State pulls promotional video featuring B.I. mopeds

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 9:30am
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Members of the Block Island Rescue Squad reached out to the state Tourism Division this past week stating their concerns about a new tourism campaign video that shows two people riding mopeds in an unsafe fashion down Corn Neck Road. 

The letter, which was dated Monday, Feb. 5, received an almost immediate response from Lisa Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer for Rhode Island Commerce.

“The digital ads are designed to break through the clutter — and to support local economies such as Block Island’s. We hear the feedback about the depiction of mopeds and will revise the images in the Block Island ad. Of course we want to encourage road safety,” Salamano said in an email to Sprague and The Block Island Times.

The seven-second video was called “Mopeds on Block Island.” It was created by the state Tourism Division and Providence-based advertising agency Nail Communications as part of a larger tourism campaign called “Fun-Sized” that was quietly rolled out by the state late last year. 

. By Wednesday, Feb. 7, the video had been removed from visitrhodeisland.com, where the promotional videos can be found. 

There is another Block Island-based video that still can be seen there called “Bird Watching on Block Island.”

The letter to the RIEDC Tourism Division from the Rescue Squad states: “[T]here is one segment that needs to be reviewed. It is the part that shows two people riding mopeds on Block Island. One would think that, by now, anyone involved in State government and the tourism industry would know what a sensitive issue the topic of rental mopeds on Block Island is. Mopeds are a well-recognized and documented public safety hazard on the island. They place a huge strain on the Police Department, the Rescue Squad and the Medical Center. There are an average of 40 to 50 reported moped accidents every season with injuries ranging from road rash to life-threatening. Many accidents involve a costly medical evacuation from the island to trauma centers on the mainland.” 

“Furthermore, the promotional segment highlights two mopeds riding abreast down the road — they must ride single file — and ultimately, an aerial (drone) shot shows one passing the other on the right. Both of these observations represent traffic violations and should not be condoned or promoted by the State Department of Tourism.” 

Police Chief Vin Carlone said riding mopeds in that formation would “create difficulty and potential dangers when approaching inclines and sharp corners.”

The letter from the Rescue Squad concludes by stating: 

“Visitors should not be encouraged to break the law, or to engage in an activity that clearly puts them at risk for an injury. The Block Island Rescue Squad respectfully requests that the seven-second segment of the ‘Fun-Sized’ ad campaign that shows mopeds on Block Island be reviewed and removed.”

Block Island Tourism Director Jessica Willi said she made her objections known while the videos were being produced last November. 

“I was aware of the state campaign when they said they were coming to Block Island to do some filming, and one of them was about mopeds. I fought hard from the beginning to ask them not to feature that; there are safety issues, and in the end they made their own decisions,” said Willi. “It doesn’t say what we wanted it to say.”