After hearing complaints from residents who had negative encounters with the new "motorized foot scooters," the White Salmon City Council has quickly moved to regulate them.
In a unanimous vote on Jan. 5, the council members passed a new ordinance to address use of the devices.
The city defines motorized foot scooter as a device "with no more than two 10-inch or smaller diameter wheels that has handlebars, is designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, and is powered by an electric motor or gas internal combustion engine that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion."
Richard Lyons, a White Salmon resident, was one of those who asked the council to take action. He told the council at its Dec. 23 meeting that he almost hit a kid on a scooter, and almost ran into a telephone pole while braking and trying to avoid him.
"The council needs to ban these thing from city streets," Lyons said. "This is a safety issue I'm not willing to live with in this community. He had no lights, no safety gear, and no regard for traffic laws. You need to make sure something is done before it's too late."
Mayor Linda Jones said the concerns needed to be addressed.
"We had a few complaints at City Council meetings," Jones said. "The Police Department has had problems controlling that, because we haven't had an ordinance. There has been a danger with mostly children riding these on the roadway, and causing driving hazards. And they're hard to see by motorists."
"It was long overdue," agreed City Council member Penny White Morris. "We've had kids maneuvering around the community, and riding after dark. I was pretty scared someone would end up getting hit, or hitting someone."
The new regulations, which will go into legal effect by Jan. 20, bar operation of the scooters in the following locations:
On any city street with a posted maximum speed limit greater than 25 mph;
On any sidewalk;
On any bicycle lane; and
On any multi-purpose trail.
The city's new regulations also stipulate that no one under 16 can operate the scooters, and that no passengers are allowed on the scooters.
Other sections require users to wear helmets; that all traffic rules must be obeyed; and headlights and taillights must be used when using the scooters in the evening hours.
"Any person violating this chapter shall be guilty of a civil infraction, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by the imposition of a monetary penalty of not more than $250," reads an excerpt of the section on penalties.
Morris pointed out that there are quite a few of the scooters in the community, and they appear to be growing in popularity. However, she said the city needed to put the welfare of its citizens before popularity.
"Safety first," explained Morris. "Since they are motorized vehicles, and kids were not wearing helmets and no protection whatsoever, it was a dangerous situation when they bob and weave wherever they want to. When it comes to lives, we can't take chances."
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel said the city of Bingen also was in the process of writing an ordinance that would cover use of the scooters.
"We'll look at White Salmon's, and try to adopt one of our own," Prigel said. "I don't know if it will be identical. But we'll definitely try to adopt some type of ordinance. It's high on our priority list."
Prigel added that he has a few concerns with White Salmon's ordinance. He noted that it requires helmets on scooters, but not on bicycles; and it doesn't address pocket bikes. "Pocket bikes are miniature motorcycles, like mini-bikes but with a lot more power," Prigel explained.