Fearing a deadly collision on Key Biscayne’s busy roadways, Village officials plan to start enforcing state laws limiting the use of privately-owned scooters. But the police response will fall short of the outright ban some parents and members of the Village Council have asked for.
“I am terrified of what happens when someone hits one of these kids,” said Council Member Allison McCormick.
“We have got an immediate responsibility to do something — like now,” agreed Council Member Luis Lauredo.
Police Chief Frank Sousa said officers will start writing warning notices within the next two weeks, while the Village works on getting additional enforcement authority from County officials. He said officers –for now– will issue citations for helmet violations and overloading scooters with too many riders.
But Sousa said officers will not use their power to stop riders on Village sidewalks, even though operation of the scooters there is not lawful, he said.
Officials fear that enforcing a ban on sidewalk use would just send children onto Crandon Blvd, where the danger is greater. But some members of Council said they’d support a full ban, even if it pushes the limits of the Village’s jurisdiction.
Manager Steve Williamson said “layers and layers of laws” make enforcement tricky. Scooters, golf carts, bicycles, all fall under different provisions of state law.
“It is a disaster that is going to happen. It’s not about if, it’s about when,” said Vice Mayor Brett Moss. “Banning things I don’t like to do, but this one, I think this is very important.”
Village Attorney Chad Friedman says he is setting up a meeting with the County attorney to see about a special regulation that might ban the operation of scooters on Crandon, thereby giving Village officials more enforcement options. The County Code gives the Department of Transportation and Public Works the ability to create regulations for County roads.
Commissioner Raquel Regalado said she will be working with the Village and agreed with the focus on helmets and overloaded scooters as a first step while new rules are drafted.
“I think we can come up with something that works. I don’t think an absolute prohibition is workable,” Regalado said. She said rules based on speed, civil citations, and even holding parents accountable are all ideas to consider. She said there are lessons from a pilot program in Dadeland that she helped to bring about.
Williamson stressed the community outreach component that will be part of the police department’s plan. “They’ll be doing an educational campaign,” Williamson said. “We’ll be addressing parents, we’ll be addressing kids.”
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.