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County may be driving scooters off the streets

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Chicago Tribune

By Mickey Ciokajlo and Tom Rybarczyk, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Colleen Mastony and freelance reporter Sean D. Hamill contributed to this report

Some Cook County officials hope to clear up any ambiguity about whether motorized scooters are allowed on streets and sidewalks.

They want them banned.

While suburbs from Skokie to Oak Forest already prohibit motorized scooters on public property, commissioners are considering a countywide ban that would cover communities lacking a specific local law.

Some suburbs, such as Riverside, already interpret the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code as banning the use of motorized scooters--or mini-scooters--on streets because the secretary of state's office does not license them.

Chicago regulations ban the use of the scooters by riders younger than 16.

Bigger scooters, such as Vespas or Sprees, are registered with the state and have license plates.

Some of the smaller motorized scooters can go 35 m.p.h., but not all are equipped with a seat, and they generally cost $100 to $300, although more expensive models are available.

The County Board could vote as early as July 13 to ban the motorized scooters.The proposed ban was the subject of a public hearing last week and the topic of more debate Tuesday in the County Board's Roads and Bridges Committee. The committee is expected to take up the issue again next week and, if it approves the ban, the measure would go to the full County Board.

Whether such a ban would be enforced is another issue.

Hoffman Estates already has banned the devices from public ways, but that didn't stop Sean Foley, 15, and three of his friends from riding them Tuesday on Golf Road.

"When [the police] stop you, they say, `You can't ride that here,'" Foley said. "We just wait until they leave and get on them again."

In Evanston, which is also considering a ban, Marcus Brown, 12, said he loves his scooter. "It takes me where I want to go faster than a bike," he said.

However, if his scooter were banned from streets and sidewalks, he said, "I guess I'd just ride my bike instead."

Cook County Commissioner Carl Hansen, a Mt. Prospect Republican, is the sponsor of the proposal to ban the motorized scooters.

Hansen said the initiative was prompted in part by the death of Louis Limberopoulos, 14, who was hit and killed by a vehicle in 2002 while riding a motorized scooter in Mt. Prospect.

"Youngsters are always unhappy when they are told they can't do something even when it's for their own benefit," Hansen said of the proposed ban. "That's not a measure for this item."

The proposal calls for a six-month education period prior to enforcement. At the end of six months, tickets could be issued and violators could face fines of $200 to $1,000.

Though County Board President John Stroger favored deferring the issue Tuesday, he said he generally favors the proposal.

The ban appeared to have broad support Tuesday, but the backing was not unanimous.

Republican Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman said instead of outlawing the scooters, parents should take responsibility for their children.

"There's a risk in anything that moves," said Gorman, adding she could support an ordinance requiring helmets.

Gorman purchased motorized scooters for her three sons--ages 10, 9 and 5--last Christmas not knowing that Orland Park, where they live, considers them banned under state law. "I'm going to have to ship them to Michigan or to camp," Gorman said.

A spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state's office suggested it is still a good idea for local governments to pass their own ordinances.

"We'd gotten calls about young people riding them up and down the streets and sidewalks," said Skokie Police Sgt. Scott Anderson. The Village Board banned motorized scooters last year. "People were concerned about the person on the scooter and for the safety of the person walking on the street or sidewalk."

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