After failing to get legislation passed this last session governing the use of electric scooters and e-bikes, state Rep. Vicki Lopez told the Village Council the effort is far from over with a growing consensus among lawmakers.
And the momentum may have be recaptured with a nasty spill by a fellow lawmaker on Sunday that didn’t even involve an e-bike. Yet, the conversation between Lopez and Dr. Joel Rudman, R-Navarre, quickly moved to micro-mobility devices.
“He said, ‘It’s just ridiculous, Vicki, that this is happening.’ “And I said, ‘Come to Key Biscayne and we’ll tell you just how ridiculous it is,'” said Lopez, who represents District 113 that encompasses Key Biscayne.
Rudman, an avid bicyclist, said he shattered his knee when he tried to get out of the way of an recumbent bicyclist. But he had long noticed in nearby coastal tourist towns, such as Fort Walton Beach, a growing presence of e-bikes.
“You get the vacationers and they ride those e-bikes. And even though we’re doing 15 or 16 miles an hour and we’re going along at a good clip, they’ll pass you doing about 25 miles an hour, and you can’t account for the closing rate,” Rudman said.
Lopez told Rudman how she tried to regulate e-bikes and electric scooters last session, writing a bill in conjunction with the Village of Key Biscayne. The bill was withdrawn after it failed to get support from GOP leadership.
“If Vicki pursues that, she’s got my support up here in the Panhandle,” Rudman said. “Even though we’re more rural, we’re having our issues with e-bikes, as well.”
Lopez appeared in front of the Village Council Tuesday to give her synopsis of victories and losses for Key Biscayne. State Sen. Alexis Calatayud was also scheduled to appear but canceled because she went on an official trip to Israel, Mayor Joe Rasco said.
The Republican has said that not regulating scooters and e-bikes is a safety hazard that could result in fatality. At times Key Biscayne can resemble Mario Kart, with pre-teens on electric scooters, teens on e-bikes and what appears to be all ages driving golf carts.
Lopez said she is working with Mayor Rasco and Village Manager Steve Williamson to propose to the Florida Department of Transportation and Miami-Dade County a pilot program to study the problem because it stretches down Crandon Boulevard.
“We need to be able to show data,” Lopez said. “I was here for the Memorial Day celebration. I was watching everybody move across — the young kids going across — Crandon.”
The representative said she will be meeting the regional FDOT director in the next few weeks. “We have to continue to fight,” she said.
When Lopez’s legislation stalled, the Village Council passed an ordinance increasing fines for a third subsequent offense.
While riders of scooters and e-bike must follow all traffic laws, the Village does prohibit them from being ridden in parks and they must yield to all pedestrians. Riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.
Lopez said another bill was passed addressing golf carts, mandating that drivers must have a learner’s permit and adhere to the limits of that permit. The legislation raises the age from 14 to 15 to operate a golf cart on a county or local road.
“Kids were driving these carts and creating lots of safety issues, not only for themselves, but for others,” she said.
Lopez also told the Council successes for Key Biscayne this legislative session include provisions in the budget that must still be approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis. They include $100,000 for a special needs coordinator at the Key Biscayne Community Center, $450,000 for flood control and $450,000 for sand replacement.
As to when DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, will sign the budget, Lopez said: “It’s kind of late in the process, but I think he’s busy.”