyde Park.
Collazo acknowledged that the machine needs some modifications, such as larger side bags to hold more mail. He said he didn't have a problem navigating over grass or curbs. But he grew so accustomed to scooting along at speeds of up to 17 mph that he gained weight during trial run.

"Don't worry, I'll lose it," he joked as he walked briskly along Rome Avenue.

He admitted that when he first started walking his route again, he was tired. Now, Collazo, 51, has his energy back.

He still gets questions about the scooter. During the first week, residents took his picture and asked for his autograph. Now they ask, "Where is the scooter?"

"It's a little hard to say we were guinea pigs," he said somewhat sadly. "It was just a test. It's a weird feeling."

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