Children riding e-bikes and electric scooters in Key Biscayne, Fla., Dec. 27, 2022 File. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)
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E-bikes and scooters will remain legal on Key Biscayne’s busiest road after an effort to expand the island’s ban to Crandon Boulevard failed to garner the necessary support at the County level.

The Village had sought a single, island-wide enforcement standard after the death of a cyclist in February. It hoped to utilize a new County law covering the battery-powered devices.

But a deal, approved by the Council Tuesday, was not what the Village hoped for. Instead, the pact makes continued operation of Class 1 e-bikes and motorized scooters lawful in the Crandon Boulevard bike lane for the next two years.  Speedier Class 2 and 3 e-bikes would be banned on Crandon.

The deal on how the law would be implemented took place in a series of closed meetings that at least one council member thinks should have been open.

“I was not invited,” said Council Member Fernando Vazquez . “Let’s not negotiate in a dark room that disenfranchises all of us,” he said Thursday. 

The deal was brokered in two separate closed door meetings, according to Village Attorney Chad Friedman. First was a meeting between County Commissioner Raquel Regalado and Key Biscayne Mayor Joe Rasco. A later meeting, June 3, involved Manager Steve Williamson, Regalado and her staff, and Friedman. The meetings were not noticed as a public “Sunshine” meeting, Friedman said, because there were never two members of the Council present. 

As Freidman explained the deal on the dais to council members on Tuesday, its terms raised some eyebrows. It was a seeming reversal of the Village’s goal to keep the entire island e-bike and scooter free while state law changes covering the devices are sought. 

Vice Mayor Allison McCormick questioned the shift. 

“Stay off the sidewalk and into the street?” she asked.  “I’m a little worried about unintended consequences,” McCormick also asked if police  will be able to easily distinguish e-bike classes in enforcing rules on Crandon.

 “It’s going to be a learning curve like anything else, but I feel confident,” chief Frank Sousa responded. 

McCormick’s question was precisely the concern the administration itself had raised when it recommended against an earlier e-bike ban: a fear young riders would be pushed onto busy Crandon. The Council only acted after the Feb. 14th death of Megan Andrews, a tutor killed in a collision with an e-bike operated by a 12-year-old boy. 

An e-bike lies on Woodcrest Rd. in Key Biscayne, Fla. as police investigate a fatal crash with a bicycle, Feb. 14, 2024. (KBI via resident, name withheld on request)

History of a deal 

The path of the deal took months. The Village enacted the ban on locally-controlled streets after Andrews’ death, but because Crandon is outside of the Village’s control, talks began with the County.

In May, the Village appeared to have won a victory. The County Commission passed an ordinance, introduced by Regalado, allowing for the possibility of tougher regulations and delegating enforcement to Key Biscayne. It wasn’t straightforward: Regalado had to water down her original proposal and make it a two-year pilot program, limited to Key Biscayne. 

Key Biscayne Mayor Joe Rasco listens to debate about a temporary law on e-bikes and scooters,Monday April 8, 2024. The measure passed a key County committee and now heads for a vote by the full County Commission next month. The ordinance, which is limited to Key Biscayne, would let the Village create and enforce its own rules for micromobility devices on the busy roadway. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

But the ordinance had a catch — the precise terms of Key Biscayne’s proposed rules would require approval by County regulators in the form of an “interlocal agreement.”

It was that agreement that Vazquez said should have been discussed in the open. And he says it’s part of a pattern of not including other members of the Council and the public into major policy decisions.

 “We are all also representatives of the public,” Vazquez said. “We are having too many meetings behind closed doors.” 

Mayor Rasco declined to comment, saying only that he was on vacation. 

Regalado said Thursday the Village’s goal of a full-on ban was problematic politically and legally, and might invite lawsuits because it would block micromobility access to a state park. A spokesperson for Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Regalado took the lead in the talks with the Village and could not speak as to whether County transportation officials were themselves seeking protections for e-bike and scooter riders.

“This is big step for the Board [of County Commissioners],” Regalado added, saying that mirroring Key Biscayne’s full ban might face opposition. “They don’t like giving up control.”

Williamson said the ability to have some control over Crandon, even if limited, was worth accepting. “I think it’s a win,” he said. “We want to find a compromise between micromobility devices and safety, and we want to lean toward safety,” he said. 

Future of e-bike and scooter regulation

What happens in the future? That depends on decisions in Tallahassee and the precise wording of future state laws covering the devices. If the law is changed to allow the Village to restrict use by age, several officials have said they’d consider removing the ban with a more nuanced restriction. 

Rep. Vicki Lopez, R-Miami, plans to make a third attempt to add an age restriction option into state law. A  measure to do so passed the House but died in the State Senate in March.

Meanwhile, the Village has also asked Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to opine on whether current law would allow local governments to enact an age restriction. It’s not clear whether Moody will even issue an opinion however, as there are many grounds on which her office can decline a request. 

The new micromobility rules for Crandon are not a completely done deal. They face a vote before the full County Commission, which has yet to be set. And Regalado said she would be willing to take another look.

“I’m willing to circle back on this, I am happy to come back and consider a full-on prohibition,” she said. “I don’t think we should start there.”

Vazquez acknowledged the Village may be stuck with less than what he thinks are ideal rules on Crandon, at least for a while. 

“I have to eat what was served,” he said. 

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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.

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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...