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North Bend readies motorized scooter ordinance

NORTH BEND - If you're going to drive a motorized foot scooter within city limits, you might have to follow a new set of rules that limit the usage of the popular mode of transportation.

Under a proposed law expected to be approved by the North Bend City Council at its Aug. 17 meeting, scooter riders would be required to:

* Be at least 16 years old to operate a scooter on public property;

* Keep off sidewalks and public trails in North Bend;

* Outfit their scooter with proper lighting during hours of darkness;

* Operate the scooter with a working muffler;

* Not exceed 25 miles per hour, unless the scooter is being operated in a bicycle lane;

* Wear a helmet;

* Follow all vehicle traffic codes, except those that by definition cannot apply.

Offenders would be written a traffic citation and face a $30 fine.

Passage of the new law would place North Bend on a growing list of cities throughout the state working on dealing with the problem of the noisy motorized scooters on a local level. Although the Washington State Legislature has seen several ordinances proposed regarding scooters, the group has yet to adopt any laws regarding their use, leaving the issue up to locally elected officials.

North Bend Police Chief Sgt. Joe Hodgson of the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend Sub Station said the proposed rules stem from two major complaints from residents. The first concern, Hodgson said, was excessive, disrupting noise caused by many of the motorized scooters. The second, he added, were concerns that young children were riding the scooters carelessly and endangering themselves and others.

Although no major accidents involving scooters have been reported in North Bend, last month a 14-year-old Kennewick boy broke his leg and shattered his knee when he collided with a car. While many operators follow proper safety precautions, injuries are not uncommon with motorized scooters.

According to the latest safety report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 2,870 emergency-room treated injuries related to motorized scooters in the first nine months of 2001. There were 4,390 total injuries reported in 2000 associated with motorized scooters, and 1,330 in 1999. According to the report, 39 percent of the injuries occurred in children 15 years old and younger. The most common injuries were fractures. Most injuries were to the arms, legs, face and head.

Of the three motorized-scooter related deaths in 2001, two were caused by vehicles hitting a scooter and the third was the result of a fall from a scooter.

If the law is approved it will cover the North Bend city limits. Those in unincorporated King County, Hodgson said, will remain under the guidelines of state law that basically gives motorized scooters the same access as bicycles, minus a requirement for helmets.

If approved, the rules will take effect immediately.

The North Bend City Council is scheduled to discuss this issue at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at the Mount Si Senior Center, 411 Main Ave. S.

Travis Peterson can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at travis.peterson@valleyrecord.com.

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