Friday, March 19, 2004 | 5:07 a.m.
Susan Snyder's column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 259-4082.
March 20 - 21, 2004
A bag of groceries dangled from the handlebars of a woman's electric scooter as she motored across Pecos Road at Wigwam Parkway one recent morning.
The tiny blue machine was little more than a skateboard equipped with a seat. The woman putted through the crosswalk, turned left onto the sidewalk on the other side and continued traveling up Pecos toward Pebble Road -- on the sidewalk and against traffic.
By the time the light turned green for me to also continue up Pecos toward Pebble, the scooter woman had cut across a convenience store parking lot and vanished into a housing development. I turned left onto Pebble and continued around toward Green Valley Parkway.
Motoring through a crosswalk and on a sidewalk are illegal. So is motoring against traffic. It's a wonder we aren't scraping more scooter drivers off the pavement.
Citing constituents' complaints, Las Vegas Councilman Michael Mack rolled out the scooter issue at the March 3 council meeting. He said many people seem unaware it is against state law to operate a scooter of any size or with any type of motor on the sidewalk.
They must be operated on the road by a licensed driver and be equipped with proper brakes and lighting. That means the youngsters under age 16 racing around neighborhoods are riding illegally in most cases.
Scooters may be ridden on private property, such as driveways or parking lots, unless prohibited by the property owners. And they are OK in gated communities unless otherwise posted. Traffic laws don't apply behind the gates, said Bill Redfairn, a Metro Police traffic homicide detective.
"Until about five years ago, if you got into an accident in a gated community and you were drunk and you killed somebody, you couldn't be charged," Redfairn said.
Laws have since changed to allow investigation of serious crimes and crashes, he said. But minor infractions, such as speeding or riding scooters without a driver's license, can't be enforced. The roads are private property.
But it's different outside the gates. And many parents might not be aware they are buying children something they can't really use anywhere.
"When you start talking to parents about (scooters) have to have lights and be licensed and all, they are dumbfounded," Redfairn said. "They ask, 'Why doesn't somebody tell you that?' "
People who sell the scooters aren't responsible for educating buyers about traffic laws, just as people who sell cars aren't responsible for educating buyers about them.
"It's your responsibility to know what the rules are for what you are buying," Redfairn said. "But we are a society where people don't want to take responsibility for their actions. They want to blame it on somebody else."
Before shelling out $200 to $400 for a scooter, figure out where or whether your kid can legally ride it. Adult riders need to follow the laws. Perilous, illegal shortcuts buy nothing.
The woman on the blue scooter re-appeared along Pebble Road that morning. She popped out of the neighborhood and onto the sidewalk. We arrived at Green Valley Parkway the same time, but not in the same way. I drove there legally.
On a bicycle.