Ben Chong Gum, left, and brother Nelson used their motorized scooters to deliver a load of Honolulu Star-Bulletins yesterday. With the new city ban on scooters, the family's source of income and livelihood are jeopardized.

Harris OKs ban
on motorized scooters

Safety concerns lead Mayor Harris
to sign the measure despite perceived flaws

When his wife lost her job in the economic downturn following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ibang Chong Gum said he was forced to go on welfare to feed his family of nine.

"We didn't even have enough to pay the rent the first month," he said.

Chong Gum said his family is no longer on welfare because his children now earn $3,000 a month delivering newspapers in Palolo Valley by motorized scooters.

But their livelihood is now in jeopardy because Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris approved a law Thursday banning motorized scooters on public streets and sidewalks.

Harris said he heard from people who use scooters to deliver newspapers but signed the law because "we clearly have a safety issue."

During public hearings on the bill, distributors testified the scooters can travel 28 mph.

"That's a lot of zip for a little kid," perhaps faster than they can react, said Harris.

The ban took effect when Harris signed it into law, but Honolulu police said there will be a warning period before the law is enforced as they develop procedures. They are scheduled to issue a statement Monday.

On Tuesday, Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law regulations that allow the Segway, a high-tech, battery-powered scooter, to be ridden on sidewalks or on bike paths if the sidewalk is blocked. Operators need to be at least 16 years old, and the maximum speed for the device is 8 mph.

Harris said he would like to see similar regulations for motorized scooters rather than an outright ban.

He signed the law even though he said the legislation contains flaws that need correction, Harris said. The measure bans scooters powered by internal combustion engines designed to be ridden standing up. Harris said the law does not address scooters that can be modified to include a seat.

Albert Young, who sells only scooters at his store Scooter Alley at 2131 S. Beretania St., said many motorized scooters are sold with seats that can be removed or sold with seats as an option.

He is not sure what effect the ban will have on his business.

"It remains to be seen," Young said, "On the mainland it's already used as alternative transportation."

Moanalua Valley resident Leilani Ramsey was pleased to hear Harris approved the ban.

She said she helped Councilman Romy Cachola introduce the measure and testified on its behalf after her car nearly ran over a boy riding a motorized scooter on the street near her home.

"If you ever had your heart drop out of you, I can only imagine what would have happened if I had hit that boy," Ramsey said.

She said a group of boys go back and forth from street to sidewalk in her neighborhood sometimes till 10:30 at night even on weekdays.

Chong Gum said his five older children, ages 13 to 15, use the scooters only to deliver between 200 and 300 Honolulu Advertisers in the morning and 700 Honolulu Star-Bulletins in the afternoon.

The two youngest children, ages 9 and 11, help their parents deliver newspapers by van.

"My kids cannot ride at night because I lock them (the scooters) up at night," he said.

Chong Gum's oldest son, Nelson, was struck by a van on Palolo Avenue around 6:23 a.m. Jan. 27, 2002, while delivering newspapers on a motorized scooter. He was taken to the Queen's Medical Center in critical condition but has since recovered and is back delivering afternoon newspapers by motorized scooter. However, he and his siblings no longer deliver newspapers in the morning by scooter.

Chong Gum said he has five scooters, all designed to accept seats. One already has a seat. He said he is considering buying seats for the other four.

"I hate to cut off the scooters because we use it for work to make a living," Chong Gum said. "I don't want to go back on welfare."


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --