Panama City Beach motor scooter ban underway, officials say it's for public safety
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Councilman Phil Chester recalled a time a few years ago when motor scooters caused more citations, traffic stops and accidents than any other vehicle in Panama City Beach.
Those complications ultimately led the city council at the time to enact a permanent ban on all scooter rentals within city limits. The ordinance, passed June 8, 2017, went live Tuesday, a PCB press release said.
More (Nov. 2019):Court upholds PCB’s scooter rental ban
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"We saw a lot of reckless behavior by scooter renters — weaving in and out of traffic, driving on sidewalks and cutting through parking lots — and people were getting hurt," Chester wrote in an email.
Chester is the only member of the current city council who took part in the 2017 decision. When approved, the ban included a "phase-out date three years in the future," the release said.
"This allowed the six companies currently operating scooter rentals in the city to switch their inventories and change business models," PCB added. "The rental companies phased out their scooters over time, opting for low-speed vehicles, which most were already renting three years ago."
Of the local rental companies, California Cycles — Outlaw Rentals is among the largest with multiple locations across the city. The company declined to comment for this article.
According to the release, the ban stemmed from a "plethora" of public complaints about dangerous scooter drivers. The vehicles were also increasing traffic. From Jan. 1 to May 23, 2017, local law enforcement officers wrote more than 300 tickets and responded to more than 50 accidents involving scooters.
"The scooter ban came at a time when the city was transitioning from a rowdy spring-break community to a family-friendly destination," the press release stated.
For former Mayor Mike Thomas, the majority of residents he talked to leading up to the decision were in favor of the ban.
Thomas also said that during that time, there were roughly 1,400 licensed rental scooters within the city — most of which were driven by people with little to no experience.
"It was like they were making an amusement park out of Front Beach Road and it was just dangerous," he said.
While scooters have been a part of the city's "recreational landscape," the ban was ultimately passed to protect residents and visitors from the undeniable harm they caused, Chester added.
"There was a huge public outcry to do something," he wrote. "We want to remain a family-friendly destination and that means we have to put safety first."