Parking a scooter in Rehoboth Beach may no longer be free next summer.
The city’s streets and transportation committee recommended scooter riders be required to purchase a sticker to park on city streets next year. The city commissioners were open to the idea of charging scooters to park in designated corrals but tasked the committee with establishing how many spaces will be required and where the corrals should be.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, chairwoman of the committee, said the committee is also recommending banning scooters from parking on sidewalks or at bike racks.
“It’s a safety issue. There’s been some very dangerous occurrences on sidewalks with scooter riders riding on sidewalks, blocking the sidewalks for pedestrians. It’s really about safety and to make it a little bit more organized,” she said.
Scooter parking became an issue in Rehoboth this summer, when the city dealt with a steep increase in the number of scooters on city streets. Many riders parked scooters on sidewalks or at bike racks until scooter parking spaces were established in August, when existing car spaces wee converted into scooter parking. City officials decided not to charge for scooter parking during the 2012 season.
As for why there were so many scooters in town last summer, Coluzzi, a scooter owner herself, said. “It’s the easiest way to get into town. And it’s an easier way to park.”
Coluzzi said the committee’s recommendation is to look at creating scooter parking corrals, similar to the scooter spaces on the beach block of Baltimore Avenue, Martins Lawn next to the Cape Henlopen Senior Center and on Wilmington Avenue. City officials said scooters would be allowed to park at metered spaces as long as they paid.
Coluzzi said she envisioned a system similar to the car permit system, with seasonal, weekly and weekend permits. The city commissioners would establish appropriate rates as part of the city budget for next year.
The committee did not address where the new corrals would be, although Coluzzi said it would be addressed at the committee’s next meeting. While the committee did not vote on a pricing structure, members agreed on a general range: a seasonal permit could cost $40-$50 and a weekly permit would cost $15-$20.
Commissioner Bill Sargent, a committee member, agreed the city should charge for scooter parking and with the concept of corrals for scooters. However, he said he would prefer to treat all motorized vehicles the same and have scooters park in metered spaces, much like motorcycles do.
At the committee’s Dec. 3 meeting, Coluzzi said the city did not have enough meters to have one meter for each scooter space. When Sargent said the city already has small spaces for motorcycles, Coluzzi said the volume of scooters is higher than motorcycles.
“We haven’t even discussed how many we need in town. What if it’s 100?” she asked, adding that would mean the city would need to add 100 extra meters to accommodate them.
Sargent said he wanted to make the system as simple as possible, not only for riders, but also for police enforcement.
Committee member Jim Ellison said he supported the idea of corrals because four or more scooters can park in one area.
Committee member Dennis Diehl said he expected resistance from the business community because employees and owners are used to free parking near their businesses. Coluzzi agreed there could be some resistance because a scooter is a cheaper alternative for employers and employees than a car.
Still, one of the main proponents of the corral concept came from the business community. George Panarello, owner of All Wheels on Oyster House Road, saw scooter corrals in Key West.
Panarello says city officials should charge scooters for parking, and he does not believe there will be any blowback from other scooter businesses.
“I personally don’t think there will be any effect at all. If you are going to use parking downtown, then you have to pay. I’ve never been opposed to it. I just didn’t want some exorbitant rate attached to a scooter,” he said.
Panarello said there are plenty of spaces downtown the city could use for scooter corrals, such as the median area on Rehoboth Avenue across from the change machine. He said the city could have little scooter corrals all over the city, but he did not favor removing car parking spaces because the city is already short on parking spaces for cars.
“Cars have to pay to park. Scooters should pay a little bit, but you have to provide them areas to park,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be an eyesore.”
Panarello also said lining individual spaces is not necessary.
The committee’s task now is to get a handle on the demand for scooter parking in the summer. Coluzzi said she is not sure how many scooters there are during peak season; City Manager Greg Ferrese said the number is easily 500 to 700 scooters. Ferrese said the committee should also begin the process of mapping out where scooters can park so riders will know where the spaces are. He said a policy on scooter parking should be put in place by March to give visitors ample notice.
“We got to get on it now,” Ferrese said.