D.C. officials are calling for strict new rules for mopeds and other motor scooters that would force owners to register the vehicles, get insurance and keep the bikes off sidewalks.
Upset scooter owners on Monday turned out for a hearing before the D.C. Council's transportation committee to challenge the new initiative, arguing, among other things, that their scooters would almost certainly be stolen if they can't keep pulling up onto the sidewalk to chain the bikes to trees or traffic signs.
The crackdown on motor scooters was requested by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who wants to streamline city regulations to ensure that all scooters -- anything with two wheels and a motor but no pedals -- are insured and registered and that drivers of faster scooters pass a motorcycle operator's test.
The new rules would also require all scooter drivers to wear a helmet and eye protection and would bar them from parking on the sidewalk, something now illegal for only some scooters.
Scooter owner and fitness instructor Rebecca Bly was tired of getting $100 tickets for parking her scooter on the sidewalk, so she moved it to the street -- only to have it stolen.
"Every day I have to make a decision of whether I wanted to park it legally in the street and having it stolen and having my heart broken or parking on the sidewalk" and getting tickets, she said.
Downtown DC Business Improvement District representative Ellen Jones said the city needs to convert more car parking spaces to motorcycle and motor scooter spaces.
"It's become apparent there is inadequate parking for all of these types of vehicles. We observe increasing number of them chained to trees, chained to street furniture," she said. "We have to do a better job of accommodating high-capacity transportation modes."
Some scooter riders agreed with Gray's proposal to make drivers pass motorcycle tests if they ride scooters that go faster than 25 mph. Others argued that no scooter owners should have to get extra certification.
"I would never get on a scooter that [goes slower than 25 mph] in the District of Columbia. It's too dangerous. Vehicles with that engine cannot get out of the way of traffic," said scooter rider Barrie Daneker, who opposes any certification.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who led the hearing, said she thinks the bill needs tweaking, such as including a provision providing additional on-street scooter parking.
D.C.'s move to upgrade its scooter rules comes after Maryland enacted stricter rules for the vehicles. Virginia still does not require registration and has fewer rules.