April 5, 2004

Council Seeks to Ban Motorized Scooters
New York Resident
By Kate McGregor

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Gas and electric scooters, the upright motorized vehicles that can be seen whizzing along sidewalks and bike lanes and weaving through some of the city's busiest streets, are the focus of a new bill sponsored by the City Council.

First proposed last summer after a number of noise and safety complaints attracted the attention of city officials, the bill was reintroduced by the council in February. The first hearing on the subject was held on March 30.

"The concerns are that there is a proliferation of motorized scooters," said Councilman John Liu, who heads the Committee on Transportation. "There are lots of kids riding them these days, and there are no licensing requirements."

The scooters, which are ridden standing up and have a long neck topped with a T-bar for steering, are currently illegal in public spaces across the state. The new legislation would be more restrictive, Liu said, and would extend the ban to "include the point of sale, lease, rental, and use [of scooters] in private spaces" throughout the city. The bill could include restrictions on Segways, the scooters with large, parallel wheels, as well as separate limitations for gas- and electric-powered scooters.

Gas scooters, powered by pull-start, two-stroke engines, can reach speeds of up to 40 mph and are "incompatible with the density of New York City streets and sidewalks," said Noah Budnick, projects director for Transportation Alternatives. Budnick added that these scooters "spew 100 times more pollutants into the air than an automobile engine."

Transportation Alternatives supports the bill, Budnick said, but it also advocates the use of Segways and nonpolluting electric scooters on the streets.

Both are slower, tending to have maximum speeds of 10 mph, don't accelerate as quickly, and run on a rechargeable battery. The organization recommends treating these as bicycles and banning "anything with an engine" from sidewalks.

Liu said the committee is considering legalizing electric scooters but that the current law is inadequate. "There is no real enforcement," Liu said. "The intent of this bill is to do a better job of taking scooters off our streets."

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