Investigating wrongdoing across D.C. area

64-Year-Old Mother Arrested for Riding Scooter

Drivers say D.C. law is outdated

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    NEWSLETTERS

    District scooter owners called the News4 I-Team saying an old law has them stalled out in the slow lane. (Published Thursday, Aug 2, 2012)

    Lightweight, trendy and oh so easy to use -- urban dwellers love their scooters.

    But District residents called the News4 I-Team saying an old law has them stalled out in the slow lane.

    “I don’t think anybody really enjoys being treated that way,” Ann Goodman said.

    The 64-year-old mother from Georgetown said everything went wrong when she was pulled over for not wearing a helmet.

    “Right after you get out of church and you're going to get a bottle of milk at the Safeway and then you end up in jail."

    Goodman said she was arrested because of D.C.'s outdated scooter law.

    You've probably seen plenty of scooters in the city without license plates. Goodman said they drive in from Maryland and Virginia, where scooter owners aren't required to register their vehicles.

    It's different in D.C., which has a confusing law involving conflicting wheel sizes and engine strength (see DC’s law).

    As a result, all scooters, even a motorized kiddie bike she found in a catalog, are considered motorcycles, Goodman said.

    And if you drive a motorcycle, you need a motorcycle license.

    Something Goodman didn't have.

    "She arrested me because the police keep putting me in this huge Harley Davidson/Rolling Thunder category,” Goodman said, pointing to her blue 50cc scooter.  “This little thing."

    Goodman said she took off her license plate hoping to pass as a Maryland or Virginia driver.

    It didn't work. The cops hauled her to jail for a second time. Goodman said a judge found her not guilty in both cases.

    Northeast resident Barrie Daneker also called the News4 I-Team about his ride.

    “It’s definitely a scooter. Maybe a George Jetson scooter,” he said with a laugh. His scooter is actually a trike complete with a windshield a curved roof. "The rules on what constitutes a scooter is so outdated nobody qualifies as a scooter in the District."

    To keep them from being stolen, Daneker said, most scooter owners park on the sidewalk so they can chain their vehicles to something.

    He sees Maryland and Virginia scooters doing it all the time.  Remember, no license plate.

    But Daneker has $300 in parking tickets for doing the same thing. "According to DC law, this is a motorcycle." 

    It is illegal for a motorcycle to park on D.C. sidewalks.

    "We really need to update our laws so we can allow people to use other modes of transportation that are greener and help relieve traffic in the area," Daneker said.

    "What we have now is, is wacky," Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh said. We told her about the complaints we received. "I had my staff bring me the regulations, and it looked a mess."

    Cheh is the chair of D.C.'s Committee on Environment, Public Works and Transportation, which created the old scooter law.

    "It shouldn't be a matter of police officers measuring the wheel base or something like that,” she said. “We should have clear categories."

    Cheh said she hopes to introduce a bill before the end of the year that puts scooters and motorcycles in different, easy-to-understand categories.

    Until then, both Daneker and Goodman have put their scooters in storage.

    "I'm not riding in this city until it is clarified,” Goodman said. “I am not going to be thrown in jail, handcuffed, fingerprinted, photographed and hauled off to jail."