Key Biscayne officials say they will be proposing legislation in a few weeks to deal with a surge in the number of motorized scooters that are zipping around the village, hearing from residents who say they are dangerous for both riders and pedestrians.
At a forum called by the Village last month, Manager Steve Williamson and Police Chief Frank Sousa outlined potential regulations such as requiring helmets and even age restrictions.
But the sentiment from about 30 residents was to be even more restrictive.
Resident Lucia Marin said the scooters need to be banned from Village sidewalks entirely.
“There is no way to have a vehicle moving at 30 miles-per-hour on a sidewalk,” she said. “I just don’t want to see a dead kid — mine or someone else’s.”
Sousa said officers noted a large increase in the motorized scooters early in the year, and was working with Village Attorney Chad Friedman to draft a proposed ordinance for review by the Village Council in April.
“I think every kid got a scooter for Christmas.” He said there were four accidents involving scooters in his first week as chief.
But neither he nor Williamson were specific about the level of regulation that is needed, which other approaches including more community education or special “dismount zones.” Sousa said that while the Village has the ability to issue regulations, overly-steep fines or harsh regulations could be subject to court challenge. “We want them to be safe and legal,” he said.
There is also the transportation impact. Sousa said at a meeting with island school principals, he learned the devices are evolving into a primary mode of transportation to and from school. School leaders are now requiring helmets — but residents said children often take them off when they’re not on school grounds.
Left unstated: the cost of assigning police to enforce a new raft of rules. The Village has struggled for years to enforce local rules covering golf carts, sometimes with mixed results.
Scooters are considered “micromobility devices” under a law passed in 2019, and operators have “all the rights and duties applicable to the rider of a bicycle” under the statute. However, municipalities can issue their own regulations, and several Florida communities have done so.
At Tuesday’s meeting, not all the concern came from adults. Spencer Bustos-Roeseller, a seventh grader, spoke up at the meeting to talk about a February collision with a motorized bicycle that left a several-inch scar on his right leg. “It should be that scooters aren’t allowed on the Village Green,” he said.
Williamson said the Village has to balance interests — and be wary of unintended consequences.
“We don’t want them on the sidewalks because of all the conflict that can happen. Do we put them on Crandon? That’s the problem.”
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.