Monitors hired to watch moped use

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 5:45pm
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A coalition of the New Shoreham Police Department, the moped operators, and the Town Council have come up with some ideas on how to reduce the number of moped accidents, after hearing from members of the Fire Department and Rescue Squad that accident numbers had increased during the summer season.

Interim Town Manager Jim Kern addressed the recent actions taken to institute security monitors for the island moped operations.

Kern said that Councilor Sven Risom, Lt. Paul Deane, and moped operators Mike Finnimore and John Leone met at the end of July, which produced some results.

“We had a useful conversation and went over the immediate plan to use a security company funded by the moped operators that was started Saturday, Aug. 1,” said Kern at the council’s virtual meeting on Monday, Aug. 3.

Moped traffic going up High Street was “an area of concern,” said Kern, so it was decided that a monitor would be placed at the corner of High Street and Weldon’s Way. That activity began on Aug. 1, said Kern.

“[The security monitor] was stationed [on High Street on] Saturday, [Aug. 1], and most people considered it a good use of security. This weekend we are looking at two each day, and we are shooting as many as four,” said Kern.

In a recent conversation with The Times, Kern said “We are looking to have them out on busy days – not constrained to the weekends, but most of those days will be weekends.”

Risom said at the council meeting on Aug. 3 that “the security force is actually brought in by and reporting to the police department. The funding is by the [moped] operators, and I believe the Chief [Vin Carlone] is responsible for bringing in these folks.” Risom said the first weekend saw results. “My observations at least were that somebody stopped many mopeds from turning up High Street,” he said.

Kern added there was also conversation about “maybe using body cameras or similar technology to identify” misbehaving moped renters. Kern said there was some discussion on the possible purchase of breathalizers for the moped operators, as well as the placement of children on the mopeds, and different colored helmets for each moped rental company for identification.

At an earlier meeting, Fire Chief Kirk Littlefield had asked for better access at the docks down near Ballard’s, which Kern said was “accomplished by Bain Transue and Mike Shea.” Signage at Old Harbor Dock warning “no jumping,” and the reinstating of the Moped and Bike Safety Commission “haven’t fallen off the list,” said Kern.

“We will be meeting regularly and will repeat this meeting so that we can provide feedback… some of these things are going to be works in progress,” said Kern.

‘Reduction in injuries’

Dr. Warcup provided an update on activities from the weekend to the Council.

“We had a significant reduction in the severity of injury this weekend… we had 13 moped and bike accidents and seven Life Flights last weekend that included Friday, Saturday and Sunday (July 24 - 26). This weekend we had five moped/ bike accidents and zero Life Flights. We appreciate all the actions that have been taken,” said Warcup.

Rescue Squad Capt. Tracy Fredericks said the weekend of Aug. 1 “was significantly quieter,” and noted that she saw bad behaviors still, but thrilled to see that people weren’t getting hurt or overdrinking.

Councilor Chris Willi asked Fredericks on the specific data collected from bike and moped accidents, “and to be able to use it for actionable measures moving forward.”

“I’ve asked this of previous captains – it speaks to the records of what your responders see to bike and moped accidents, in order for us to make progress or identify areas of improvement other than don’t rent to people that can’t operate,” said Willi.

Fredericks said “we have talked about being more specific” with the bike and moped accidents.

“Helmets make a huge difference, that’s one of the first things we ask them on the scene,” said Fredericks, adding proper footwear, groups of mopeds, the number of people on a moped, having enforcement to watch behaviors, and the common places of bike and moped accidents, such as Spring Street and Cooneymus Road, have been in discussion when examining moped and bike accidents.

Accident reports

Second Warden André Boudreau said he would like to see regular accident reports, but Councilor Martha Ball said she felt many infractions were not written up. “I just think a lot of these don’t get written up at all,” adding that the reports would not be of use “unless we have complete numbers. I want to make sure these numbers are accurate and true.”

Boudreau made the motion “to require the New Shoreham Police Department to furnish the Town Council with accident reports for all motor vehicle accidents on Block Island.” The motion passed in a unanimous motion.

The council was also looking for a similar request of the State Police.

Town Attorney Kathy Merolla reminded the council that “you do not have the power to direct State Police, however you can request it, but you don’t have jurisdiction to require it.”

Risom made a second motion “to request the State Police to provide a report of all motor vehicle incidences, including mopeds on Block Island, by the state police.”

The motion was approved 4-1, with Councilor Chris Willi voting against the motion, stating, “I think that request can be made at the end of the summer to the state police superintendent. That’s a request that has to go to the superintendent. I won’t be voting for it. That’s a request our police chief can ask the superintendent to do.”