Scooter Industry Regulation A Necessary Step

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A fine line exists between regulating and over-regulating. Oftentimes, it’s unknown whether that line has been crossed until after the fact. When it comes to the ongoing scooter industry re-evaluation, Ocean City seems to be tiptoeing around it deftly.

With their continual proliferation, scooters have become dangerous in Ocean City, particularly on Coastal Highway. However, it was interesting to learn in recent weeks that more than half of the scooter-involved accidents over the last three years did not come from the rented scooters.

According to the Ocean City Police Department, total scooter accidents between 2009 and 2011 were 167, a number that’s surprisingly low to us. Of those, 81 involved rental scooters, while 86 involved privately-owned scooters.

Those numbers do not cry out for government intervention, but we feel the Mayor and Council needed to step into the rapidly-growing industry and make some changes.

Ocean City can’t legislate stupidity and make no mistake there is plenty of that to go around the resort in the summer months, particularly on the roadways.

However, what it can do is institute some new requirements for the scooter rental industry to ensure the highest level of safety is being adhered to, monitor the rogue business operators intentionally skirting the existing law and require all businesses to operate under the same set of laws.  

The most important piece to these new regulations is the requirement that new businesses offer a suitable training area for new operators. The dimensions have been debated, but the final ordinance will necessitate a training area that provides a suitable amount of space to turn, accelerate and stop.

This was the key piece some of the more successful scooter rental operators have been seeking from the beginning of the city process, which began back in January with the issuance of a moratorium on any new scooter rental licenses.

“The biggest problem is that accidents happen when people don’t have training,” Peter Gikurias of Fun Cycles said. “How are you going to give a scooter to somebody when you don’t train them?”

OC Scooters’ Ron Croker added, “… when you are looking at all these things and when you’re talking to everybody I think it is important to remember that we can make this thing work. You just have to look really hard at making it safe, and making it safe means having a proper area to train.”

The new ordinance is expected to be drafted this week with another public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission. It will then return to the Mayor and Council for approval, which it should receive. These are smart changes for an industry that needed more oversight.

Once passed, as with any new law, enforcement and education will be critical. All new licensees will be subject to these new requirements and all existing businesses have until next spring to meet the criteria if they are not already. It would be wise of current operators to go ahead and abide by the new ordinance this summer.

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