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Mobility scooters create safety worries on Strip

Updated September 22, 2020 - 1:20 pm

Business owners and Las Vegas police have taken notice of a new phenomenon on the Strip during recent months of the coronavirus pandemic: more young people are renting mobility scooters.

Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jose Hernandez, who is assigned to the area command that covers the Strip, said Saturday that officers are working with the scooter rental companies to reduce the number of people renting them for “convenience.”

He said large groups of people on scooters, who don’t have visible disabilities, have appeared in the past two months and pose a safety risk for pedestrians.

“I’m not saying they go super fast, but they move rather quickly, especially when they’re going around pedestrians,” Hernandez said.

Not only safety issues

Along with safety issues, a few cases have occurred in which a rider has used a scooter “in commission of certain crimes.” Hernandez said police caught one rider selling drugs from a scooter, while another stabbed a pedestrian who was walking next to him.

John Vizcarra, the director of operations for the Stage Door Casino, said in a phone interview Friday that he has noticed the uptick of scooters on roads, on sidewalks and occasionally inside his business.

“People … are getting them because they want a joyride or they don’t want to walk. I think that’s not the intent,” he said.

In July, one rider accidentally pressed the gas when meaning to brake and crashed into the bar’s front door, damaging it and costing the business $1,300, Vizcarra said.

Hernandez said police are working with rental companies to implement new procedures including age limits for rentals, restrictions prohibiting large groups and better systems to track who rents each scooter.

“We’re not going to ask someone to verify what their disability is; according to (the Americans with Disabilities Act) certain questions can’t be asked,” he said, adding that police would like to limit people who are “renting them for purposes of convenience.”

‘They’ll get mad’

Emerson Kruger, the owner of 702 Scooters rental service, recently added a notice to his website informing people that rentals are meant for “people with disabilities and our seniors.” During a phone interview Friday, Kruger said some people he tries to turn away get confrontational.

“They don’t go easily; they’ll get mad,” he said. “They even come to my office and they get crazy.”

When Kruger opened again after shutdown orders, his business was slow because of fewer older tourists and convention guests during the pandemic.

Now, nearly 90 percent of his business is young people renting the scooters, he said. He worries about having to turn away people who wouldn’t be able to get around without one.

Kruger said his company provides all customers with safety instructions to operate the scooters, but he can’t control how people drive them. But the crowds keep coming.

“They see somebody else that’s young riding one, so they think that the business has enough scooters for all of them,” he said.

Hernandez said that unlike bicycles or skateboards, mobility scooters are allowed on the Strip’s sidewalks. But people can’t take them into the road, drive them while intoxicated, or drive over 5½ mph.

“We understand that there’s definitely a need for it,” he said. “We want to keep them available for the people who absolutely need them.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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