OCEAN CITY – Before sending a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council on the rental of electric Trikkes on the Boardwalk and at Northside Park, the legal jargon of the proposal will be examined by the city solicitor for further discussion.
In January, Bryant Hungerford was scheduled to come before the Police Commission to review his request to rent the electric version of a Trikke on the Boardwalk. Hungerford was unable to attend the meeting at that time but the commission’s initial discussion resulted in denying the request due to high speed and the potential of adding further chaos to the Boardwalk.
A Trikke is a brand of a three-wheel, or three-point, standing, carving vehicle that resembles a scooter, and can be body powered by a swerving action or electronically powered.
At that time, Ocean Police Department (OCPD) Lt. Scott Harner explained the vehicle is defined by the Maryland Transportation Article as a “Motorized minibike”, which means a motor vehicle that has two or three wheels, and is not subject to registration under Title 13 of the article. A motorized minibike does not include a motor scooter, a moped or a farm tractor.
Ocean City’s Code states, “the operation of bicycles, pushcarts and Electronic personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD) on the boardwalk is only permitted from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. of the same day, from Tuesday after Labor Day through Friday before Memorial Day at any time, except for the times of Springfest and Sunfest.”
An EPAMD, also known as a Segway, is defined as a device that has two non-tandem wheels, is self-balancing, is powered by an electric propulsion system, has a maximum speed capability of 15 mph and is designed to transport one person.
The code furthers, “it shall be unlawful for any nongovernmental motor vehicle, motor-assisted vehicle, bicycle, pushcart, or EPAMDs to be operated on the boardwalk at any time without permission of the Mayor and City Council or its designated agent except during the time set forth in the code.”
Harner expanded that part of the code, saying, “The motorized version of the Trikke is prohibited … on the Boardwalk at any time, so I don’t think it is possible for Mr. Hungerford to proceed renting them on the Boardwalk as it is currently prohibited.”
On Monday, Hungerford came before the commission presenting the low-powered electrically driven Trikke with a 250-watt motor. The Trikke can travel up to 16 mph but Hungerford proposed installing a speed limiter that would reduce the maximum speed for rentals to 9 mph.
“My request is to rent and operate electric Trikkes on the Boardwalk during regular bicycle usage hours and on the bike path at Northside Park. Both locations currently allow electrically driven Segways,” Hungerford said. “The Trikke is substantially more visible than a banana bike and it takes up less room then a surrey. The Trikke is safe, stable and slow.”
According to Hungerford, both the Consumer Product Safety Act and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act set forth low-powered electric bikes and three-wheeled electric Trikkes are defined as bicycles and are to be regulated as bicycles. The act states the federal code pertaining to a two- or three-wheeled, low-powered electric Trikkes shall supersede any state law that is more stringent than federal law.
“If it supersedes state law, it should supersede local law,” he said. “I have received a written opinion from the Assistant Attorney General in the State of Maryland that the state would use the federal definition of a electric bicycle and it is not subject to registration to the Motor Vehicle Administration.”
Hungerford concluded there are no limits to the number of bicycles, surreys and banana bikes on the Boardwalk or at Northside Park.
“I’m sure there are at least 1,000 bicycles, surreys and banana bikes available for rent right now on the Boardwalk. It would be unfair to exclude the Trikke vehicle because it would be the only vehicle eliminated because of congestion or because of the quantity of vehicles. The Trikke is safer than the existing bicycles on the Boardwalk,” he said.
Commission Chair and Councilman Doug Cymek felt the commission was at a disadvantage given City Solicitor Guy Ayres was absent from the meeting.
“There is an ‘X’ amount of vehicles you can put in a given space on the Boardwalk, and we are getting to the point that we are saturated,” he said. “In my personal opinion, I feel it has become a public safety issue, and I would like to have the opportunity to find out how many pedestrian bicycles and rental incidents we have had on the Boardwalk before we make this decision.”
Mayor Rick Meehan felt that times have changed and allowing the rental of electric Trikkes on the Boardwalk would keep Ocean City up to date.
“To be able to ride it, to look around and being 2014 seeing what is happening in other areas, I think we always have to be open-minded,” he said.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro pointed out a Trikke traveling at 9 mph would travel the entire length of the Boardwalk in 15 minutes.
“Nine mph doesn’t seem real fast but it is not slow,” he said. “Adding that piece of equipment moving at that speed could cause a problem.”
Harner added the scooter rentals in town are limited to a certain speed but the police department has encountered issues with scooter rental operators increasing the speed limit unbeknown to the OCPD.
“I appreciate your legal references … but I am having trouble within the information you provided with the interpretation that it is a bicycle. The challenge with the information that you provided I would think an attorney would find is … a bicycle is very clearly defined as having two or three wheels and it has fully operable pedals, and your Trikke does not have pedals,” he said.
Cymek concluded the commission will pass Hungerford’s proposal onto Ayres for comment and the discussion can be furthered at the June 9 commission meeting.