NEW SHOREHAM – Twenty one mopeds were impounded on Block Island on Sunday for what Police Chief Matthew C. Moynihan characterized as erratic and dangerous behavior.
Moynihan said an off-duty New Shoreham Police Officer observed a group of moped operators riding erratically and committing a number of dangerous infractions including standing up while riding, weaving, operating without helmets or protective eyewear, and with more than two riders aboard.
The rental agencies that own the mopeds, Aldo’s Mopeds, Island Moped and Bike Rental and Old Harbor Bike and Moped Rental, were contacted by the police and advised of the violations. The businesses immediately requested that the police impound the mopeds so that they could take possession of them for breaches of contract.
When mopeds are rented on Block Island the business owner is required to provide basic training, while riders must sign a contract to abide by the laws and rules for traveling on the island’s roads.
Chief Moynihan said, “Block Island is a beautiful place, and we want visitors and residents to enjoy its natural beauty and fun atmosphere safely. Unsafe and aggressive driving will not be tolerated in New Shoreham, and we hope that our response to these incidents will make visitors think twice before bringing bad behavior with them on vacation.”
Mike Finnimore, owner of Island Moped, said, “We appreciate the ongoing collaboration with the New Shoreham Police Department. We want our customers to be safe and we will immediately cancel a rental agreement if our mopeds are being used in any way that violate its terms.”
John Leone of Old Harbor Bike and Moped Rental, said, “We are providing clear training and guidance to each operator at the time of rental. If people don’t follow the rules and the law, we need to do our part to be good community members and seize the mopeds.”
The issue of moped operators driving recklessly on the island has been an issue for many years. The town council has argued that the rental agencies do not properly train riders, who do not follow the rules of the road.
Councilor Mark Emmanuelle said the New Shoreham Town Council approved the forming of a police commission a month ago to enforce, monitor and review moped traffic violations on the island. The commission would inform the police department, town manager and town council about the island’s moped related issues.
It’s an issue that Emmanuelle has been trying to address for decades, both as a citizen and while sitting on the council. He said he witnessed the consequences of moped mishaps firsthand while serving as a member of the New Shoreham Rescue Squad for two decades.
“From putting band-aids on little kids to watching people exhale their final breaths involving moped accidents – the issues must be remedied,” said Emmanuelle. “I am a zero tolerance person when it comes to the moped issue because it’s been a perennial problem.”
Emmanuelle said there are four issues that need to be addressed: Riders’ unfamiliarity with driving a moped, a gross lack of training and education at the rental agencies, the narrow roads on Block Island, and consumption of alcohol by riders.
Emmanuelle said that the town has “very rarely” impounded mopeds due to mishandling and infractions. He said that a meeting with the island’s moped owners is needed to try to curb the violations.
He said the town could broker a deal to purchase the moped rental agencies, “or acquire them through eminent domain for safety reasons.”
Emmanuelle said he has been told numerous times it would be impossible to fix the island’s moped issues.
“To that I always answer the same thing,” he said. “My dad was a Seabee in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Their motto was, ‘The difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a little longer.'”
Emmanuelle said the New Shoreham Town Council will discussing the moped safety issue at its meeting Wednesday night.
Emmanuelle said the council will hear a report from Moynihan regarding the incident and potential recourse for offenders, and also debate the possibility of acquiring the island’s moped businesses by eminent domain.
There have been moped fatalities on the island over the years. The family of a Cranston man killed on Block Island last year while driving a moped called on the town council to impose stricter licensing regulations for moped renters.
The council limited rentals on the island following the incident.
Update: Adds paragraphs 19 and 20.
Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Shuman@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.
Want to share this story? Click Here to purchase a link that allows anyone to read it on any device whether or not they are a subscriber.