Resort Officials Halt Displacement Vehicle Licensing

OCEAN CITY – Officials in Ocean City voted this week to freeze the issuance of new licenses for the rental of small displacement vehicles and to prohibit e-bike and electric scooter rentals.

On Tuesday, the council agreed voted 5-0, with Councilmen Peter Buas and John Gehrig absent, to approve several recommendations relating to the rental of e-bikes, electric scooters, and small displacement vehicles, such as scooters and scoot coupes, in town.

After making several amendments, officials agreed to freeze the issuance of new licenses and the expansion of existing licenses for the rental of small displacement vehicles, to not authorize e-bike, e-scooter, one-wheel and hoverboard rentals, to collect accident data on small displacement vehicles beginning in the 2023 season, and to reevaluate the ability to rent small displacement vehicles beginning in the fall.

“I think this gets us 90% of the way there,” said Councilman Will Savage.

Last month, after passing an ordinance to allow only the lowest grade of e-bikes on the Boardwalk during the same hours regular bicycles can operate, the Mayor and Council turned their attention to the rental of e-bikes in different areas of town. Now, currently, there are no businesses renting e-bikes in town, but the council had expressed concerns about their proliferation as they become more and more popular.

After considerable debate, the majority of the council voted to end the discussion about the rental of e-bikes in the resort. That motion also directed staff to present an ordinance amendment banning the rental of all small displacement vehicles and to give business license holders three years, from April 1, to adjust their business models.

“During discussion of that, at a council meeting we had the owner of the only business in town renting out these small displacement vehicles come forward,” City Manager Terry McGean said this week. “He asked to meet with some of the council and some of the staff to express their concerns of why they felt they should remain open and steps they could take to help mitigate some of the council’s concerns.”

McGean said councilmembers and staff held a meeting with the owner of Cycle City on Feb. 9. From those discussions came several concessions from the operator.

“Some of those specific items that the owner agreed he would pursue would be to not expand his inventory or the number of rental licenses, that he would restrict overnight rentals, that he would restrict rentals after sunset … that he would limit the age of riders, especially those in large groups, and that he would limit the size of group rentals,” McGean said.

McGean added that staff had also gathered accident data, which showed 165 small displacement vehicle collisions since 2018.

“We were able to definitively determine that 42 of those involved rental small displacement vehicles,” he said. “The remaining 123 were unknown at that time.”

At the conclusion of the Feb. 9 meeting, McGean said it was agreed that recommendations would be forwarded to the Mayor and Council.

Savage recognized the owner of Cycle City for working with the town to reach a solution.

“With those concessions – with the crash data being collected in a way that’s going to point out whether these are owned by private owners or renters – I think the numbers are going to be pretty high that they are renters,” he said. “I do think it will be at an unacceptable level, but with these concessions, I don’t think we should just move forward with the sunset of licenses.”

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said he still wanted to see the operator follow the requirements outlined in the conditional use for the rental of small displacement vehicles.

“You have to complete required training, both written and physical …,” he said. “The bike committee reviewed this, and the police at the bike committee and the owner of a bike shop said none of this is happening. It has to happen.”

After further discussion, the council voted 5-0 to accept the recommendations.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.