Scoot Coupe Debate Continues In Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — One local resident will be bringing his concerns over seeing scoot coupes on Coastal Highway to the Ocean City Mayor and Council next month.

Reese Cropper, president of Insurance Management Group Inc. in Ocean City, plans on making a case against allowing scoot coupes the ability to use the Coastal Highway bus lane and other resort roads. At the minimum, he hopes to at least convince the council to have a public hearing on the matter.

“Coastal Highway is really supposed to be for transportation,” said Cropper, who described the low-ridding, three-wheeled motorized scoot coupes as “a novelty.” “I don’t think we need rentals on that highway.”

Legislation, sponsored by Senator Jim Mathias and approved by the General Assembly this year, will allow scoot coupes to be driven in the Coastal Highway bus lane. The bill amended the state law that prevented coupes from being used on state roads.

Fun Cycles co-owner Kozmas Gikurias purchased several of the vehicles back in 2009 after first being assured that they were legal. When he was told later that the coupes wouldn’t be allowed on state roads, he went to Mathias, who agreed to attempt to amend the law to allow coupes, but only if the town council approved.

Cropper pointed out that there was already an abundance of mopeds, motorbikes, bicycles and other potential distractions or obstacles for regular motorists using Coastal Highway, especially in the summer.

“We already have enough,” said Cropper. “At some point, we need to draw a line.”

However, Gikurias didn’t believe that allowing the vehicles to use the Coastal Highway bus lane would add any type of disruption or congestion. He said coupes are allowed in 49 states and can be rented at places as close as Chincoteague and Rehoboth.

“They’re not something new,” said Gikurias. “They’re widely used all over the United States.”

He also wondered why any distinction should be drawn between the coupes and regular scooters, since the only real difference between the two was that coupes have a third wheel. In fact, Gikurias expressed the opinion that the coupes were actually safer than regular scooters because of that third wheel, which made them more stable. When potential renters come in with a child, he said they tend to gravitate towards the coupes, which come equipped with a roll-bar and don’t require the balance that a two-wheeled moped would.

“It’s a lot safer than a two-wheel scooter. It’s a little car, basically,” said Gikurias.

Cropper, however, felt that the coup’s resemblance to a car was actually a negative thing which made it potentially more dangerous than a traditional scooter. He argued the coupes ride low to the ground, impacting visibility of the driver and making them hard to spot. Additionally, the coupes are wider than mopeds and bikes, and Cropper worries that allowing them to use the bus lane could force buses to swerve into other lanes of traffic.

“Is it fair to ask the bus driver to have to veer around these things?” Cropper asked.

Gikurias responded that, while the coup itself sat low to the ground, its roll-bar was actually about five-feet above street level. Additionally, flag poles will be attached behind the coupes to add extra visibility and to draw driver attention.

As for the coupes being wider than a scooter and possibly crowding a bus lane, Gikurias did not think that would be likely. He brought up the fact that his company had rented the coupes for two months back in 2009 and had received neither complaints nor reports of accidents. On top of that, he doubted the coupes, which sat two passengers side-by-side but in close proximity, would be noticeably wider than a normal scooter.

“There’s nothing safer than these things,” said Gikurias, who added that the vehicles have headlights, brake lights and seatbelts in addition to the roll-bars.

Cropper likened the coupes to cell phones, labeling them as one more distraction on the road. He acknowledged that the flags would improve visibility, but was skeptical if they would be entirely effective.

Cropper explained that his main concern was more for the motorists that would be forced to share the road with the coupes than for the people that actually made a conscious decision to rent one of the vehicles. But in both cases, he’s standing firm behind his belief that Ocean City would be better off without the coupes on Coastal Highway.

“I think [the coupes would have] a negative impact on safety and transportation,” said Cropper.

Cropper plans on airing out his concerns in front of the council and the public during a city work session. Though he was originally hoping for a full public hearing, Cropper said he would still take the opportunity to make his opinions known.

“I don’t think that every square inch of Ocean City needs to be an amusement park,” said Cropper.

Council President Jim Hall, unwilling to enter the debate over the safety of the coupes, confirmed this week Cropper would be coming before the council in May and would be given an opportunity to explain his concerns.