Scooters get the boot

Rise in popularity brings issue to

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Greg Merrick, 14, sped west on the sidewalk next to Victory Way Wednesday on his new gas-powered scooter. The proud owner of a motorized skateboard for a mere two days, Merrick was not yet aware that the Craig City Council had just the night before discussed an ordinance to keep scooter riders off public streets. He was not pleased to hear the news.

"I think it's kind of lame, 'cause where else are you going to ride them?" Merrick asked.

Whether or not the City Council decides to pass the ordinance is of little importance, because it is already illegal for anyone to ride the "toy vehicles" on public roads, said Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta.

Jim Mounz, manager of Checker Auto Parts said he started selling the scooters about a year and a half ago and at first they weren't very popular. Today however, he said they're hard to keep in stock.

"The scooter thing is just getting to be a craze," Mounz said.

He said he thinks people get tired of walking and it gives children freedom from parents. At a top speed of about 20 miles per hour, children can get themselves to games and other activities on their own, he said.

"I hate to say it, but people are lazy nowadays," Mounz said.

Mounz said the scooters sell themselves and the models he stocks cost between $249 and $329, about the same cost as a bicycle. Unlike bikes, however, the scooters require petroleum fuel to run. Mounz estimates the gas scooters get close to 30 miles to the quart, or about 100 miles to the gallon.

Vanatta said he's seen an increase in complaints about reckless motor scooter drivers, something he attributes to the fact that there are more scooters on the road than there were a year ago.

Most of the complaints are in regards to younger riders who fail to look before launching off a sidewalk into the road or who otherwise ignore traffic laws, Vanatta said.

Although errant bicyclists bring in about the same number of complaints, reckless behavior on motorized scooters and other small motorized vehicles can be more dangerous, Vanatta said.

"People have a difficult time seeing them," Vanatta said. "In particular the younger the person riding and the shorter they are it's just harder to see them."

It's not just an issue for Craig either. Vanatta said the proposed city ordinance was based on similar ordinances in several other Colorado cities including Fort Collins, Arvada and Loveland.

Jeff Whilden said he wishes it wasn't considered an issue here. He recently bought one of the motorized scooters for his son and said he thinks denying children the right to ride on the street will only lead to angry children.

"The kids will say "they won't let us do anything'," Whilden said, adding that it will likely breed contempt for authority. He said that if the problem is that kids aren't driving safely, then putting them on bikes won't solve the problem. "It doesn't change the need for education," Whilden said.

Still, Vanatta hopes parents will think twice before buying their children a new scooter.

"Have them walk or buy a bike. It keeps them in shape for one," Vanatta said adding that obesity is a growing problem in America, especially for young people. "All this because they don't get any physical exercise and this is just furthering that."

Merrick said he had to convince his parents to buy the scooter for him, because they recently had given him a new bike. But he said he prefers the scooter, because it goes faster than his bike, especially in the wind.

Scooters are not just for children. Mounz said he sells them to people of all ages.

Delbert Knez, owner of the O.P. Bar and Grill, bought one for himself that he said he uses to ride around town.

"I have fun with all the little toys, I wish I'd had all this when I was 15 years old," Knez said. "I do it and people look at me like I'm an old nut, but I sure do have fun with it."

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