Ban might pass to city


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

A move to ban three-wheeled electric vehicles called YOscooters from sidewalks except for people 55 and older is moving through the Legislature but may soon become a city issue.

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House Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki) introduced House Bill 771 as a way of defining what motorized electric devices are allowed on sidewalks.

“;We've had Segways and we have YOscooters, and what's next, extreme vehicles?”; Brower said. “;It's just an unfortunate situation where the sidewalk is only so big for so many people.”;

YOscooters, which came on the market in 2006, are about 26 inches wide, while sidewalks are typically 5 to 6 feet wide. That leaves about 3 feet of walking space, said Capt. Janet Crotteau of the Honolulu Police Department's downtown district.

Crotteau said the police department supports the intent of the bill - to keep the vehicles off sidewalks - but opposed the bill itself because it defined YOscooters as a vehicle.

“;By definition, sidewalks are a portion of a street between the curb lines intended for use of pedestrians, not vehicles,”; Crotteau said.

Because the bill does not restrict the device's speed limit, the city Department of Transportation Services also opposed the bill.

“;These vehicles are capable of traveling 15 mph, which would be unsafe to add them to the already crowded mix of nonmotorized users on sidewalks,”; said acting DTS Director Wayne Yoshioka. “;Also, YOscooters is a brand name and should not be specified in legislation.”;

It was a point that company representatives seized upon. YOscooters manager Glen Tanaka called the bill “;unfair”; to the company.

“;To dictate who can and cannot rent a mobility device provided by a specifically named company for use by the community and the tourism industry is unlawful,”; Tanaka said.

The state Department of Transportation, in written testimony, recommended that the bill become more general in its language, and that YOscooters be required to obey the same regulations as personal assistive mobility devices like electric wheelchairs.

“;These regulations will allow YOscooters to better mix with pedestrian traffic by restricting them from traveling at a speed greater than 8 mph, and requiring operators to yield to the right of way of pedestrians,”; the Transportation Department stated.

Tanaka said customers are currently advised to stay below 8 mph. He said many of their customers are older tourists who want an alternative method of transportation.

Brower said a similar issue was raised when Segways were introduced in Hawaii. That brand was also targeted in previous proposed legislation.

Bill 771 passed out of the House transportation committee yesterday, but will be amended to state that YOscooters and Segways would fall under city regulations, Brower said. There would be no state regulation on the devices.

“;With a lot of bills, the devil is in the details. ... but I felt it was our job to get the discussion started,”; Brower said. “;There's a feeling among legislators that this is a city issue, and we're now preparing to draft the bill to say that.”;