Floridians will soon be able to ride e-bikes on roads, sidewalks and paths, anywhere regular bikes are allowed.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB 971) defining electric bikes and protecting home rule for communities that wish to regulate them.
The bill establishes three tiers of electric bicycles based on what speed the motor cuts out and whether a rider must actively pedal for the motor to issue power. Under the new classifications, e-bikes could travel 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.
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 use the electric bike as a traditional bike without any motor assistance at all.
The law also retains home rule power for local governments to regulate use within their communities.
Under existing law, electric bikes are limited to 15 mph — 13 mph less than the approved change. Existing law also blocks anyone under the age of 16 from operating an electric bike, a restriction eliminated in the legislation.
The bill would also 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 support the bill.
Rep. Michael Grant and Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored the legislation, which was unanimously approved in both chambers. The measure will take effect July 1.
“In the absence of this bill … people will still ride them where they feel they are allowed to,” Brandes argued this Session. “Every one of us has a car that could easily go 130 mph yet we don’t go that fast, typically. Just because a bike can go a certain speed, it’s not going that speed all the time.”
Harry van den Berg
June 21, 2020 at 10:11 am
This bill is a confusing legal nightmare and creates hazards for our children where no such hazard previously existed.
While the bill’s sponsors clearly meant to permit e-bikes to be operated under motor power on “sidewalks and paths anywhere regular bikes are allowed”, its amendment of s. 316.1995 couches that in confusing language which, I predict, will result in lawsuits after an e-bike operator is involved in a collision while riding on a sidewalk, crosswalk, or multi-use path. Also, because s. 316.2065(9) explicitly grants only the operators of human propelled vehicles certain rights and duties on sidewalks and crosswalks, it clearly does not apply to e-bikes while they are being operated under motor power.
Furthermore, s. 339.81 (Florida Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Network) provides “nonmotorized transportation opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians”, which clearly excludes e-bikes because, regardless of how e-bike advocates spin these bicycle shaped objects, they are *motorized* vehicles while their motors are providing propulsion.
The bill also makes Florida one of the only, maybe the only state which has intentionally removed the current age restriction for people operating e-bikes. Imagine, even kids will now be permitted to operate e-bikes at speeds up to 28 mph on Florida’s roads (which are among the most hazardous in the nation). Why would our leaders create such new hazards for our children?
Shame on the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) for actively supporting this legally confusing and dangerous bill. The next time you read of a little kid on an e-bike mowing down a senior citizen who was quietly walking on a sidewalk, or gets hit by a car while zipping down the highway at 20 mph without so much as turning the pedals, you can thank FBA for placing the profits of the bicycle industry ahead of the safety of our most vulnerable highway users.
June 21, 2020 at 8:52 pm
Harry, Almost nothing you state in your comments is true. This is the 26th state to pass almost identical legislation since California passed it in 2014. Electric bikes have their own designation and despite having motors, are not now legally defined as “motorized” as a result of this legislation which will become law.
You should get your facts straight before condemning a bill such as this one THAT PASSED BOTH THE FLORIDA HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY before the governor signed it. For starters, California also does not have a minimum age restriction.
Apparently, you think ALL of them voted for a “legally confusing and dangerous bill”. You must think you are wiser than all of them.
Harry van den Berg
June 22, 2020 at 9:53 am
Your claim that “California also does not have a minimum age restriction” is false, as is your claim that Florida’s new law is “almost identical” to California’s. Consider:
* s. 21213.(a), Cal. Veh. Code forbids anyone under the age of 16 from operating a Class 3 e-bike
* s. 21213.(b), Cal. Veh. Code requires anyone who is operating or riding upon a Class 3 e-bike to wear a helmet
* s. 21207.5, Cal. Veh. Code forbids the operation of Class 3 e-bikes on certain types of facilities
Although these restrictions only address one class of e-bikes, there are other significant differences that may not be obvious at a cursory glance. I’ll try to address them in my second response to your post.
No, I do not think I am wiser than the legislators and governor, but I do claim to be more concerned about the safety of people who choose to ride bicycles in Florida than they are. A major part of the blame for our state’s notorious distinction of being one of the most hazardous ones in the nation in which to ride a bicycle falls squarely at the feet of our leaders in Tallahassee, and this bill is further evidence of their culpability.
FBA, after claiming to have studied the e-bike issue for four years, went on record as testifying in favor of this bicycle industry sponsored bill which creates new hazards for Floridians that, until July 1, 2020, did not exist.
Harry van den Berg
June 22, 2020 at 10:00 am
E-bike advocates have done an excellent job of confusing the public and officials about the laws which have been on Florida’s books for at least a couple of decades. The central issue is s. 316.1995, Fla. Stat. which forbids the operation of any vehicle upon a sidewalk or bicycle path unless it is propelled *solely* by human power. The language of that law is crystal clear, but instead of tackling it head-on, this bicycle industry sponsored bill sidestepped the issue, thereby increasing the confusion.
Rather than trying to explain it, I will ask you answer this straightforward question: Does this new law permit people to operate e-bikes on sidewalks and bicycle paths while their bikes’ motors are providing any amount of propulsion?
If you believe it does, please provide a reference to the specific language of the new law supporting your claim.
June 22, 2020 at 2:56 pm
I ride a traditional bike on the Pinellas Trail everyday for exercise. In recent months the numbers of e-bikes on the trail is now outnumbering traditional bikes. They are traveling much faster then I am, I clip along at 9 MPH, these e-bikes pass me like I am standing still! The passenger’s on these bike’s do not warn you with a bell, or anything. So is startling. All that said. Here is what I am concerned about. If they inadvertently hit me, the damage would be greater to me and my bike because the e-bike is traveling faster, and it weighs more!
All this to say, I don’t think they should be granted the same rights as a traditional peddle bike because they are a motorized vehicle. Also, because of the higher risk of more injury. The e-bike owner also should be required to have insurance coverage!
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