Scooter Rental Operator Argues Against Any New Regulations

Scooter Rental Operator Argues Against Any New Regulations
Amid of talk of potential scooter rental regulations, the operator of a scooter rental company asked officials not to make changes this week. File photo

OCEAN CITY – Borne out of a larger discussion about the rental of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, has come a debate about prohibiting the rental of all small, motorized vehicles in the resort, but at least one scooter rental operator this week made an impassioned plea to leave them alone.

For the last several months, the Mayor and Council have been back and forth on the debate about the various classes of-e-bikes and if and where they should be allowed to be rented. It started with a ban of all e-bikes on the Boardwalk, but concerns about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) challenges, or the need for individuals recovering or rehabilitating from injuries to use e-bikes, led to an ordinance that will allow only the lowest grade e-bike on the Boardwalk during the same hours regular bicycles are allowed.

With that ordinance passed, the Mayor and Council turned their attention to the rental of e-bikes in every class in different areas of town excluding the Boardwalk. Now, currently, there are no businesses renting e-bikes in town, but the council expressed concern about their proliferation as they become more and more popular.

Taking it one step further, the discussion arose during a council meeting last week about prohibiting the rental of all small, motorized vehicles including scooters, the low-riding scoot coupes with the familiar high-flying flags signaling motorists where they are, the increasingly popular one-wheelers and hoverboards, and the like.

After considerable debate last month, the majority of the council voted to end the discussion about the rental of e-bikes in the resort. In addition, the motion included a future discussion about ending the rental of all small, motorized vehicles, including scooters, which intermingle in eight lanes of traffic on Coastal Highway with vehicular traffic, municipal buses, pedestrians and all manner of other vehicles.

That discussion has not resurfaced and it’s uncertain if it would get any traction given how a couple of scooter rental operators have run their businesses in the resort for decades. During the public comment period on Tuesday, at least one operator represented by his attorney appealed to the council to not pass an ordinance prohibiting scooter rentals in the resort.

Attorney Paul Abu-Zaid, representing Cycle City Inc., told the council during the public comment period his client had become aware of a possible prohibition from a previous meeting in January. Abu-Zaid told the council his client has been a fixture in the town and had a squeaky-clean track record with scooter rentals.

“We understand there is something in the pipeline about scooter rentals,” he said. “My client has been a resident for decades and his family has run Tommy’s Sub Shop for 50 years. Ocean City is not insulated from the inundation of scooters and the state has changed the regulations.”

Abu-Zaid said over a decade ago, the state passed new regulations regarding the rental of scooters, and Ocean City passed its own ordinance taking it a step further. He said the town’s ordinance has strict regulations about training and practice areas and making sure renters are licensed. He said the stringent regulations significantly reduced the number of rental operations to just a couple of responsible operators, including his client.

“Ocean City crafted and passed its own ordinance,” he said. “The goal in 2012 when the ordinance was passed was to reduce the number of scooters out on Coastal Highway. It worked. The town went from dozens of renters down to just one or two.”

Abu-Zaid said Cycle City has a strong operation with a good track record, and his client did not want to move his operation off the island because scooters got caught up in the larger e-bike debate.

“My client is a great operator,” he said. “The vehicles are well-maintained and he’s the sole mechanic. He does not want to move. He’s the type of operator the town should be embracing, not making him think about moving. He’s been a loyal partner with the town for years.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.