Home / Blog / Electric scooters pit cops against kids, parents

Electric scooters pit cops against kids, parents

Oct 27, 2023Oct 27, 2023

Co-owner Scott Risley of West Coast Scooters in Gilbert said the Arizona Department of Transportation won't register motorized scooters like the ones he sells or issue operator's licenses for those who use them even though Gilbert Police say they must be. (David Minton/AFN Staff Photographer)

Dominique Hypolite purchased an electric scooter from West Coast Scooters in Gilbert last year for her son's 16th birthday.

"He didn't have his license yet and quite frankly I didn't have the funds to buy a car," she said, telling Gilbert Town Council May 2 it is her son's only way to go to school, the gym and work.

But Hypolite and others at the meeting said Gilbert Police has been confiscating the scooters and issuing tickets because the Town considers the electric devices to be motorcycles – meaning a license, registration and insurance are required and they can only be used on the road.

But West Coast Scooters co-owner Scott Risley begged to differ.

He told the council the Arizona Department of Transportation doesn't classify the scooters like Gilbert PD does and won't register them, putting the scooter owners in no man's land.

"What I’m confused about is the classification of an apparatus that can't even be titled or insured or licensed because it doesn't have a VIN number," Hypolite said.

"My son as a young African American – is he supposed to be riding around in fear that he's going to get pulled over… it's going to be confiscated and his mom is going to be hit with a $1,900 ticket?

"I’m trying to figure out how do we come to a solution so that my son isn't taking two extra miles taking back roads coming home from work at 11 at night because he's scared that he's going to get pulled over."

Because Hypolite spoke during public comments, the council was prohibited under state law from responding to an issue not on the agenda.

"Everyone who is a parent in this town knows that there's a transportation gap between teenagers and 16-year-olds," Tyler Sundsmo told council members. "They still have places they need to be. They have limited ways to get there.

"West Coast Scooters has provided an incredible way for people to get from Point A to Point B using green technology. There's no motor that's driven. It's all electric."

Sundsmo said his son goes to a gifted program but there is no bus to get him there and both he and his wife work.

But compounding the issue is that his son was hit by a car while riding across a residential street and police told him that the driver can't be cited because the scooter "is illegal," he claimed.

And police told him that because it was an unclassified device, liability could not be determined.

"I got a $2,600 ER bill, his scooter is absolutely totaled," Sundsmo said. "I already have the headache of my son recovering from this accident and now I have to figure out the insurance part of it when there's no liability established from the Police Department."

Co-owner Scott Risley has been operating West Coast Scooters in Gilbert for seven years and said he first heard of police going after the scooters last October from his customers.

The Gilbert resident claimed police action was triggered by angry phone calls from Morrison Ranch residents complaining of teenagers on electric scooters and e-bikes tearing up the common areas.

Risley said 10 of his customers so far have been given tickets and their kids’ scooters were impounded by police.

"All the ones who got pulled over were doing nothing but riding," he said. "Not doing anything wrong. One was going to a golf range and another girl was going to practice or something, just riding on the sidewalk."

Although most of the enforcement has been occurring in Morrison Ranch, an adult recently was pulled over while riding his scooter to work and was given a warning, Risley said.

He said that the Town is trying to classify the electric scooters "as something they really are not in order for them to take care of the issue of kids in Morrison Ranch."

"They only go 20 mph, there's no VIN, you can't register them," Risley said. "They’re not meant for the road. I’d never ride this down Ray Road where it's 45 mph, I’d get run over. It's just ridiculous.

"We’ve been invited by Gilbert every single year to do events. We’ve been in the Gilbert Day Parade for five years now. I’m just really confused and bothered how the city has treated our business."

He claimed the scooters were always classified by the state as class 2 electric bicycles.

He said his friend has been selling the same scooters in a beach community in California, where they are classified as e-bicycles.

"I just want to know how this is supporting small business in the Town of Gilbert, said Danny Bassett, a town resident and co-owner of West Coast Scooters. "We have done nothing but good for this town.

"We bring in revenue, we bring families together. We give people opportunities to get around other than driving their cars. We have special-needs adults and children, they use our scooters.

"It's very frustrating as a business owner. I want to also protect the 500-plus customers that we have out there that ride our scooters and now they’re not. They are just sitting in the garage in fear they are going to get pulled over, impounded and get a $2,000 ticket."

Bassett last week told the council that he tried to comply with the town's request by taking a scooter to the Arizona Department of Transportation. "I took it to the state, ADOT to do a level 1 inspection," he said. "I was laughed out of there. They told me there is no way these should be on the road. They are not DOT-certified.

"We have an importation document stating that they are not for roadway use. I don't know why these are trying to be pushed on the road. It's too dangerous. This is not where they need to be."

He told the council that the town should instead be dealing with kids misusing the scooters on a case-by-case basis.

"We need to move in the direction of EV anyways," Bassett continued. "This gives people so many opportunities to save money and get around in town in an efficient manner. I just want to know what we can do to resolve this.

"We are not trying to fight the town. We want to come to a conclusion and a resolution to this problem. It's just getting worst and worst and worst for us and our customers."

Risley said West Coast Scooters lost about $150,000 in sales over the past five months due to the situation because they rely mostly on referrals.

Town officials did not respond to the Gilbert Sun News for comment, but Councilman Jim Torgeson said state statute classifies the scooters as motorcycles and that any changes must come from the state Legislature.

"We don't have that choice," said Torgeson, who's met with the owners over the issue. "If we don't enforce it and something goes wrong, we are liable. If we allow it to occur, the town is liable."

Torgeson said he's advised West Coast Scooters a number of times to get in touch with their state representatives and that he's even contacted Rep. Laurin Hendrix, a former Gilbert councilman, last week to reach out to the business.

"We don't control the classification of what is acceptable," Torgeson said. "The state controls that classification.

"Right now it seems smarter to have the state change that minor classification issue than for us to break the state law and be on hook for anything that happens by non-enforcement."

Torgeson sympathizes with people who’ve had their scooters impounded given that the cost of getting them back is about the same as buying a new one.

"So it's caused a problem that needs to be addressed at the state Legislature," he said. "I would much more prefer to put a boot on it and have the parents pick it up later.

"It has to be impounded. If my car is unregistered and I get pulled over after six months of non-registration, they are required to impound my car. I can't give the keys to my wife."

Mesa Police spokesman Richard Encinas said that because of the scooters’ speed and lack of pedals, they are considered motorcycles in his city.

"MVD will not register them as of now," he said. "That may change in the future but that is up to MVD. If they are ridden on the street, bike lane or sidewalk that will be a violation."

Encinas said the scooters can be ridden on private property only.

In Chandler, electric devices are regulated depending on their size.

For example, smaller ones or those that only reach low speeds are considered motorized play vehicles and is prohibited on any public street where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph, said police spokeswoman Emma Huenneke.

"If it's a bigger style motorbike with a bigger engine or modifications, it could be considered a scooter that requires an Arizona Drivers license to operate and at some point, possibly a motorcycle endorsement," she said.

Scottsdale considers electric mini-scooters as micro mobility devices that may ridden on streets or roads with speed limits less than 40 mph, bike lanes, public shared-use paths and sidewalks.

"We could move out of Gilbert and go to Chandler or Queen Creek," said Risley, who still rides his scooter around town. "But we feel we owe it to our customers to fight for them."

Gilbert Police spokeswoman Brenda Carrasco provided this response to the Gilbert Sun News' request for comment:

"Consistent with findings in the Gilbert Municipal Court related to these vehicles, a review of Arizona Revised Statutes 28-101 indicates that these devices fall under the category of a motor driven cycle. A motor driven cycle is considered a motor vehicle and is, therefore, required to be registered, insured, and operated by a licensed driver with a class M endorsement to be legally operated on a street or highway. Additionally, motor driven cycles are forbidden from being driven on sidewalks.

"Electric stand up scooters, on the other hand, are defined as devices that: (a) weigh less than seventy-five pounds, (b) have two or three wheels, (c) have handlebars, (d) have a floorboard on which a person may stand while riding, (e) are powered by an electric motor or human power, or both; and (f) have a maximum speed that does not exceed twenty miles per hour, with or without human propulsion, on a paved level surface. The motor driven cycles addressed at the Council Meeting weigh approximately 140 pounds and can travel approximately 30 miles per hour; thus, they do not fit into the definition of electric stand-up scooters.

For the last six months, Gilbert PD and Town staff--as well as elected officials--have had a plethora of conversations, phone calls, and meetings with the business owner, Mr. Bassett, and residents about the state laws outlining their use. The Town of Gilbert does not have the authority to change state law; therefore, Mr. Bassett was referred to the state legislature.

"In addition to the statutory-mandated fines associated with registration and insurance violations, A.R.S. § 28-3511 also requires officers to impound the motor driven cycles for a period of 20 days if other elements of that statute are met.

"We have created a webpage as a resource for anyone needing more information on the use of all transportation devices that is available at"

Log In

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd,racist or sexually-oriented language.PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK. Don't Threaten. Threats of harming anotherperson will not be tolerated.Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyoneor anything.Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ismthat is degrading to another person.Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link oneach comment to let us know of abusive posts.Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitnessaccounts, the history behind an article.

Never miss an issue. Sign up for free today.

Keep it Clean. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK. Don't Threaten. Be Truthful. Be Nice. Be Proactive. Share with Us. The Entertainer!