OCEAN CITY – Citing a downward trend in collisions, officials this week agreed to maintain scooter rental restrictions in Ocean City.
On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted to maintain restrictions it placed on rental scooters and to continue to monitor existing scooter rental activity. In an annual report this week, City Manager Terry McGean reported the number of collisions involving scooters had decreased since the restrictions were implemented in February.
“Last year there was talk of eliminating the license altogether,” he said. “Given the progress that’s been made, the staff would not recommend that.”
As part of a larger discussion regarding the rental of electric bikes, hoverboards and the like, the council in February voted to freeze the issuance of new licenses and the expansion of existing licenses for the rental of Segways and small displacement vehicles, which include scooters and scoot coupes.
“The decision at that time was to freeze the issuance of all new licenses for the rental of, what they call in the code small displacement vehicles … and electronic personal mobility devices, better known as Segways,” McGean said Tuesday. “Second, the expansion of existing licenses would be frozen. In other words, a person who had a license could not increase their inventory of rentals.”
As part of that action, officials also set restrictions for the town’s sole scooter rental operator, Cycle City. McGean said the proprietor must maintain accident and incident logs, freeze rental inventory, restrict nighttime rentals, limit the age of group riders and provide a map of restricted travel areas, among other things.
“In addition, the council voted not to authorize the rental of electric bicycles, electric scooters, hoverboards or one-wheeled devices and also requested that the police department collect accident data and that once these actions were implemented that we would revisit the entire issue after the season,” he said.
In an annual update Tuesday, McGean said the town’s scooter rental operator had complied with restrictions set by the council. He noted the license holder had maintained a logbook and accident data, which were collected by the Ocean City Police Department, and did not expand their inventory or hours of operation.
“They did not rent scooters after sunset,” he said. “They increased their deposit amounts to over $150 for each renter and required a credit card. They did provide a map of travel area restrictions to each renter, and we did see that map. They did make their scooters more visible. And then finally, they increased the minimum age for renting from 16 to 18, and that for groups the minimum age is 21.”
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said the Ocean City Police Department also recorded fewer scooter accidents since restrictions were enacted earlier this year. From 2022 to 2023, collisions decreased from 24 to 20.
“In 2020, we had a high in terms of scooter collisions at 53 …,” he said. “So far this year there’s been 20. As the data reflects, only a couple can be attributed back to Cycle City. It’s very good news that collisions have decreased, about 20% this year, and we’re just about finished up.”
Officials told the council a majority of scooter collisions in 2023 involved private vehicles, not rentals. McGean said he recommended the council continue to maintain its scooter restrictions.
“The staff recommendation would be to continue with the same restrictions, freeze the rental licenses, freeze the inventory expansion and provided the license holder continues to comply with the voluntary restrictions he set, that we move forward on that basis,” he said.
Councilman Will Savage said the topic of small displacement vehicles was just part of a larger discussion the council had earlier this year on e-bikes, Segways, scooters, one-wheels and hoverboards. He said incidents along Ocean City’s roadways have improved.
“We certainly eliminated 90% of the problem. It’s gotten better. The commercial operation of renting the scooters has gotten better …,” he said. “The main issue is we are trying to promote safety on Coastal Highway. The state’s given us grants for the Walk Smart program, there’s advertisements on buses, but yet we’re still allowing a thrill ride on Coastal Highway.”
Savage also recognized the owner of Cycle City for working with the town to address ongoing issues regarding the rental of small displacement vehicles.
“I appreciate that the vendor has come to us with some solutions,” he said. “I agree that the solutions have worked. It’s not perfect. As you can see in the packet, there’s a lot of stuff that happened. But when you take the summer as a whole, it’s not egregious.”
Savage noted a majority of incidents occurred during senior week and the White Marlin Open.
“I think those are just attributed to the renters themselves,” he said. “Regardless of what the proprietor does, you are always going to have people that are acting up. I mean an umbrella renter on the beach can’t stop somebody from taking their umbrella and pulling a Mary Poppins and jumping off a balcony. Some people are just stupid.”
With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to maintain its current restrictions on small displacement vehicles and to have staff continue to monitor scooter rentals and report back to the Mayor and Council annually.