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Ocean City

Four-wheeled scooter pushes limits of law with city and state

(June 21, 2013) In keeping with the resort’s continuing demand for scooters and scooter-based vehicles, a local sports shop appeared before the City  Council this week to push for the town’s approval of a new four-wheeled “Scoot Coupe Buggy” – even going so far as to offer test rides in the City Hall parking lot.

But town leaders say the go-ahead for the vehicle is not up to them, and the scooter will remain un-rented for the time being.

Waterways Marina owner Ron Croker told officials Monday night that the vehicle was designed to increase safety for recreational renters who may not be used to driving on two wheels.

“They’re much more familiar to someone who drives a car than are two- or three-wheeled vehicles,” Croker said. “The learning curve is pretty much zero.”

A sort of cross between the three-wheeled “scoot coupes” and a dune buggy, the vehicle features a steel roll cage, full complement of lighting, bucket seats with seatbelts, a steering wheel, and a reverse gear. It also has a much wider wheel base than the tipping-prone coupes.

Although it meets all the other requirements for a scooter, including engine size and maximum speed, the vehicle does have four wheels, precluding it from the state’s definition. This appears to have caused some tension between Croker and the city’s police leadership, with Councilman and Police Commission Chairman Doug Cymek saying it was his understanding that the vehicle was ticketed after having been put on the road.

But Croker said that incident was a test run and was not contentious.

“We were in contact with the officers the whole time,” he said.

The buggy is registered with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration as a scooter, with the appropriate license sticker. But the Ocean City Police Department is bound to follow the traffic rules of the Maryland State Police, who contend that the vehicle is not appropriate.

“’The vehicle is not of the type meeting the federal or state definitions,’” Cymek read from an inquiry letter with the MSP.

“We can’t change that. Your argument is with the state,” he told Croker.

“For us to say we like it and its okay, we can’t do that,” Council President Lloyd Martin said. “You’re driving it on a state highway.”

Waterways’ mechanic Sean Crosariol said he could change the back axle of the vehicle to have a single wheel, a setup similar to the typical “scoot coupe” which is currently permitted by the state.

“At that point, it would be 100 percent legal,” Crosariol said. “It would take me just a day to swap the rear axle out. But it just doesn’t make sense to modify something so it’s less safe just to meet the legal definition.”

Croker said he is hoping to get some kind of response from the state police shortly to bring back to the city.

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