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Council wants to insure safety of motorized wheelchair/scooter users

Cairo city officials want to make Cairo safer for users of motorized wheelchairs and scooters.
Mayor Richard VanLandingham brought the matter up for discussion during the city council meeting Monday night.
According to the mayor, a local resident, using one of the motorized wheelchair or scooters, was injured in a motor vehicle accident recently. He said he discussed the matter with Police Chief Keith Sandefur, who agrees there is a safety issue.
“We’ve got people crossing four lanes of traffic on Hwy. 84 on these scooters. It is an issue and we need to reach out to these people,” the mayor said.
Mayor Pro Tem Ernest Cloud said another resident got her scooter stuck on the railroad tracks at the Third Street S.E. crossing recently, but a passerby stopped and helped. “If the train had come along she would have been killed,” Cloud said.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas contends there are already laws on the books prohibiting these types of vehicles from being used on the street, but Councilman Kermit Gilliard said the lack of sidewalks in the city forced residents to take to the streets to get around.
Douglas said city police officers should warn residents when they observe them operating scooters and motorized wheelchairs in an unsafe manner.
City officials say in addition to frequent crossings on U.S. 84 to access the Walmart shopping center, there are some city residents who cross U.S. 84 from the Hardee’s parking lot.
“When the police see them crossing outside of a cross walk they should be issued a warning,” Douglas said.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman agreed there is a safety issue and admitted almost hitting a resident that was weaving along in front of his vehicle.
“Some have flags that help you see them, but many don’t and they move along at the speed of a slow tractor. They are difficult to see and move slowly,” Lehman said. He also agreed with Gilliard that the lack of sidewalks contributes to the problem.
Mayor VanLandingham also said able-bodied individuals are using the scooters and motorized wheelchairs to move around the city. “I recently saw a young man driving one and he pulled up and got up and ran to the front door of an establishment,” the mayor said.
The mayor suggested the city may need to issue permits for those residents who truly need the scooters to be mobile and only allow those to operate in the city.
Mayor VanLandingham said he wanted to make an effort to address the situation before there are more serious accidents or fatalities.
Attorney Lehman agreed to investigate ordinances from other cities and from Georgia Municipal Association resources and report back to the council. Currently the city has no ordinance to address the issue, according to Lehman.
However, Councilman Douglas said crossings in the middle of U.S. 84 were illegal and only crossings at traffic lights and marked crosswalks were legal.
“I don’t care where they cross, but you can’t cross right in the middle of 84,” Douglas said. He said the scooters are not approved for street use under state law.
Mayor Pro Tem Cloud suggested Peachtree City, GA may have ordinances that address the issue.
Lehman said that city allows the use of golf carts, but he was not sure if scooters were covered, but he would investigate.

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