New coalition discusses options for moped reform

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:00pm
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Recognizing that Block Island has been facing an almost kaleidoscopic amount of social, economic, and public relations setbacks this summer, a new coalition called #RespectBI held a Zoom meeting with more than 130 attendees to address thoughts and strategies on moped reform, safety and enforcement. There were a broad range of options shared on the meeting, which was held on Thursday, Aug. 20.

“I think as a movement, we can make change,” said Sarah Bacon, the founder of the #RespectBI coalition. The primary goal was to have new moped safety guidelines in place by 2021, said Bacon.

Bacon introduced the following panelists: Block Island Medical Director Dr. Tom Warcup, Police Chief Vin Carlone, Councilor Sven Risom, former Rescue Squad Capt. Lisa Sprague, traffic expert Alan Davis, resident Thea Monje, real estate agent Gail Ballard Hall, and Columbia University professor Michael Rock. Moped operator John Leone was originally scheduled to speak, but “was in a meeting with lawyers,” said Bacon.

Bacon asked the panelists to provide a quick statement on their thoughts towards the moped operations and increased accidents.

“Moped accidents have been a continual challenge for many years... To date, 55 moped accidents, and 11 transfers to trauma centers,” said Warcup.

“This is a congestion, traffic problem. We need everyone to be driving and operating politely. What we do not have is a separate traffic division,” said Carlone.

“Since the 1980s, our community has been held hostage… Take the rental mopeds out of the question and see how the quality of life improves. [The moped operators] would not fight so tenaciously if it was not profitable for them. But for the [Medical Center, volunteer fire and rescue, emergency services] it is overwhelming,” said Sprague.

“All moped accidents are 100 percent preventable. There is no reason to have this season after season. The goal needs to be harm reduction and centered on the implementation of safety measures… this is not an area of the world where anyone should be learning to drive in the middle of the summer. These renters need to be held for the highest standard,” said Monje.

“[We] call on the operators – this is a historic opportunity with change. Instead of lawsuits – be a visionary to change this disastrous path… The citizens of the island are begging you to step up,” said Rock.

When asked at the end of the call on what steps each panelist considered to implement for moped reform, the group offered the following suggestions:

  • Raise the age to 25 years; moped riders must wear closed toe shoes – Warcup
  • Gradual phase out of mopeds; ban of mopeds – Sprague
  • Raise the age to 25 years; gradual phase out of mopeds - Monje
  • Stop double passenger riding; increase the rental cost of mopeds – Davis
  • Need to think about the five licenses; formation of a group; adjust branding and communication of island - Risom
  • Address the costs of bringing cars to the island; bond issue to buy out the mopeds and replace with electric bikes – Rock
  • Ban the mopeds; formation of a group – Hall
  • Raise the age to 25 years; contained training areas; videos for training moped renters; conversion of mopeds to e-bikes – Bacon

Bacon concluded the meeting after two hours of discussion, stating “we will be in touch soon to strategize and go through from today. We will be in touch soon with the next steps.”

This is a developing story. See blockislandtimes.com for updates.