2017-05-20 / Top News

Additional Electric Scooters May Soon Be Available

By Jacob A. Ball

Rentals of high-mobility electric scooters soon could be available to Mackinac Island visitors with documented disabilities under a plan presented Wednesday, May 10, to the City Council by a Minnesota couple.

Colene and Rich Olsen of Mankato, Minnesota, who met with the council to discuss regulations and requirements related to opening a scooter rental for Island use, heard no immediate objections to their plan, but council members and city attorney Tom Evashevski said such rentals eventually could require regulation, if they added to congestion and became a safety concern.

Island bicycle liveries already have a few low-mobility scooters available for rent to visitors with verifiable disabilities. To rent one, a visitor must provide verification of the disability and must carry the verification document with them to ensure they’re in compliance with motor vehicle ordinances.

The Olsens first contacted the city last winter to find out what they would need to do to provide rental scooters without violating the city’s motor vehicle ban.

Other business conducted during the regular council meeting included approving the purchase of new uniforms for the police department and a new laptop for Mackinac Marine Rescue, competitive event permits for two Run Mackinacsponsored races, and additional temporary motor vehicle permits and business licenses.

Mrs. Olsen said the couple’s high-mobility scooters have advantages over scooters currently available to rent on the Island. She said that following a bad automobile accident more than a decade ago, her mobility was so severely limited she was unable to participate in many of the outdoor activities she used to enjoy. Mrs. Olsen said she found high mobility scooters to be the solution to her problem.

“My passion is to [rent] these units so people like myself can go on the bike routes with their [family], their friends, or alone,” Mrs. Olsen said.

A chief difference between the types of scooters now available on the Island and the high mobility RMB Multi-Point scooters the Olsens would have for rent, they say, is raised seat- ing that allows riders to better see their surroundings and be more visible in crowded places.

Mr. Olsen said being eyelevel with pedestrians reduces the chances scooter riders won’t be visible in traffic. The three-wheeled scooters are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, bike-trail regulated, feature a flat floor deck to reduce strain when climbing onto the scooter, and come equipped with tow hitches and baskets.

The Olsens had hoped to open a rental business on the Island, but that proved to be more difficult than they expected, owing to the limited availability of retail space. Their new plan is to open a business in Mackinaw City that would rent scooters to disabled individuals who will be traveling to Mackinac Island, they say.

Mrs. Olsen said they would follow all restrictions regarding who’s allowed to rent one of their scooters, including documentation of the prospective rider’s disability. Before anyone would be allowed to bring one of their scooters to the Island, the renter would be instructed in the proper operation of the vehicle.

City Attorney Tom Evashevski explained that the Island’s motor vehicle ban does not apply to anything used to accommodate disabilities. There are no current regulations involving scooter rentals, he said, but, in the future, an ordinance may need to regulate maximum speed or the number of rental scooters allowed.

Mr. Olsen told the council that the scooters have a maximum speed of 16 miles per hour, but can be governed to reduce top speed to eight miles per hour. The Olsens said they plan to purchase only 10 to 12 scooters in the beginning, as they investigate the prospects for this type of business.

“We very much want to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that’s why we do allow these [scooters],” Mr. Evashevski said.

So far, there has not been a need to regulate scooter rentals the way bicycle liveries are regulated, Mr. Evashevski said, but the city council reserves the right to reasonably regulate them in the future.

Mrs. Olsen said she plans to work with the city on any necessary scooter rental rules to ensure they will be allowed on the Island.

Councilmember Kay Hoppenrath expressed concerns about the stability of the scooters’ three wheel design. The Olsens claim, however, that this model is far more stable than any other high mobility scooter they have tested. Mrs. Olsen added that she has never had an issue with the scooter’s stability.

Mr. Evashevski questioned whether it’s necessary to have scooters of the size the Olsens want to rent out. The couple said their model is multi-functional and would accommodate individuals with disabilities who would like to explore more of the Island than possible using traditional low-mobility scooters.

The Olsens will be allowed to move forward with their plans if they so choose. No council action is necessary so long as the business is operated from Mackinaw City, Mr. Evashevski advised, but he said he appreciates the Olsens’ willingness to discuss the issue openly with the city.

Mackinac Island State Park Manager Sue Topham suggested the Olsens also discuss their plans with the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which governs more than 80% of the land on Mackinac Island.

“Anybody who comes over with that unit would be, at any given time, going into the State Park,” Mrs. Topham said. Park officials prefer to work cooperatively with the city on any issue, she added, but it would be beneficial for the Olsens to include the commission in the discussion.

The Olsens plan to open their business, Mackinaw City Scooters & More, at Mackinaw Crossings mall in Mackinaw City. To minimize problems, they will encourage their scooters only be riden downtown, up to Grand Hotel, and around the exterior of the Island on M-185.

Mrs. Olsen said she doesn’t think there would be any trouble with use of the scooters on bike trails in the park, but she wants to make sure riders with disabilities don’t find themselves in a precarious situation.

The Olsens said, within the confines of the ferry schedules, they will provide service and assistance if a scooter ever has problem on the Island.

“We are going to do everything in our power to work with the city and the community, and not against them,” Mrs. Olsen promised.

Council approved purchase of new uniforms for the Mackinac Island Police Department. The new apparel includes personalized polo shirts for Chief Brett Riccinto, Corporal Ken Hardy, and Corporal Andy Dziobak. The department also will buy personalized shirts for officers Cory Kaminen and Mike Yaw, canvas navy pants, cotton rip-stop shorts, and additional generic polo shirts for the safety officer interns. Total cost for the new uniforms is estimated at $1,116.11.

Council also approved Mackinac Marine Rescue’s purchase of a new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 laptop and detachable keyboard. They ruled the purchase is not to exceed $1,600 in cost, and the rescue unit must select the lowest price available online. A 2015 Port Security Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide the funding.

Competitive event permits were issued for races organized by Run Mackinac: Saturday, June 10, from 9:30 a.m. to noon for the Great Turtle Half-Marathon; and Saturday, October 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Great Turtle Trail Run and 5.7-Mile Run/Walk.

Nine additional temporary motor vehicle permits were issued for event support and to finish construction work on the Island. The council also approved eight business license renewals, three off-island business licenses, and three new business licenses. New business licenses were granted to Poppins, Crazy Horse, and the new dockside Butterfly House Gift Shop.

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