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Rep. Vicki Lopez vowed Tuesday she would pass a new statewide e-bike and scooter law and name it after Megan Andrews, the Key Biscayne resident who died in a collision with an e-bike on Valentine’s Day.

Lopez said her goal is to let Key Biscayne and other communities craft their own solutions instead of simply enacting bans. She spoke at a meeting of the Key Biscayne Neighbors Association, a political group often critical of the Village administration. Andrews’ husband, Frank, and her daughter, Alexandra, said young children shouldn’t be operating e-bikes.

Megan Andrew’s death led to the Village enacting a temporary ban on micromobility devices.

“Megan was born here and she rode her bike all her life here and she was killed, unfortunately, by a 12-year-old driving this thing,”  Frank Andrews said. “A 12-year-old, no matter how much you educate them, they do not have the mental capabilities and understanding to do the right thing.”

“Giving a child an e-bike in many ways is like giving a child a weapon, a weapon that, when not properly handled, can harm or kill the user or others,” said Alexandra Andrews, who, like her mother, is an educator.

Lopez has been thwarted in the last two legislative sessions to change the state  law regulating e-bikes, electric scooters, and similar devices. Currently, laws do not allow municipalities to pass nuanced regulations and consider the devices — some which can travel nearly 30 mph — regular bicycles.

Key Biscayne officials have said the limitations of the law leaves them with an all-or-nothing option when it comes to regulations.. 

“Preemption” provisions in state laws often place limits on what local governments can enact for their communities. In this case, pre-emption prevents adding requirements like driver licenses or age restrictions, Village Attorney Chad Friedman has opined. 

The Republican lawmaker, who lives in Brickell and represents a district including Key Biscayne, said she envisions a statute that will allow municipalities to regulate the devices by class and by age. “We are going to honor Megan so out of a terrible tragedy should come something incredible good,” Lopez said.

In the 2023 session, her bill couldn’t get out of the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee, and she withdrew it. This year :Lopez’s amendment passed the Florida House but died  in the Senate.  Lopez, recalling the failure of the 2022 bill, said she called the chairperson of the subcommittee, Rep. Fiona McFarland.

“I said to her, ‘Megan’s blood is on your hands,’” Lopez said.

Frank Andrews, outside the meeting, when asked what he thought about the idea of naming legislation after his wife, said, “I love it.”

He said his life has been turned upside down since the accident e. The couple already had book plans in June to celebrate his birthday and their 41st wedding anniversary.

He recalled that on Feb. 14  he was making dinner and his wife said she was going for a quick bike ride. When a friend told him of the accident, he ran to the scene and saw Megan’s bike flattened in the intersection of Hampton Lane and Woodcrest Road. The death was ruled accidental by Miami-Dade officials. 

The Village Council has signaled it will renew its  emergency ban this month as a permanent ordinance is written to dovetail with a new County law. The County ordinance would grant  Key Biscayne to have some jurisdiction over Crandon Blvd., a County road. A hearing on the County measure is set for next week.

In an Independent survey, nearly nine out of 10 survey participants said e-bikes and scooters should remain banned from sidewalks.

Some residents at the KBNA meeting expressed dismay that it took a fatality for Village leaders to act. Police Chief Frank Sousa and Manager Steve Williamson worried about enforcement issues and the risk of children operating scooters on Crandon if sidewalk rules were enforced. Instead, the Council passed an ordinance last year that only prohibited the devices in Village parks. 

“We each have a vote and we can see how this Village Council dillydallied about something that killed one of our residents,” said resident H. Frances Reaves said. “The parents have some blame, but the first blame is our Village Council.”

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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.