Edward Grocki took a bus from Embury Apartments to Schenectady on Tuesday with his motorized mobility scooter, and was impressed by how easy it all was.
“They put the ramp right down on the sidewalk,” he said. Then the driver hooked Grocki’s scooter up so he’d be secure inside the bus.
“Today, it opened up worlds to me,” said the 86-year-old resident of the subsidized apartment complex for seniors on Lawrence Street. “I can go anywhere I want.”
Grocki can stand for only short periods of time and has used the scooter for about a year, driving it downtown.
City safety officials hope people like Grocki explore the city safely on their scooters. But they say that with more and more older people using these scooters to get around, they’re concerned about the safety issues that arise. So the city is actively going out to get the safety message to the drivers.
“We’ve noticed an increased volume of these mobility scooters on the streets, and we’ve also noticed a lot of behaviors that are accident-prone,” said Officer Andrew Prestigiacomo with the city’s traffic safety unit, who taught an hour lesson on Tuesday to about a dozen residents of Embury Apartments.
The Saratoga Springs Senior Committee decided to bring the safety message to local people who use the scooters, to protect them and other pedestrians and drivers. “You’re going to see people riding down the middle of Phila Street and Caroline Street,” said Johanna Dushlek, who helped organize the program.
Prestigiacomo noted that people riding scooters should ride on the sidewalks when they’re available, or ride on the street’s left side facing traffic when there aren’t sidewalks, just as a pedestrian would.
He warned the seniors against driving their scooters while sleepy and going too fast on uneven sidewalks, both of which could cause accidents.
They should wear colorful clothing, use reflectors, a rear view mirror and helmets, although none are required by law.
The city accounts department’s insurance budget paid for fluorescent safety vests for people to wear and also reflectors to put on the back of their scooters.
Prestigiacomo said the city is accepting private donations for helmets for seniors to wear while they’re riding their scooters. City risk and safety officer Marilyn Rivers said she hopes to be able to pass out helmets in the fall.
Companies sell rear view mirrors that clip onto helmets so people can see behind them while they’re riding the chairs, Prestigiacomo said. “They’re a little thing, but just good enough to see behind you.”
The seniors at Embury asked questions about scooter safety and seemed receptive to the message.
Prestigiacomo and Rivers plan to have a scooter safety program at the Saratoga Springs Public Library for the public, and will visit Stonequist Apartments next month. It’s been tough to find people who use the scooters who don’t live in a senior housing complex, Dushlek said, adding she hopes to attract them with the program at the library.
The date for that program has not been set.
Anyone who wants more information about scooter safety may call Rivers at 587-3550, ext. 612.