News

Motorized scooters just too bad

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Federal Way’s winding, paved trails have proven to be an attraction for users of motorized scooter, but complaints about safety and noise could put an end to their use in city parks and on sidewalks or other public areas.

A pending change to city code would ban motorized vehicles from parks and trails, parking lots, sidewalks and pedestrian corridors.

Assistant city attorney Karen Jorgensen said the amendment would address traffic and safety issues related to motorized scooters. But she said the city’s legal department is still working on the language of the proposed code change and how to apply it. An updated version will be presented later this month.

Kurt Reuter, parks operation superintendent, said the city isn’t trying to ruin the fun for people who enjoy using motorized scooters, but officials want to make sure everyone shares the parks and trails equally.

“We want people to have fun, but not by jeopardizing the safety of others,” he said. “We’re in the business of having fun –– we’re in parks and recreation –– but we want to protect the equal rights of everyone to enjoy the parks.”

While motorized scooters probably will be banned in most places in the city, like parks, trails and sidewalks, Reuter said they might be permissible in neighborhoods as long as the user is careful and considerate. The most appropriate place to use them, he said, is the place “that presents the least possible potential for getting hit by a car.”

Pedestrians have complained about close encounters with the motorized scooters –– some of which can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour –– on the BPA Trail, in Celebration Park and on sidewalks.

People who live in the houses along the BPA Trail have complained about the racket the scooters make. The noise from the scooters outfitted with two-stroke engines has been compared to a chain saw or a powered weed cutter, Reuter said.

City code already gives pedestrians the right-of-way on trails and in parks, and the use of bicycles, skates and skateboards is prohibited in parks where notice is posted. But the city doesn’t have signs prohibiting motorized scooters or any other kind of conveyance that uses an internal combustion or electric engine.

The city informed its vendor, Fun Cycle Rentals and Sales, last year that officials would be researching ways to regulate or ban completely the use of motorized scooters in the parks or on the trails, Reuter said.

The city contracts with Fun Cycle Rentals and Sales to rent standard bicycles, bikes outfitted with a small motor and motorized scooters. But, according to Reuter, company owner Tim Moran began liquidating his supply of motorized scooters when city officials informed him last year of the potential ban.

Federal Way isn’t the only city trying to regulate motorized scooters. Other cities are finding the scooters fall between regulatory cracks: They’re not street-legal and aren’t licensed, like motorcycles, but they’re motorized, unlike bicycles or skateboards.

“The motor makes the difference,” Reuter said.

Even the state is looking at how to define motor vehicles to see if motorized scooters could fall within the definition, he said.

The city of Pacific recently passed an ordinance requiring helmets, restricting scooters from roads where speeds exceed 25 miles per hour, and requiring users to be 16 years old.

Auburn passed a motorized scooter ordinance last month, prohibiting scooters in the central business district, in city parks and on trails, sidewalks and on streets with speed limits higher than 25.

Auburn’s ordinance includes noise restrictions and requires users to be 16 years old, obey traffic laws and wear helmets.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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