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This article is written by Abby Fox and was published in The Block Island Times, Digital Edition on October 1, 2005. Reproduced by permission.

R.I. requires motorcycle licenses for moped riders
New application of moped law restricts rentals; businesses sue state, town
By Abby Fox

The flyer distributed by the state.
This weekend, the island’s moped rental companies won’t be able to rent their mopeds in the way they’ve been accustomed — unless the renters have a motorcycle license, or the companies revert to offering mopeds with pedals.

The companies were in Washington County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon fighting to make sure their renters won’t have to obtain a motorcycle operator’s license, and challenging the Department of Admin-istration and DMV’s interpretation of law that moped riders are required to have motorcycle licenses. They sued the state; they sued the Town of New Shoreham for injunctive relief because of the state’s new interpretation of the law.

The court set a hearing date for Thursday, Oct. 6, Town Manager Nancy Dodge said. The judge didn’t grant the moped businesses’ re-quest for a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the state’s new interpretation of the law.

The background on this: on Sept. 22, Police Chief Vin Carlone received a letter from the Division of Motor Vehicles Administrator Charles Dolan, saying that under Rhode Island law, drivers of mopeds, or motor scooters, “regardless of the top speed or the size of the engine” require a motorcycle license.

But a “traditional” moped that has pedals and a “top speed of less than 30 mph and a brake horsepower of 1.5 (SAE horsepower 2.0 or less)” doesn’t need a motorcycle license, Dolan wrote.

Then on Wednesday, Sept. 28, Carlone wrote a letter to the island’s moped rental companies saying “the Town of New Shoreham has no choice but to inform you that the mopeds you are currently renting (without pedals), will require the driver to be licensed to operate a motorcycle.” He references town ordinance on motorized cycle rental, which requires companies to comply with state law.

The letter seemed to have an immediate effect. That day, businesses weren’t renting mopeds, Town Manager Nancy Dodge observed.

This week, Jon Hagopian of Hagopian & Hagopian sued the director of the Department of Administration and then sued the Town of New Shoreham for injunctive relief. Moped rental companies Aldo’s Mopeds, Inc., Finnimore & Fisher, Inc., Miles-Un-Ltd., Ocean State Bikes, Inc., The Moped Man., and Java Speed Scooters, Inc. in Providence joined the complaint, which asks for $1 million from the state in compensatory damage, for each moped business.

The complaint asks for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining the enforcement of the state’s interpretation of the law.

People who don’t have a motorcycle operator’s license will be not only in violation of state law; but also, more importantly, they’ll face a criminal charge, and will have to come before criminal court, First Warden Jack Savoie said Wednesday. If found guilty, that offense would go on a criminal record.

Savoie emphasized that the new interpretation requiring a motorcycle license doesn’t apply to only moped renters; it applies to every person who rides a moped.

Dodge said that Carlone is now working to get a motorcycle licensing course offered on the island.

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