Rental mopeds: End of the road?


To the Editor:

Good news. The long-sought home rule petition to prohibit rental mopeds, approved unanimously last spring by Oak Bluffs voters, has been filed by our state rep, and is currently coursing through committees on Beacon Hill.

As a founding member of Mopeds Are Dangerous, I would like to thank the Vineyard year-round and seasonal residents and visitors for their overwhelming support of Mopeds Are Dangerous Action Committee (MADAC). If the petition is approved as written, it will finally bring the rental moped public safety issue to its hard-fought resolution.

I also acknowledge the O.B. board of selectmen for shepherding this pressing safety issue through many meetings and hearings, and pursuing a home rule petition allowing the town to finally regulate its rental mopeds. (Owner/operators are unaffected.)

Here’s a recap:

In August 2016 yet another horrific accident occurred in which a young woman lost her leg; it shocked even the most seasoned first responders. The Island community agreed — this carnage on our roads must stop. This grassroots Island-wide outrage reinvigorated Mopeds Are Dangerous, founded in 1982 by Sam Feldman and myself, and spawned MADAC with many energized new members, among them Nicole Friedler Brisson and Lisa Holley. Not surprisingly, both Island paper surveys showed public sentiment running above 90 percent agreement that rental mopeds cannot safely co-exist on our narrow public roads.

I agree. As a police officer here on the Vineyard for over 35 years, I personally have investigated hundreds of rental moped accidents, and believe it is impossible to make rental mopeds a safe and viable mode of transportation on our roadways — for the inexperienced operator or the motoring public.

After MADAC completed our end-to-end review of 40 years of rental mopeds’ impact on our Island, current bylaws, and a pattern of noncompliance and nonenforcement, we submitted our findings to the O.B. board of selectmen. After a public hearing involving the three moped dealers, selectmen voted in May 2017 not to renew their licenses.

The moped dealers appealed to the Dukes County Superior Court, which ruled that the current bylaws (approved in 2006 by the Massachusetts attorney general) were legally defective, and that the town could not deny licenses for moped rental companies because Massachusetts law allows mopeds the right to use public roads. The judge granted a temporary injunction that the licenses be issued.

MADAC was disappointed by the injunction, but not discouraged. Another winter of outreach culminated in the 2018 Oak Bluffs annual town meeting where Oak Bluffs voters unanimously instructed their board of selectman to pursue a home rule petition. They then requested that Rep. Dylan Fernandes fulfill the wishes of the voters and file the petition with the legislature.

Filed on July 10, the petition (H.4727) has progressed through several committees. If approved as written, it will allow voters of Oak Bluffs at a subsequent annual or special town meeting the opportunity to prohibit the rental of mopeds in their community — positively affecting the Island at large.

Please contact our state Rep. Dylan Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr, asking them to continue their support to get this approved on the state level and brought back to the t own of Oak Bluffs for final voter approval.

End of the road or just another crossroads? Your continued support and participation now will determine which road is taken.


Timothy S. Rich, chairman

Mopeds Are Dangerous Action Committee


  1. Actually it isn’t the moped that is dangerous, but rather the operators, much like firearms that only become dangerous in the wrong hands. Like many others I have seen the clueless rental moped operators who probably haven’t ridden a bicycle in years, much less a moped. That said, even if Oak Bluffs prevails in eliminating rentals what is to stop the businesses from moving to another town? Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is the motorized bicycle. Of course the moped has legal rights on the road, and so does the motorized bicycle which, however, does not have to be licensed but does enjoy road rights. Just “looking down the road” on this matter…

  2. Thank you Tim Rich. Anyone with a logical mind who uses the roads of Martha’s Vineyard regularly will understand why mopeds don’t coexist well with cars and our narrow sandy roads. Please let’s come up with an alternative to these dangerous and underpowered vehicles.

    • Agreed. But now the conversation has turned to the electric bike, which is only going to compound the problem.

      • if the electric bike replaces the moped– I’m for it– most people at some time in their lives have ridden a bicycle– not so with mopeds– I put plenty of miles on my bicycle as a child, as a teen, as an adult, and as a “senior” , but have never been on a moped. Bike is smaller, weighs less , easier to manipulate, recover from, and even e bikes do not have a rider on the back– a significant factor in controlling the device. if you want to ban mopeds, you have to give the tourists an alternative. Not everyone wants to see the island from the windows of a bus, rent a car ( one less car for the bike) or is physically capable of riding a conventional bicycle significant distances. Let moped dealers rent the bikes, or at least offer them, and phase the mopeds out.

          • hanley– not sure what you are implying with the license fee notion. who would pay it, and when ?rental agency ? when I get a drivers license in the Caribbean, I have to get a license for about $20. It’s just is a way for the country I am in to get some money out of me, and also insure they know who is on the road— it would be improbable for any gov agency to require a license to operate a bicycle.. That will never happen— Would you advocate a license to use roller blades or skateboards ? Segway ? I know– self propelled vs motorized— sometimes, an insignificant detail. I think the point here, if we may have a common goal, is to get mopeds off the road–

  3. I agree with DonDon12. I also agree with Hanley…I have seen far too many people with NO CLUE riding mopeds. I don’t think the mopeds are as dangerous as their operators.

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