OCEAN CITY – Before the city’s takes an official stance on allowing an electronic bicycle to be rented on the Boardwalk, officials want a comprehensive review on what its impact could have on congestion.
A discussion of allowing Trikkes on the Boardwalk began in January. A Trikke is a brand of a three-wheel electronic vehicle. The applicant, Bryant Hungerford, was unable to attend that meeting but initial discussions among the Police Commission resulted in denying the request due to high speed and the potential of adding further chaos to the Boardwalk.
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.”
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.”
In May, Hungerford came before the commission to present 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.
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.
At the conclusion of April’s meeting, Commission Chair Councilman Doug Cymek felt the commission was at a disadvantage given City Solicitor Guy Ayres was absent from the meeting and concluded the commission will pass Hungerford’s proposal onto Ayres for comment.
During last Friday’s Police Commission meeting, Hungerford reappeared to further the discussion.
According to Harner, Ayres’ feedback was Hungerford’s argument pointing to the Consumer Product Safety Act and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is not applicable to Ocean City and the Boardwalk.
“The CFR [Code of Federal Regulations] has no bearing on the ability to operate Trikkes on pedestrian walkways, i.e. the Boardwalk here in Ocean City,” Harner said, adding under current Ocean City law Trikkes are illegal to operate on the Boardwalk and if granted it would require an amendment to the ordinance.
“The most important thing is the practicality of these Trikkes,” Hungerford said. “I showed that they are extremely stable, they are slow, they stop very quick, they move around people very easily. We already have Segways on the Boardwalk. I had put a limiter of nine miles an hour, which is slower than Segways; it is the speed of a person riding a bike peddling.”
Harner had met with Hungerford to test drive the Trikke on the Boardwalk.
“I had no problems getting on the Trikke and operating it. I was able to navigate out through the Inlet parking lot and through the parking buffers, so I didn’t find it particularly challenging with the instruction given by Mr. Hungerford but as I advised him then and there I didn’t see my role of being someone to say I liked or disliked it. I was able to navigate it successfully,” Harner said.
Cymek reported he was not interested in adding congestion to the Boardwalk at this time.
“I am not going to say no. I am opened minded, but I would like to have the opportunity to watch the Boardwalk closely this summer, and come back in September to talk about this further,” he said.
Hungerford asserted it is his intentions to start out with renting 10 Trikkes through an existing bicycle rental on the Boardwalk. He furthered existing bicycle rentals on the Boardwalk are renting anywhere from 30 to 60 types of bikes as is and the addition of 10 Trikkes would not make a big difference.
“If you want to look at something that causes problems up there, it is the banana bikes. They turn in front of everybody and are lower to the ground, so they do not have good vision where as someone on a Trikke would have good vision because you are standing up and looking ahead,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “It probably is safer than some of the other things we already allow up there… I think it is something that we should allow on a trial basis, and see how it goes.”
Councilman Dennis Dare made a motion to conduct a comprehensive review of the Boardwalk regarding congestion and the various bicycle rentals and to continue the discussion at a later date.
“I like the idea of taking a look at it. I am more concerned about safety, and I think we need to look at the entire picture,” Dare said.
The commission was in consensus to conduct a comprehensive review before giving consent to allow the rental of Trikkes on the Boardwalk.