Selectmen Support Tough Moped Laws
All-Island Selectmen Association Hears Emotional Appeal
To Pressure Boston to End Carnage on Island Roads
By JOSHUA SABATINI
After listening to a presentation by Sam Feldman of the Mopeds Are Dangerous Committee, the All-Island Selectmen Association unanimously decided to support legislation that would require a motorcycle license to rent a moped.
The bill is in committee in the state senate. Other Island groups stand behind the legislation. The Oak Bluffs selectmen, the county commissioners and, last week, the Dukes County Health Council unanimously supported the bill.
Mr. Feldman played for the selectmen a short video illustrating the need for either a ban or tougher regulation of moped rentals.
The video began with a report by Channel 5 news reporter Amalia Barreda. It points out that many of the renters are first-time moped users and that the narrow Vineyard roads are often full of cars, creating an obvious hazard.
Mr. Feldman, interviewed in the report, said, "A driver's license is all that is needed for them to rent a moped, and a moped is not a car. They are using these instruments of death and I don't know how it can be reconciled."
Since 1996, four moped fatalities have occurred on the Island. "Moped renters," said Mr. Feldman, "are fairly delusional about being in a vacation spot and they let their defenses down. They just don't think in terms of their own safety."
Accidents happen almost every day during the summer season. Some result in minor abrasions; others are more severe.
Mr. Feldman voiced various safety concerns on a section of the video, which he plans to bring to the state house to lobby for tougher regulations. Mr. Feldman said moped accidents are a daily occurrence and have a high economic and resource cost to the Island. "Legislators have to do something to help with this. They have to pass a law requiring a motorcycle license so that these people are more experienced when they get on these vehicles," said Mr. Feldman. "You would never put people in a car or on a motorcycle without licensing."
The recent death of Kate Dunnet Miller, the result of a moped accident, has left the Miller and Dunnet families reeling from the Island tragedy. Mr. Feldman asked Kate's husband, Duncan Leigh Miller, to watch the video and record a message for the legislators. Mr. Miller's grief made the task impossible.
Mr. Feldman read an emotional eulogy, sent by Mr. Miller, explaining his feelings about the violent death of his wife, and what he is going through. Mr. Feldman finished reading the letter and said it is an example of "the human toll of mopeds on Martha's Vineyard."
Several years ago, the Mopeds Are Dangerous Committee asked State Rep. Eric Turkington for a law that would require a motorcycle license to operate a moped. Mr. Feldman said the moped operators hired a lobbyist and no action was taken.
Two winters ago, Mr. Feldman and the police chiefs of Edgartown, West Tisbury, Tisbury and Oak Bluffs met with the Speaker of the House. Mr. Feldman said the Speaker promised to consider of the bill, but nothing happened.
"I do not know what it is going to take to do something about this issue. The risks to the towns are great on many fronts," said Mr. Feldman. "I ask you to help us do something about this."
Mr. Feldman said 99 per cent of the people on the Island agree there is a need to do something about the mopeds.
The selectmen's association has endorsed the bill in the past as part of a broader effort to show the "community is standing together supporting this legislation." The association advised the other town selectmen boards to follow suit.
Last year, the all-Island selectmen addressed the Island's moped issue by asking the moped owners to follow nine guidelines in an attempt to make moped use safer. "Most of them have tried diligently to implement the nine points. From where I sit, the problem comes from the capacity of the roads, the number of people using them, no shoulders on the roads and the lack of experience of those using them. There is no need to villainize any of the owners or operators," said Russell Smith, legislative liaison for the Island.
Edgartown selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr. disagreed. "I think the moped owners never lived up to what was demanded of them." Mr. Morgan said the businesses are not giving the renters enough time to get oriented with the vehicles.
Michael Finley, a member of the Mopeds Are Dangerous Committee, said: "These things really shouldn't be on the road. Everybody here knows that. Ideally, we would repeal the law allowing motorized bicycles to even exist.
"I ask of all you in the room to put your voice forward. Put pressure to where we can make a difference in the state house."