PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Mayors from seven Pinellas County beach communities are fired up over what they’re calling a growing hazard: Electric bikes and scooters.
The mayors from Redington Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, St. Pete Beach, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Indian Shores and Treasure Island say it’s time to pump the brakes before more people get hurt.
Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks had a close encounter of his own. Just outside John’s Pass, Hendricks says he nearly hit a young boy on an electric bicycle when he says the boy veered into the outside lane of Gulf Boulevard where Hendricks was driving.
“I slammed on the brakes and swerved to the inside lane to avoid hitting him,” Hendricks said.
The beach mayors are joining together to call attention to what they say is a dangerous problem: Electric bikes and scooters on major roadways, sidewalks and the beach.
“It’s a safety issue and it’s a hazard. It’s a problem from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach,” North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen elaborated.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has received dozens of complaints. Yet, a change in state law this past July now allows people on electric bikes to ride wherever regular bikes are allowed. It does, however, allow local municipalities to create their own rules about where electric bikes can be allowed.
Rental businesses like Tampa Bay EBikes have thrived since the state law changed.
“It’s something that’s very truly unique to our coast and a draw for our tourists. A lot of people come here to experience electric bikes for the first time,” said Matthew White, who works at Tampa Bay EBikes on Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores.
The Pinellas beach mayors agreed Wednesday to work together towards crafting a resolution to ban the electric bikes and scooters from the beach shoreline and on Gulf Boulevard.
White wishes local leaders would compromise with rental companies, like the one he works for, instead of outright banning electric bikes from certain areas.
“We would like to see something where we can negotiate with the city councils and we can set restrictions on the bike to make the bikes a lower speed or disable the throttle function,” White said.
These discussions are becoming even more crucial as 130 million electric bikes are expected to be sold in the United States over the next three years.
“So that we don’t have one town that allows them and the next one doesn’t,” Hendricks added.
St. Petersburg is one example of a city that has set rules, at least where it pertains to electric scooters. Currently, the city bans them from sidewalks, roads where the speed limit is above 30 mph, and the city’s waterfront trails.