The long awaited crackdown on mobility scooters in Benidorm appears to have begun – a relief to many. The by-law – banning under 55´s unless mobility impaired, was passed 31st March 2014 by the previous administration, but never appeared to be implemented – to the frustration of genuine users and pedestrians. How many times have we all seen obvious very abled youngsters whizzing up and down the Levante promenade on these vehicles, riding at speed. Last weekend 27 fines were issued, sparked after a street cleaner was hit by one and taken to hospital – thankfully only suffering from bruises – plus a number were impounded. Since July 15, a total of 47 scooter fines have been issued according to the authorities, in a story that made the front page of the Spanish papers today.
The scooter phenomenon seems to have started after the Benidorm series featured Madge permanently seated on one - then everyone wanted a go! I am sure that writer and creator Derren Litten never envisaged the furore it would cause years later. The two biggest companies in Benidorm – Amigo24 and Easyhire both have notices stating that they do not hire to under 55´s unless registered disabled. I was actually in Amigo24 when a British couple came in to enquire about a double scooter – Henry specifically asked their ages and when they replied one was 50 and the other 42 he shock his head and said it was not possible.
This morning I spoke with Dutch owner Gob from ADA about the issues faced by companies that hire out scooters after 3 of his were impounded last weekend. He told me that the customers were fined €40 and that the company had to pay €30 for each to be retrieved. On top of the fine there is the actual time it takes to get it back – from firstly having to go to the police station with paperwork to prove that you are the owner, queuing for 2 hours then to the pound – a total of 4 hours wasted. The issue is with the irresponsible customers according to him.
Of those 3 he told me that one had been taken for a one month rental period by an 80 year old man – all legal and conforming to the law. However, on the second day the police seized it after his 35 year old grandson was caught riding up and down the Levante promenade at 12:30am! “How can we monitor what happens once they have left our premises” he asked me – good point. They have now introduced a €100 deposit on each scooter to cover any potential fines and costs involved in retrieving vehicles.
In a similar situation is TMR – Total Mobility Rental who had 5 scooters impounded on Friday, a story reported on the front page of the Spanish press today. I went and spoke to a representative at the shop in the Rincon this afternoon about the circumstances, which still mystify and anger the owners. Of the 5 – which were all seized in front of Tiki Beach, two of the users were registered disabled blue badge holders. The police allegedly didn´t give any reasons or ask to see any documentation of the users but issued fines of varying amounts. TMR staff had to retrieve the scooters from the pound, with proof of ownership and claim that with the overnight rain, two of the scooters have been water damaged and one also had parts broken. Their lawyers have submitted an appeal to the Town Hall against the fines and denuncias issued and are prepared to go to court.
Like Amigo 24 and Easyhire, they also have a sign in their window stating they can only rent to over 55´s unless registered disabled. However, I was told by them that it is against European law to ask what their disability is – so when told by a potential user that they are disabled, the company have to take them at face value. The issue I was told is that many UK registered disabled people are not holders of a blue badge or wouldn´t think to take it on holiday with them. Now another issue to contend with is the hire of 3 wheeler scooter bikes, which go even faster and popping up frequently along the front - they apparently have no age restrictions and I saw 2 young boys speeding up and down only this week.
I then went to the Benidorm police station to ask what the fines and regulations regarding mobility scooter rental are. The policewoman rang her supervisor and he responded with completely conflicting information to that issued by the Town Hall. Is it any wonder that no-one seems to know what is actually happening here… I along with probably the vast majority have no issues with those in genuine need hiring them out - but as as is often the case, its the minority that ruin it for those that really do need them to get about.