Key Biscane Deputy Chief Jason Younes talks to scooter and bike riders on the Key Biscayne Village Green, Thursday Feb. 16, 2023. Police issued nearly two dozen citations in an effort to restrict usage of e-bikes and e-scooters, which officials say is a safety crisis. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)
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The Village Council is exasperated. The Police Department is at wit’s end. And parents don’t seem to care.

The Key Biscayne Village Council signaled on Tuesday night that it would entertain a ban on motorized scooters and e-bike if parents can not instill in their children that they must operate the popular devices safely.

Council Member Oscar Sardiñas said he is starting to change his position in favor of a ban.

“I sat up here on the dais and said, ‘I will not take that kind of right away from our residents,’” Sardiñas said. “But unless we don’t all get together and we turn this into a Village-wide all-hands-on-deck, it’s not going to get better.”

Village Manager Steve Williamson said that on Wednesday evening a “Scoot Safe” program would be offered to families at the Village Hall community room at 6:30 p.m.. Police Chief Frank Sousa said at the last event one parent showed up.

“I don’t know what else to say to the parents,” he said. “We’ve done seven classes. We preach at the schools. We do community events.”

Last month – in a 24-hour period – there were three incidents involving scooters or e-bikes being hit by cars. One teenager ended up in the emergency room. Sousa said his officers went into action, ramping up enforcement, talking to 60 parents.

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“We’ve been very, very lucky. That fact is that the majority of the accidents that happen here are the operators of these devices fault,” he said. 

Council Member Brett Moss also said that if the trend continues the Village will have to “take another step” and consider banning e-bikes and motorized scooters. “I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “But we have to get that message out there.”

He relayed an incident where he saw a teen on an e-bike pass a car on its left only to then cut across in front of the vehicle. He said there needs to be more enforcement besides just the Village Green because there are few operators wearing helmets. 

Sousa said his men are enforcing violations beyond the Village Green, but it is a matter of resources. “We can’t be out here 24 hours a day chasing e-bikes and scooters,” he said.

State Rep. Vicki Lopez, whose district includes Key Biscayne, couldn’t get traction in the last legislative session for her bill to make it easier for municipalities to regulate e-bikes and motorized scooters.

The Council in April did what it could and approved new restrictions by increasing the fines for a second offense to $150 and a third offense to $500.

Another problem is that Crandon Boulevard is a Miami-Dade County road and much of the mischief of these devices can be seen on the main drag through town. The Village is working with the county in hopes of getting some jurisdiction over Crandon.

Sousa said e-bikes are not considered motorized vehicles but bicycles – which is a powerful group to go against when trying to change laws.

“What really scares me is the fact that there’s no training at all. They are driving them like motorcycles, like cars,” said Council Member Allison McCormick. “What I see is people not stopping at stop signs, not knowing how you pass a car or don’t pass a car.”

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.