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Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

DC police are cracking down on unregistered and reckless moped drivers

By meerna Jun12,2024

That’s the message D.C. police delivered last week as they began cracking down on illegal use of mopeds and scooters in response to growing concerns about the safety of the vehicles, which have become increasingly common in the District over the past two years.

As vehicle use has skyrocketed, especially by food delivery drivers, so have complaints from residents and lawmakers who say reckless moped driving – speeding, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, weaving through traffic, riding in bike and bus lanes, and on roads and sidewalks – poses a threat to other drivers and pedestrians.

“Chief (Pamela A.) Smith has heard community concerns about traffic safety and is working to strengthen MPD traffic enforcement,” the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement announcing Operation Ride Right, an initiative to increase awareness of existing laws through motor driven cycle controllers and enforce compliance. This includes requiring cyclists to have a driver’s license, insurance and registration, and wear a helmet.

In the new action, the department has confiscated 17 mopeds and made five arrests since June 5, D.C. police spokesman Thomas Lynch said Monday.

“We combined this operation because of the marked increase in moped use, the many notices from the community, and our own observations that there was frequent inappropriate driving and failure to comply with applicable district law,” Lynch said. .

The district’s actions mirror those recently taken in other cities where law enforcement is focusing on illegal or dangerous motorcycle use to address safety issues and prevent crime.

New York Mayor Eric Adams announced last week that his city’s police have removed more than 13,000 illegal two-wheeled and off-road vehicles from the streets this year. “Mopeds and scooters not only endanger pedestrians when driven recklessly, but we have also seen a sharp increase in the number of criminals using them to get around and steal property from New Yorkers,” Adams said in a statement announcing the city’s increased enforcement plan.

Boston also announced a moped crackdown, and this month officials there wrote a letter to executives at Uber, DoorDash and Grubhub notifying them that illegal use of vehicles by food delivery drivers has increased. “The consistent failure to follow rules and regulations by those acting on your behalf demonstrates a troubling lack of oversight and attention to public safety,” they wrote.

Officials asked companies for information on how they track safety violations, the training they provide to drivers and how they verify that drivers are driving registered vehicles.

Representatives for Uber, Door Dash and Grubhub said in emails to The Washington Post that their companies take the law seriously and require their couriers to comply with all city laws and traffic regulations.

“All drivers must obey road traffic regulations. If they fail to do so, they will suffer the consequences – just like everyone else,” a DoorDash spokesperson wrote in an email.

Concerns about mopeds have increased in Washington this year.

“I hear about it from constituents every day, but I also see it with my own eyes every day,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who introduced legislation in April to help address the problem. “I see people riding mopeds on the sidewalks. I see them driving the wrong way down the street, running through stop signs and going through red lights.

“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured,” Allen said. “We want to make sure our approach doesn’t inhibit the ability to deliver food quickly and conveniently, but we want to make sure people are safe.”

The bill, co-authored by Councilwoman Brianne K. Nadeau, would require businesses in the district that rent motorized bicycles to register and insure them. Sellers would have to provide buyers with written notice of vehicle classification and registration requirements. Motorcycle registrations, a category that includes mopeds, more than doubled last year, from 54 in fiscal year 2022 to 143 a year later, according to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. In fiscal year 2024, 114 such entities have been registered so far.

The moped explosion in Washington is largely the result of a wave of Venezuelan immigrants — some of whom are among the more than 13,000 migrants who have bused into the city since 2022. Fleeing the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, they focused on providing food to businesses and maintaining financial liquidity during the complicated – and often lengthy – process of obtaining work permits and pursuing asylum applications.

For many, providing food has become a lifesaver and the reason they can afford to pay rent, send money to relatives back home and put down roots “in a country where we are happy and hope that we can contribute to the development,” said Raibi González , 32, driver who came to the capital two years ago.

Now under Temporary Protected Status – which has given him a work permit – González is among a growing legion of delivery drivers in the capital. With the money he earns sent around Washington delivering food, he is able to pay the rent, support his three children in Venezuela and, as he puts it, “just start building the American dream for himself.”

However, this dream was challenged by tensions arising from the city’s automotive boom.

González believes that a minority of drivers do not respect road traffic regulations. “But because of them, we are all unfortunately paying the price,” he said.

Repression against drivers has intensified over the last two months. And that drove a wedge between some of them.

“This is exactly what I was afraid of,” said Julio Bello, 28. “Because all it takes is for a group of people to disobey the law for everyone to associate us with them. Ultimately, people won’t say, ‘That moped driver’ – they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s the Venezuelan delivery drivers who don’t follow the rules’ – even if some of us really try our best.”

Many passengers said they were frustrated with the process of obtaining the documents necessary to operate their vehicles.

Yonatan Colmenarez, 31, an immigrant from Venezuela who entered the country legally and has a Social Security number and a work permit, has been working as a delivery driver since February. But before he can get a license, he needs another immigration document, and the process is fraught with delays, he added.

Abel Nuñez, executive director of immigration advocacy group CARECEN, said he believed there should be a greater information and education program for cyclists, many of whom come from South and Central American countries where the operation and safety of mopeds and scooters are not as regulated. “We have to tell them it’s great that you can ride a bike, but in this country it’s necessary,” Nuñez said.

But Nuñez fears that if we focus on enforcement rather than educating and making the registration and licensing process easier for immigrants, it will only drive passengers further away from compliance.

González wants to change the negative perception of drivers in the city. To this end, he persuaded about 20 of them to register their mopeds and obtain driving licenses. They also raised money to purchase helmets and clothing they designed to distinguish them as Uber Eats and DoorDash drivers.

The cyclists, Colmenarez said, want to do the right thing.

“I’m willing to bet right now that if officials came, held some workshops, or found a way to help those of us who don’t have the ability to obtain all the documents the DMV asks for, most, if not all, drivers would agree to it. we will register mopeds, get licenses and do everything we need to do,” Colmenarez said.

By meerna

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