Posted On: February 16, 2021
It’s often said that Volusia County’s world-famous coastline offers something for everyone. On Tuesday, the County Council took a preliminary step towards designating space for electric bikes, one-wheel scooters and other electric motorized devices to operate on parts of the beach.
Tuesday’s preliminary action, which must come back to the council for a vote on an ordinance amendment in order to become official, represents a change in policy. Currently, the county’s beach code only allows cars, trucks, motorcycles and other motor vehicles to operate on the drivable portions of the county’s beaches as long as the vehicles are capable of being registered and titled by the state. Because so-called e-bikes and similar devices can’t be registered or titled, they’re not allowed on the beach.
But in the last two years, the Florida Legislature passed laws giving e-bike and electric scooter operators the same rights and duties as bicyclists. And since bicycles are allowed on the beach, a majority of the County Council said that e-bikes and motorized scooters should be too.
“Where you have beach driving, you can allow these (e-bikes) to operate,” Assistant County Attorney Russ Brown told the council in providing an analysis of the legal issues involved.
Noting their growing popularity, council members clearly supported allowing electric motorized devices on the beach – but with the understanding that they’ll have to follow the rules and operate in a careful and safe manner.
“I’m totally for it,” said Councilwoman Billie Wheeler. “I know we can do this. This is where we need to move forward and progress with the times.”
County Chair Jeff Brower noted that allowing e-bikes would add a new element of fun to county beaches.
“It makes us a better attraction,” said Brower.
Following Tuesday’s discussion, the council directed its legal staff to bring back an ordinance making the change. As proposed, e-bikes and other electric motorized devices would be permitted as long as they follow all other vehicle regulations such as speed and times of day for use on the beach. Under the proposal, they would be allowed to operate both in the driving lanes and outside of the lanes as well as in the traffic-free zones outside of the natural areas. The devices wouldn’t be permitted in the dunes or the natural, or conservation areas of the beach that are off limits to vehicles in order to continue protecting endangered species as required by the county’s habitat management plan and the federal incidental take permit that allows driving on parts of the county’s beaches.
Before the proposal is brought back to the council for final action, the county’s legal staff will work with Beach Safety to develop enforcement language defining safety standards for e-bikes and prohibited actions, such as careless operation and weaving in between beach patrons.