First, it was minimotorcycles. Then motorized foot scooters. Since last fall, Monroe has wrestled with how to deal with the emergence of...

Share story

First, it was minimotorcycles. Then motorized foot scooters.

Since last fall, Monroe has wrestled with how to deal with the emergence of the small, motor-driven vehicles, especially popular with youngsters.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Last month, Monroe police followed the lead of Seattle police and the State Patrol by declaring minimotorcycles illegal. And on Monday, city rules for motorized foot scooters went into effect.

“They have become so popular that the council wanted to address them before any problems came up,” Monroe Mayor Donnetta Walser said of the scooters. “There’ve been two concerns: One is the safety issue, and one is the noise issue.”

The motorized-scooter regulations set a minimum age for operation, identify places the scooters are prohibited and require riders to wear helmets.

The City Council, however, didn’t carry the helmet requirement to nonmotorized vehicles, including other scooters, bicycles, skates and skateboards. After discussion last week, the council instead asked the city staff to draw up a resolution encouraging residents to wear helmets while riding nonmotorized vehicles.

Council members are mainly concerned about the great number of youngsters who ride skateboards around town, Walser said. The resolution will likely be passed by the council this month.

“We’re going to concentrate on education with kids just like we had with bike helmets, to try to have them see the importance of [the helmets] and to make them available,” said Walser. “Most of the kids are pretty good about wearing helmets while biking.”

Former professional skateboarder Matt Gormley, the owner of Frontside Boardshop in Monroe, told the council last month that he would be willing to work with the city to educate youngsters about helmet safety.

Gormley said enforcement of a helmet law would be difficult and that youngsters would most likely rebel against it. Walser agreed.

“Helmets do save lives, but whether a mandatory ordinance is the way to go, I have doubts,” said Walser, a former teacher. “I know how kids are.”

But in adopting regulations for motorized foot scooters, Monroe joined a growing list of cities and other jurisdictions, including Everett, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Snohomish and Snohomish County.

The Monroe ordinance makes it illegal for children under 16 to use the scooters and forbids scooters to be ridden on sidewalks, in city parks or on streets with speed limits greater than 25 mph. It also prohibits nighttime use and requires scooters to be equipped with mufflers.

“Some of them are quite loud, kind of like a lawn mower,” Walser said. “But if they’re moving, it seems even louder.”

Violators may be fined up to $250, and their scooters may be impounded.

Last month, the City Council discussed minimotorcycles, also known as pocket rockets, which are different from motorized foot scooters. Authorities decided to treat minimotorcycles as illegal road vehicles.

Even though they look like motorcycles, “they don’t meet the minimum requirements of a motorcycle that’s allowed to be licensed on the roadways,” Monroe Police Chief Tim Quenzer said, because the wheelbase is too short and the headlight and taillights are too close to the ground.

“They are a danger on the highway,” said Walser. “Because they’re so small, the cars just cannot see them.”

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 425-745-7809 or

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.