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E-bikes bill on track for Senate floor

SB 1148 reduces limitations on e-bikes.

A bill allowing cyclists to ride e-bikes on any road, path or sidewalk where regular bikes are allowed passed its final committee Monday.

Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ proposal (SB 1148) unanimously passed the Senate Rules Committee, prepping the legislation for a Senate vote. Electric bicycles could go up to 28 mph and the bill would eliminate the 25-inch height requirement for electric bikes to allow recumbent bikes to operate under motorized power.

Similar legislation (HB 971) by Port Charlotte Republican Rep. Michael Grant is already on the House second readings calendar. That bill garnered unanimous support in its final committee stop.

The bill establishes three tiers of electric bicycles based on at what speed the motor cuts out and whether a rider must actively pedal for the motor to issue power.

Electric bikes can be operated solely through motorized power, meaning a rider would not have to pedal in order to propel the bike. They could also use a motor to assist with pedaling or used as a traditional bike without any motor assistance at all.

The bill would also retain home rule power for local governments to regulate use within their communities.

Brandes’ bill passed the rushed committee with no debate among committee members.

Under existing law, electric bikes are limited to 15 mph — 13 mph less than the proposed change. Existing law also blocks anyone under the age of 16 from operating an electric bike, a restriction eliminated in the proposed legislation.

The speaker expressed concern that the higher rate of speed, especially among younger children, could increase the risk of serious injury. He also contended use of a bike at speeds up to 28 mph put other slower moving individuals using the same sidewalk, like pedestrians or traditional bikers, at greater risk of injury.

However, Brandes contended the proposed legislation includes a home rule provision to protect against those fears. A more urban city with heavily trafficked sidewalks could ban e-bike use on those paths. But more rural areas might find the use consistent with their community’s needs.

The bill would create a statewide framework for e-bikes that would make it easier for bike share or rental companies to do business in Florida while still allowing communities to retain local control.

The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Bicycle Association are in favor of the bill.

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