Too many scooters in Rehoboth Beach?
Much ado about scooters in Rehoboth
Commissioners debate safety, parking issues
By Ryan Mavity
Sure, you may think you look cool cruising Rehoboth Beach on your bad motor scooter, but what happens when you have to park it? The Rehoboth commissioners took up the issue July 9 after complaints that scooters and mopeds were parked in the two new bicycle parking stations at First Street and Baltimore Avenue.
The city has recently posted signs at the stations, which were built with state grant money, prohibiting scooters and mopeds from parking there. City Manager Greg Ferrese said because the grant was for bicycles and pedestrians, the city did not want to take any chances that the project may be in violation of the grant.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, a scooter owner, said, “The number of scooters that are now in the city compared to last year is really quite remarkable. Putting in a new bicycle parking station, we suddenly found oodles of scooters there.”
While scooters and mopeds can park at the citywide bike racks – not to be confused with the bike parking stations – Coluzzi said the numbers have now become overwhelming.
“We need scooter parking. We need to provide some areas where scooters can park,” she said.
Besides local scooter owners in Rehoboth, this summer, four businesses are offering scooters in and around the city.
Dee Ammerman, manager of Fun In The Sun on Rehoboth Avenue Extended, said there has been more business this year than in past years.
She said the store provides helmets and lessons for customers, “so when they rent, they know how to ride.' The store shows renters where and how to park the scooter next to the bike rack. All scooter riders must be licensed drivers, Ammerman said. Besides dealing with where to park the scooters, concerns have also arisen as to where people are riding them.
Jeff Clayton, owner of Endeavor Trading, 101 Rehoboth Ave, said a lot of scooter riders are employees at downtown shops, including two at his store and two at nearby Tidal Rave.
Clayton said he is concerned about safety issues when riders park on the sidewalks. Instead of getting off and walking the scooter to the parking space, the riders are driving them up on the sidewalk, he said.
At the July 9 commissioners’ workshop, Clayton said, “Right now, we need to make a law immediately saying scooters cannot be on the sidewalk or someone gets killed. This is a severe safety issue here. People are driving 300-pound scooters right next to people who are 85 years old on a walker.”
After the meeting, Clayton said the city should provide a designated parking area for scooters. In addition,he said, the city should have tags, similar to parking passes, for downtown employees so they can park for free.
For visitors, Clayton said, the city could have a centrally located lot. If people want to park near the beach, he said, then the city should charge for it.
In another view after the meeting, a Tidal Rave employee who rides a scooter said scotters with engines under 50 cc have to park in the bicycle rack. However, he said, most people don’t have under 50 cc’s and they still park at the racks with nobody saying anything.
He said he enjoys riding his scooter because it’s fun and fuel efficient.
At the July 9 meeting, Mayor Sam Cooper said the city needs to find space for scooters to park, but should not guarantee scooter parking space.
“We don’t guarantee you a space for your car. So I’m not sure someone bringing a moped or a scooter downtown should be guaranteed a space,” he said.
Commissioner Bill Sargent said the city should not make any more changes to parking for this summer. Commissioner Lorraine Zellers said the city should take a cautious approach and come up with a plan to identify policies and areas for scooter parking.
Joe Hill, 42 Henlopen Ave., a scooter owner, said the commissioners should consider using the center islands on Rehoboth Avenue or the parking lot at Deauville Beach as places for scooter parking. He said the city has extra bike racks sitting in its public works yard that should be put on the streets to provide extra parking.
Carol Hehir, 41 Henlopen Ave., said the city should provide more education for people coming into town. “I’m convinced they turn their brains off when they cross the canal,” she said.
Hehir cited walkers walking on the wrong side of the street and motorists swerving into the opposite lane to get around clusters of bicyclists. She said the heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic makes it difficult for residents on Henlopen to back out of their driveways.
Commissioner Stan Mills said the commissioners should be guided by the city’s comprehensive development plan, which calls for fewer motorized vehicles and more walking and biking. Mills suggested possibly creating a central lot on city land near the Baltimore Avenue water tower for scooter riders to park and walk to their destination.
Coluzzi said another consideration is using parking spaces on city streets that are too small for cars as scooter parking areas.
Commissioner Patrick Gossett suggested looking at places where curbing already exists, such as the city-owned parking lot behind the Rehoboth Beach Public Library, and possibly reconfiguring some spaces into a corral for scooters. He said this could provide an immediate fix while the city searches for a long-term solution.
The commissioners agreed to let the streets and transportation committee discuss the issue and form recommendations at its 9 a.m., Friday, July 13 meeting.