NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. — After a furious outcry from hundreds of residents over reckless moped riders, the Town Council has ordered Block Island moped rental companies to reduce the number of mopeds they rent out daily from 34 to 25 and to close at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
The decision came just days after a 22-year-old Cranston man was killed and his passenger was injured when their moped struck a vehicle head-on near the Southeast Lighthouse on Saturday afternoon.
Residents and summer vacationers had already been bristling about careless moped riders, careering down the windy roads, honking and speeding, some appearing to be under the influence. A new group called #RespectBI ran a full-page ad in the Block Island Times with 100 signatures on a petition, announcing a Zoom discussion on Thursday evening to reform moped rentals.
Some residents said it was just a matter of time before someone was killed. Then someone was.
After Corey Sanville died while driving a rental moped Saturday, more than 180 people e-mailed the Town Council — and some also sent messages to Governor Gina M. Raimondo — begging them to set limits or ban rental mopeds on the island.
The e-mails came from long-time islanders and summer residents, from people who’d witnessed accidents and their aftermath.
Eleanor Krusewski, who lives near the fatal crash site, wrote about a family who had witnessed the crash. The youngest child, a 6-year-old boy, cried and asked his mother if “the man” would be OK, she wrote.
“This family, the family in the vehicle, the young deceased man and his passenger, are all in my thoughts,” Krusewski added. “The police, the rescue squad, and the physicians all need a break from this totally unnecessary activity.”
Cindy Baute, board chairwoman of Block Island Health Services, wrote that the community “is reeling” from the tragedies. That includes the staff at the medical center, she wrote, adding, “I will tell you that they have been pushed to the limit both physically and mentally.”
Dr. Tom Warcup, of the Block Island Medical Center, told the council Wednesday there have been 55 moped accidents on Block Island since the start of summer, with 11 people airlifted to trauma centers because of the extent of their injuries. Warcup said he asks the patients about how much training they had before renting the mopeds.
Most, including a man who was injured Wednesday, have said there is very little training, Warcup told the council. Inexperienced riders get a quick lesson on a small public road.
John Leone, the operator of Old Harbor Bike Shop, offered suggested reforms in a letter to the council, such as having riders wear wristbands so they aren’t served alcohol, and hiring a private ambulance for holidays and weekends. The moped rental businesses recently hired two security officers to stop moped riders from going up High Street and to take the keys away when they behave recklessly.
The council decided to do more. Using the emergency ordinance enacted under the coronavirus pandemic — which allows them to set restrictions for the health and welfare of the public — the members voted to limit the number of mopeds each business can rent out and to close earlier.
“These are difficult decisions that I wish we didn’t have to make,” said Second Warden André Boudreau. “These decisions are never made with malice or ill intent to anyone. I am just looking out for my community as best I can.”
It was the second time in a week the council tried to address unruly behavior. The council voted last week to suspend all outdoor entertainment licenses on the island to reduce crowds. Five hotels and restaurants went to court to seek a temporary restraining order to stop the suspension.
A Superior Court judge denied the restraining order on Monday, but the parties reached an agreement, according to First Warden Ken Lacoste: The council reinstated the outdoor entertainment licenses, but with limits: just two performers a night, and only between 5 and 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Spring House Hotel, which had been part of the court action, has offered rooms to the state troopers coming onto the island this weekend to help control traffic and crowds.