Jared Salomon and Robyn Gianiny rode their electric scooters in the annual Fourth of July Parade through the Kings Park neighborhood on Saturday, July 3. The summer is ideal for this self-propelled mode of transportation the teenagers can ride legally alongside the cars in their neighborhood.
"I just ride it to the pool and back," said Jared, "just keep an eye on the road."
Neither of them has been in an accident on the scooters, but there are drawbacks. The battery only lasts 45 minutes on one charge.
"Every time you stop riding it, you got to charge it," said Robyn.
At one time, a scooter was nothing more than a skateboard with a handle the driver could hold onto while propelling the craft with one foot. Enter the electric motor and the sedentary lifestyle of some children, and the motorized scooter was born, giving the authorities fits on how to regulate the self-propelled craft.
"There is no law governing scooters," said Fairfax County Police spokesperson Bud Walker.
During a training session with a Fairfax County judge, Walker questioned the lack of definition but didn't get a thorough answer.
"We've got definitions of mopeds. Nothing covers scooters. A real scooter has no motor," Walker said.
Although motorized scooters aren't addressed by name in Section 82-9-6 of the county code, which deals with "Playing on streets or highways; roller skates, toys or devices on wheels or runners; use of powered vehicles on sidewalks and other posted property; persons riding bicycles, etc.," enforcement of any motorized scooter infractions falls under that.
"The county has adopted a code," Walker said. "That way we're not powerless."
When Gerry Connolly, (D) chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, was the supervisor of the Providence District, he was looking for a rule on the motorized scooters for an incident in his district, and he wrote the county administrator on the matter. The memo was forwarded to the police, who admitted there was no law on those. While Walker realizes the lack of law will need to be remedied, there have not been any incidents reported yet.
"We've had no accident reports in reference to this," Walker said. "Unfortunately the law has not caught up with technology."
Connolly plans to address the motorized scooter issue in the next legislative package this fall.
"We were facing a new situation that's not adequately addressed by the law. Young people are riding these things without proper supervision, license, goggles and such," Connolly said.
MOTORIZED SCOOTERS aren't the only self-propelled vehicles operated by children on the roads. At Scooter Planet in Springfield Mall, there are five different models of motorbikes attractive to the under-16 crowd. These include Ninjas, little motorcycle-type vehicles that go 30-35 mph; Turbo 49; E-scooters; Electric Ninjas; and Choppers. While E-scooters are two-wheeled vehicles powered by an electric engine, the other models have a gas-powered, 49 cc engine.
Quaser Sharaz, sales representative, said he quotes a rule to every buyer and parent that comes looking.
"You can ride on neighborhood streets with a helmet, [age] 16 and up for the gas ones," Sharaz said. "The company recommends 16 and up."
Keith Ogden, a sales person at Online Scooter in Fullerton Industrial park, has two-wheeled motorbikes that are technically known as "mopeds," although there is a gasoline engine and no pedals. He refers to a page out of a state book under the heading of "Motor Vehicles," when asked about the official law. The headings “moped” and "motorcycle" are highlighted. Under moped, there is no minimum age listed. They travel at speeds no more than 30 mph and have an engine displacement of 50 cc.
"As far as tags and license, no, you don't need them," Ogden said, but he added, "You've got to have the lights, the horn, the turn signal, the high and low beam, all of it."
Two brands he carries are Jalon, which are made in China, priced at $1,495, and Zip, American-made motorbikes at $1,895. Ogden claimed they get 80-100 miles per gallon, have 1.5-gallon tanks, and are used by commuters in some cases.
"I've got one guy that bought one that lives in Falls Church and drives to Silver Spring [Md.], and he spends $5 a week on gas," Ogden said.
Another customer travels from Saratoga in the southern Springfield area to Vienna.
"A lot of commuters are using them," Ogden said. "With the gas mileage, people really love it."
Ogden knows about the motorized scooters and smaller motorbikes as well but does not have them at his warehouse. "I do not agree with those being on the street," he said.
Ogden did note the popularity of mopeds overseas.
"In most foreign countries, this is how they get around," he said.