The president of the city’s largest mo-ped rental agency sent a letter to Myrtle Beach leaders Monday outlining the steps his companies are taking to address issues related to the growing number of rented mo-peds, scooters and golf carts on city streets.
The slow-moving rentals have become popular with tourists, causing the rented vehicles and the shops who rent them to multiply. And city leaders say that “proliferation” has led to traffic safety issues, which inspired them to draft a legislation regulating the businesses that rent them.
But Ben Robinson, president and owner of Moped Rentals of Myrtle Beach, Rent Me Superstore and Golf Cart Rentals of Myrtle Beach, says technology and helping the city with enforcement may offer better ways to address the issue.
City manager John Pedersen says the city appreciates the efforts Robinson’s agency is making to improve safety and that the issue will come up for discussion again April 12.
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“After attending several workshops and city council meetings over the last two months, we decided it was in everyone's best interest to consult with our product factory in efforts to increase safety, reduce the number of accidents, and reduce the impact the industry has on our community,” Robinson wrote to city officials.
I very much appreciate the efforts that this company is making to improve the safety of the people renting their mopeds.
John Pedersen, Myrtle Beach city manager
Robinson has about 400 vehicles in his fleet, operates seven locations and has about 20 full-time employees. He said that his company is moving forward with plans to install GPS systems in his entire fleet of golf carts and scooters.
“This technology allows us to shut down the engine of any of our units selectively or collectively with the use of a smart phone and Geo-fencing software. This is exceptional because our road techs can stop a driver to reprimand poor driving, the unauthorized use of bicycle lanes, excessive horn usage, and a myriad of other infractions that slows the performance of our police department during busy times,” he said in the letter.
Robinson said his company is looking to add electronic collision avoidance systems to his fleet.
“This system will produce a visual and audible alarm” if objects like other moving or parked vehicles are approaching rapidly from the front and/or rear, Robinson said. “While this is quite a challenge for our company and our factory, it is possible. The technology exists and is applicable.”
To address the issue of mo-peds, scooters and golf carts operating in bike-only lanes, he said they have looked at technology that would activate electronic collision avoidance systems to “produce a loud and quite annoying, visual and audible alarm if such areas are entered.”
The city would have to add magnetic strips in the bicycle lanes to help activate the systems.
“Because we build and import most of our vehicles, we are able to get directly involved in implementing such devices during the manufacturing process, making it much easier to envelop the technology and bring it to our industry rapidly,” he said in the letter.
These are very exciting technological innovations, and we look forward to working with this company and others in this industry to control the excesses sometimes associated with mo-ped and golf cart rentals.
John Pedersen, Myrtle Beach city manager
In addition to technology, Robinson said his company has hired new employees to assist local police with enforcement of “existing and proposed laws.”
“We've added four new members to our team. Two observers will now be present on or around Ocean Boulevard during the hours of 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. to help identify problem drivers, correct their violations and confiscate equipment if deemed necessary,” he said.
Robinson’s company has also started providing a free roadside assistance service to its rental customers from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The letter was sent less than two weeks after Myrtle Beach City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance regulating the rental agencies in efforts to check and curb the rented vehicles’ growth.
“I very much appreciate the efforts that this company is making to improve the safety of the people renting their mopeds,” Pedersen said. “These are very exciting technological innovations, and we look forward to working with this company and others in this industry to control the excesses sometimes associated with mo-ped and golf cart rentals.”
Pedersen said Robinson was part of the initial group that met with city officials to review the first draft of the ordinance.
Because we build and import most of our vehicles, we are able to get directly involved in implementing such devices during the manufacturing process, making it much easier to envelop the technology and bring it to our industry rapidly.
Ben Robinson, owner of Moped Rentals of Myrtle Beach
“This meeting resulted in several changes to the document which were included in the draft that ultimately got first reading,” he said.
Among other regulations, the proposed law would require agencies to inspect, inventory and register each vehicle with the city’s police department on an annual basis. Agencies would have to tag each device to identify the type of vehicle. Each rented conveyance would require a decal to operate in the city.
Rental agencies would be required to certify renters are capable and know how to safely operate the machines through a dedicated training course onsite.
Renters would have to be at least 18 years old or have a parent or legal guardian to sign contracts required to rent the vehicles.
An attorney for Moped Rentals of Myrtle Beach called an earlier version of the proposed ordinance “extremely intrusive.” But the city’s attorney, who drafted the legislation, said its intent was not to harm businesses, but to partner with agencies to help the city make sure roads are safe for all.
In the letter, Robinson said city officials “have all been instrumental in creating a fair and objective resolution to issues arising from a growing industry in our city. We believe, as professionals in the industry, we can offer more. Rent Me Superstore is committed to maintaining a close relationship with city officials in efforts to achieve a high standard of safety and order while keeping traffic impedance, accidents, injuries, and lawlessness to a minimum.”
Robinson said his agency is “open to candid discussions and suggestions and will act immediately on agreed solutions.”
Pedersen said a second reading of the ordinance is scheduled to be held at a city council meeting April 12.