The kids are not listening. The parents are giving lip-service. The police chief says his hands are tied. And the appetite in Tallahassee on the issue has waned.
But consensus is building on the Key Biscayne Village Council to bring the hammer down on electric scooters and e-bikes that buzz around island streets and sidewalks like flies. Council members have related stories in recent months of witnessing near-misses between a vehicle and a child on an electric scooter or e-bike.
And indeed one teenager did end up going to the hospital in September.
At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Council Member Fernando Vazquez sounded off on the issue. He now joins Mayor Joe Rasco and Council Members Brett Moss and Oscar Sardiñas, who have voiced support recently for exploring a local ordinance.
“What are we waiting for?” Vazquez asked. “Are we waiting for a tragic accident to happen for us to finally do something?”
Vazquez said no elected official wants to remove a right from somebody to do something they enjoy but that scooters and e-bikes are an undeniable safety issue on the island.
Rasco put the issue of scooters once again on the Council’s agenda to have yet another discussion on what are the options for the Village.
“I know there isn’t a silver bullet here, but we’re not going to stop talking about this because we need to continue to press our residents to modify some of their behavior,” Rasco said.
Moss gave his latest observation of how e-bikes have become a scourge.
“I was driving down Crandon and I’m watching three of these kids on the sidewalk going down and a mom literally protecting her kids, having to move out of the way so they can go through,” Most said. “I mean, it’s dangerous.”
An e-bike can travel nearly 30 mph – more than the speed limit on some Key Biscayne surface streets. But they are considered bicycles because they can be taken out of motorized mode and pedaled.
That’s why the Council can’t outlaw them from both streets and sidewalks, said Police Chief Frank Sousa. Key Biscayne also has no jurisdiction over Crandon Boulevard, he added — because it’s a county road.
Village Manager Steve Williamson said talks with the county about scooter and e-bike enforcement are ongoing.
State Rep. Vicki Lopez tried to get some scooter and e-bike legislation through last session but found there was no appetite among the majority of her fellow lawmakers. Williamson said there appears to be no effort to bring back proposed legislation for the next session.
The last time the Village tried to regulate e-bikes and scooters, in April, all it could do was ban them from parks and increase fines for repeat offenders.
Moss said he is not buying the “few bad apples” argument he hears from parents.
“We get emails from people saying, ‘Oh, this is a few people who don’t follow the rules and are ruining it for everybody,’” Moss said. “I’m sorry, it’s the opposite – there are a few kids that follow the rules.”
Moss said Key Biscayne has the option to ban e-bikes on the streets – he sees no middle ground. He also finds no positives to the e-bike except that “it’s a really cool toy.” And it may be too much to expect kids to know the rules of the road for a motorized vehicle of any sort, he added.
Vice Mayor Allison McCormick did know of one positive. She said the Key Biscayne students who use e-bikes to get to MAST Academy have indeed lessened the traffic on Crandon Boulevard.
“It’s easily done away with one school bus, maybe more,” McCormick said. “If those kids aren’t on the bus, then they were in mom’s car.”
Sousa said that few parents show up at the regular Scoot Safe seminars that the police periodically hold but that the Council can be sure to get pushback if it pursues a ban of e-bikes from Village streets.
“Maybe, it would be a good thing to have them here,” Vazquez said.