By William Croyle
ELSMERE - Police Chief Tim Greene has received 10 complaints about scooters from motorists in the last two weeks and would like a ban here.
"I know I'll get flak for that," said Greene. "But if you take a two-ton vehicle against a kid on a scooter, guess who's going to win?"
Cook County, Ill., with 5.3 million people in and around Chicago, will ban the use of motor scooters on all public property in January.
Cook County Commissioner Carl Hansen sponsored the legislation after a 14-year-old boy on a motor scooter in his district was killed by a motorist two years ago.
The ban includes all public streets, sidewalks, parking lots, bike paths and parks.
"You have a situation here where there is too much vehicular power given to a young person," said Hansen. "You're saying an 8- or 9-year-old kid has the proper judgment to ride them on the sidewalk or in the street, and they don't."
There have been no serious scooter injuries reported in Northern Kentucky, but city officials are feeling pressure to craft ordinances on the gas- and electric-powered gadgets that can reach speeds of more than 20 mph.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were about 8,000 emergency-room injuries involving scooters in 2003. Just five weeks ago, a 15-year-old Virginia boy was killed on his scooter when he collided with a sport-utility vehicle.
Kenton County Chief Prosecutor Ken Easterling does not support a ban, but said the county attorney's office has advised cities to create their own ordinances until the state offers some guidance.
Roy Mundy, commissioner of vehicle regulations for the state transportation department, said scooters powered by a motor do not meet state standards of a motor vehicle and should not be on the streets.
"In our mind, they're clearly not designed to be interactive with other traffic," said Mundy. "From our view, they are illegal on the road."
Mundy said his department is discussing how to specifically address motor scooters.
Edgewood is the only Northern Kentucky city to create a motor-scooter ordinance. Kids must ride under 20 mph and only on sidewalks, driveways or parking areas. They also must follow numerous safety rules. "We have had to take some kids aside and educate them on the ordinance, but it seems to be working," said Edgewood Police Chief Tony Kramer. "The scooters are relatively new, so it takes time for the law to catch up."
In Fort Thomas, city officials have fielded complaints from motorists this year about kids on scooters darting in front of them or driving in the middle of the road at slow speeds.
The city is working on an ordinance and is currently keeping scooters off the streets and on sidewalks. But Fort Thomas Police Lt. Ken Fecher doesn't like that any better and, like Greene, thinks banning them from public property is a good idea. "We've moved them off the streets because they've caused too much trouble, but I don't like them on the sidewalk because of the speeds and the weight," said Fecher.
Greene said he'll also keep scooters off Elsmere streets and on sidewalks until the state or city passes a specific law on them.
"We're going to crack down on them, even if it means taking the scooter away," said Greene. "I just hope someone comes up with something on how to deal with them before someone gets hurt."
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