A controversial measure to ban e-bikes in Key Biscayne is on hold, but officials said this week they are hoping local action will be combined with changes to state law. State House Rep. Vicki Lopez (R-Miami) and County Commissioner Raquel Regalado both said they supported changes, saying the expanded use of the devices raises serious safety concerns.
“We can’t wait for there to be a death to take action,” said Lopez, who started her term in November. A Brickell resident, she said she’s experienced scary near-collisions with e-bikes.
“I refuse to allow a sacrifice,” she said. “We have to take this up.”
The Village’s proposed ban has drawn opposition from some parents who say it would unfairly penalize responsible riders.
“Allow kids to be kids,” wrote one parent on NextDoor, who said many children use the e-bikes as transportation to school and activities.
Lopez said one potential area being studied is the section of state law that treats mopeds and e-bikes differently. Mopeds require driver licenses and registration; e-bikes do not, even though faster models of e-bikes operate at similar speeds.
Lopez was appointed to the House Transportation and Modals subcommittee, and said Saturday she’s already had preliminary discussions with staff about the topic. The goal, she said, would be to still encourage automobile alternatives while protecting riders and pedestrians. The Legislature goes into regular session March 7.
The Village Council voted in December to ban Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes from Village streets on first reading, but final passage of an ordinance was deferred indefinitely at Tuesday’s Council meeting at the request of Village Manager Steve Williamson.
Village officials want the proposed ordinance expanded to also cover electric scooters, and Williamson said it should be combined with state legislation. Mayor Joe Rasco mentioned that he’d like to hold a workshop session on the issue, but no meeting has been scheduled.
County Commissioner Raquel Regalado said she too is hoping for updated regulation, but said an outright ban is not the correct approach.
“I think that there’s a middle ground. We want to promote e-bikes, because they are a modality of transportation,” she said. But she said the current use of e-bikes, which can hit speeds near 30 miles per hour, has become a concern at the Underline linear park, scheduled to open its second phase this summer — as well planned investment at the Ludlam Trail.
“This has come up as a red flag,” Regalado said. “How fast are they going?”
Nationally, federal safety researchers found a 66% increase in emergency room visits involving e-scooters in 2021 from the year before. The Consumer Product Safety Commission report, issued last September, found that e-bikes accounted for 11% of 77,200 “micromobility” emergency room visits in 2021. Researchers said there were 48 fatalities in 2021 from all type of micromobility products that year.
Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that most e-scooter injuries take place on sidewalks. Scooter riders suffered injuries more often than cyclists.
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.