Time to rethink mopeds


To the Editor:

It was one of those sunlit, breezy, exquisite Monday afternoons driving down State Road in light traffic from up-Island near Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury. Through my windscreen, I observed four rather burly young guys approaching me from Vineyard Haven on their obviously rented mopeds.

Suddenly the lead rider hit the road’s shoulder, locked his brakes, released his grasp on the bike to catch some air, which resulted in his body skidding across the pavement and into my lane. With a second to respond, I yanked my steering wheel hard to the right bringing my car onto the opposite shoulder to avoid running over him with my left front tire by inches and turned to see a second moped driver hit the pavement. Traffic came to a halt in both directions while the two day-trippers collected their bikes and we determined if their injuries were anything more than road rashes, some undoubtedly cracked ribs, and the dread of the later surrender of cash to the rental agency for the damage to the two mopeds.

The long-running debate over the proposed roundabout is vastly out of proportion to the clear and present danger of allowing these mopeds on narrow, congested Island roads. I know you have heard it before in these pages, and the tenor of debate surely will rise with the next fatality or grievous injury. The Vineyard has a terrific public transit system, and there is no need for inexperienced motorbike operators, sometimes two to a moped, wearing nothing but flip-flops on their feet.

While I believe in free enterprise, at some point there’s a time to evaluate if the money and jobs that a moped business might generate is out-weighed by the hazards and danger that it poses to the general public.

Unlike automatic weapons, I don’t think there is an existing constitutional amendment protecting the rental of these infernal machines to tourists, and I respectfully ask that Island officials consider this as an important public safety issue of regional concern to everyone who spends time here, whether one day or a lifetime.

For the record, I am a trained stunt driver/performer working in the motion picture industry, and I probably owe the skills learned over many years that enabled me to step out of my car and not have someone in uniform tell me that it’s just too bad, you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the fatality wasn’t your fault, just something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.

Stay sharp, my friends – just a few more weeks.

Martin Hanley