OCEAN CITY – Several measures have been made on a local and state level in the last year to ensure better safety measures when it comes to scooters on the streets, and one Ocean City scooter rental company has crafted a safer scooter that is seeking a special exemption to fit the vehicle into law.
During this week’s Mayor and City Council legislative session, Ron Croker and Sean Crosariol of OC Scooters on 58th Street introduced the Scoot Coupe Buggy, which differs from the traditional two-wheel scooter and the three-wheel scoot coupe.
The creation of the scoot coupe buggy was a collaborative effort between OC Scooters and the manufacturer, Xang Xing. The vehicle includes safety features of four-wheel disc brakes for quicker stopping power, full steel body construction and safety cage, five point seat belt harness for driver and passenger, adjustable driver seat, wheels are offset wider in rear so rolling the coupe in turns is not possibly, rear view mirror, side mirrors, windshield, turn signals, brake lights, headlights, roof safety running lights for added visibility, front and rear reflectors, fenders for all wheels, factory speed limited to 30 mph and an enclosed roof to protect operator from the elements.
The scoot coupe buggy has a 49 cubic centimeter (cc) air-cooled four-stroke scooter engine, fully automatic direct drive with a reverse gear, which the scoot coupe does not, and a full front and rear coil over shock suspension.
OC Scooters noted the buggy drives just like a common car, so there is little to no learning curve for renters to adjust to the operation unlike scooters and scoot coupes which need balance and driver training.
“We are really excited about this,” Croker said. “We think it is a great idea. We think it is a wonderful addition to the city. We think the safety factor of this thing is phenomenal and through the roof.”
Last year the State of Maryland passed a law effective Oct. 1, 2012 that mopeds and motor scooters are required to be titled and display a decal in Maryland. In addition, operators of the vehicles are required to possess a valid license or moped permit, carry proof of insurance and wear protective head and eye gear.
According to Croker, the scoot coupe buggy has been registered with the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA), is titled, insured, displays a decal and is ORV (Off Road Vehicle) compliant.
However, OC Scooter has found themselves, “between a rock a hard place” because although the buggy is registered and has all legal documents in place, police are reportedly against the vehicle from being on the roads because it has four wheels.
According to state and Ocean City law, a scooter is defined as having a seat for the operator, has two wheels, of which one is 10 inches in diameter, has a step through chassis, has a motor with a rating of 2.7 brake horsepower or less or if the motor is an internal combustion engine with a capacity of 50 cc piston displacement or less, and is equipped with an automatic transmission. Ocean City’s law provides an exemption for three wheel scooters to allow for the rental of scoot coupes.
Croker asked the Mayor and City Council to consider a special exemption to allow the scoot coupe buggy on the streets that fall under the city’s jurisdiction, which is all streets in Ocean City except for Coastal Highway, which falls under the state’s jurisdiction.
Council President Lloyd Martin received comments from Ocean City Police Department Lt. Scott Harner, who submitted the buggy is not a legal scooter because it has four wheels.
“Your tag says it’s a scooter or a scoot coupe, and this does not fit that criterion,” Martin said. “Basically, you are asking us for to give a special exemption to allow for this to be on our streets but we can’t do that. You are on a state highway and it falls under state jurisdiction.”
Crosariol offered an alternative to remove the rear axle assembly and replace it with a shock mount with a 10-inch wheel ultimately turning the vehicle into a three-wheel scooter.
“At that point it will be 100 percent legal, meet the criteria, and meets the law,” Crosariol said. “I really didn’t want to have to go this route if I didn’t have to but because it has a scooter engine … we worked very closely with the manufacturer, and the only reason for the fourth wheel is for stability.”
Councilman Doug Cymek said the owners need to deal with the state on this issue.
“The vehicle is not the type meeting federal or state vehicle safety regulations required for operation on public roads and highways. We can’t change that. Your argument is with the state,” Cymek said.
According to Croker and Crosariol, they have been in communication with Senator Jim Mathias, who is under the understanding that if the buggy meets all the other criteria defining a scooter, as well as makes the vehicle safer, the addition of one wheel should not be a problem.
“Our plan right now is we are working with Mathias’s office … and possibly bringing this to legislation in January when they meet again,” Croker said Wednesday. “In the meantime we plan to keep some grass roots movement going doing research, talking with the DMV, and finding out what we need to do to get this on the streets in Ocean City because we feel it is safer … we wanted to make this the safest thing to put on the road here, and ultimately let’s make it fun.”