Mopeds still raising hackles

Thu, 06/10/2021 - 4:15pm

The New Shoreham Town Council began its meeting on June 7 by opening up the floor to public input. And the public wanted to talk about mopeds. Elliot Nerenberg got the wheels turning when he called in to report that the moped operators are still using Weldon’s Way for training, despite the March 4, 2021 amendment to the Town of New Shoreham General Ordinances Article 4, Sections 8-78 governing Motorized Cycle Rental, which forbids using the public road for training. Nerenberg asked: “What enforcement is taking place to stop training on a public roadway?”
Town Manager Maryanne Crawford responded that the police department has hired more officers for summer, along with the community service officers (CSO) brought out for the summer. She said the mopeds “are going down Weldon’s Way, stopping at the stop sign at the Seacrest, then turning around and coming back.” She further elaborated that “u-turns in the middle of Weldon’s Way that we saw last summer are not happening.”
Nerenberg also said he was still seeing “sandals and flip flops.”

Crawford informed the group “footwear is not required by state law.” She said she has been trying to work with the moped operators to voluntarily encourage the moped riders to wear closed toe shoes.
Chief of Police Matthew Moynihan called in to say that what he has observed on Weldon’s Way “is not instruction,” explaining that the mopeds are “entitled” to travel down the roadway, while obeying the traffic laws, then turn around and come back. He also agreed with Crawford that there is “no state regulation” on footwear.
Council Member Mark Emmanuelle weighed in, saying: “Simply put, after decades of dealing with this problem, the slumber party is officially over.” He then said: “We have a new council who is finally committed to this issue, and a new chief, who’s out there” as well as a “new town manager.” He went on to say that as he was now retired, he had more time on his hands to “be a pain in the butt.” Emmanuelle finished by admonishing the community: “If you see something, say something. I’m deputizing everybody to be an ally with this particular issue.”
Second Warden Sven Risom agreed with Crawford, saying he had seen “two policemen and three CSOs all over Weldon’s Way.” He also mentioned seeing Chief Moynihan directing traffic as the ferry unloaded, calling it “the first time” he’s seen an officer there directing traffic.
The phone lines were open, and the residents of Block Island continued to call in with suggestions. Block Island resident Keith Lang called in to let the council know that the signs prohibiting mopeds on dirt roads were not working. He said he believed this was due to the signs being too small, not easily seen, not explicit enough, and only located on town roads. Lang thought this last fact confuses moped riders, who will think “only marked dirt roads are off limits,” as opposed to knowing all dirt roads are off limits.
First Warden Boudreau asked if the town ordinance against riding a moped on dirt roads applied to private roads too?

Crawford clarified that the police cannot enforce anything on private roads, while agreeing with Lang that the signs just are not working. She said new signs had been ordered and would be in soon.
Emmanuelle jumped in, blaming, “the disingenuous and untrustworthy owners who swear they’ve instructed people that they’re not allowed on dirt roads, and we all know they’re pretty much not doing that.”
Council Member Keith Stover agreed, saying that probably the signage and training were both to blame.

Council Member Martha Ball said that the new signs, being simpler, would be better for the mopeds, saying “the simpler it is, the more likely it is to catch people’s eyes.”

Boudreau confirmed that the “no mopeds allowed beyond this point” sign at the bottom of High Street has been stolen. Crawford informed the council that a replacement sign had been ordered and would be installed up past the Atlantic Inn.
Risom suggested that the town provide signs for the private dirt roads that owners could put up if they wanted to.
Victor Hong called into the meeting and suggested sending secret shoppers to see if the moped operators were complying with the safety requirements.
Stover reminded everyone that the Town of New Shoreham is currently in court with the moped operators over the March 4 ordinance amendments, so the operators do not have to follow the amended ordinances until the judge rules “one way or another.” He added: “We can’t hold the chief, or the officers, or the CSOs, or the town manager accountable for enforcing an ordinance that is not currently enforceable.”
Sarah Bacon called in to suggest the Town Council consider a show cause hearing in order to stop the moped activity on Weldon’s Way, while waiting for a ruling. She also asked if there was an “implementation plan and a timeline” for the moped operators to comply, if and when the ruling comes down.

Crawford reiterated that while the enhanced safety training requirement is in the ordinance that is under the restraining order, there is nothing in the ordinance about closed-toe shoes.
Resident Chris Blane closed out the public input component of the meeting by discussing the blight of stolen moped signs over the years. He recommended the council members take a look at the lone remaining moped sign out on Clayhead trail, the only one that had not been “mysteriously” stolen. Blane said it was the right height, and had the right level of readability, although he surmised that it would be stolen next, probably within twenty-four hours.