County and City Officials are Cracking Down on Rental Scooter Industry

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PANAMA CITY BEACH-- Scooters have become synonymous with Panama City Beach. Some see them as a fun tourist attraction, but others say they're dangerous and call them a nuisance.

On any given day in Panama City Beach you can spot a rental scooter cruising down Front Beach Road.

"It's cheap transportation, they get 90 miles to the gallon, so they want to use those to ride around and it's great, wind blows through their hair," said California Cycles Owner, Colleen Schwab.

But many locals call it a nuisance.

"I've gotten more complaints about this than I do any other issue," said Bay County Commissioner, Mike Thomas. "They ride down the sides of the road, they go in and out of traffic."

That's why city and county officials have been looking at ways to get a handle on the industry.

"It's not a mode of transportation for people, it's entertainment, and you shouldn't get your entertainment in a public thoroughfare," said Thomas.

The Bay County Planning Commission shot down a proposal that would've banned more scooter rental businesses from setting up in the unincorporated area of the beach. Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas says the county did this after the city cracked down on scooters.

Thomas said, "County staff was afraid that a lot of them would move to the unincorporated areas."

Thomas says he'd like to see riders be required to have a motorcycle endorsement before they get on a scooter.

"They want to ride a motorcycle, they wanna ride a slingshot, they wanna ride a Harley," said Schwab.

"If she has to rent Harley's that's her business, it's not mine," said Thomas.

Those in the industry say families come to Panama City Beach every summer just to take one of these scooters for a spin. They say getting rid of scooters could hurt tourism.

"We helped make Panama City Beach what it is today," said Schwab. "We are the fun things that the kids get to do, and it doesn't consist of drinking. It's something fun for families."

Schwab claims Thomas and others are trying to kill her business.

"My job, I believe is to try to make sure that the complaints I get are answered," said Thomas. "The complaints I get are that the people that are on their equipment are not qualified to ride them, and that's cause they don't have a license to do it," said Thomas.

Thomas says county staff are now working on drafting the scooter ordinances.

The topic will be on an upcoming Bay County Commission meeting agenda.

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