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Town staff tasked with increasing awareness about bicycle regulations

Longboat Key town commissioners agree current signage about bike rules and speed limits may be ineffective and that more outreach is necessary around e-bikes.

Additional sidewalk speed limit signage was added around Longboat Key.
Additional sidewalk speed limit signage was added around Longboat Key.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
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Town commissioners and staff want people to be more alert on the sidewalks, especially with the prevalence of e-bikes. 

At the Longboat Key Town Commission’s June 17 workshop, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons spoke to the commission about current ordinances regulating bicycles and the use of town sidewalks. Commissioners raised concerns about safety on the sidewalks regarding speeding and spatial awareness. 

Residents and visitors use the town’s sidewalks for a variety of reasons like walking dogs or riding bicycles. 

According to the town code, bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and “give an audible signal.” Additionally, all bicycles must have a sound operating device, like a bell. 

Town sidewalks also have a speed limit of 10 mph per the town code. 

Signs are placed along Gulf of Mexico Drive sidewalks about a mile apart and advise sidewalk cyclists of the rules for passing. Now, the town has added an additional sign that more clearly states the 10 mph speed limit. 

With the growing popularity of e-bikes, commissioners raised concerns about the e-bike users traveling too fast along the sidewalk, as well as not giving the proper courtesy signal. 

“E-bikes are with us and are going to continue to be with us, they’re very popular and getting more popular,” Parsons said. 

The e-bikes are grouped into three classes. Class 1 are e-bikes that are pedal-assisted and can travel at a maximum of 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes also travel a maximum of 20 mph but have a throttle and pedal-assist. Class 3 e-bikes are pedal-assisted and can go a little faster, at 28 mph. 

Electric bikes that travel faster than 28 mph are considered mopeds and are not allowed on the sidewalks, according to Parsons. 

Parsons said that the use of e-bikes was statutorily preempted in 2020. This means that, according to Florida state statute, e-bikes are afforded the same rights and privileges as regular bicycles. 

Though the statute doesn’t prevent local governments from adopting ordinances governing the use of e-bikes, the Florida Department of Transportation told town staff that, since Gulf of Mexico Drive is a state road, the town would be unable to prohibit e-bikes on the sidewalk and state right-of-way. 

The question of whether the town could prohibit e-bikes on sidewalks is off the table.

Parsons also said that his department worked with the public safety departments to look for any incidents that arose from the use of e-bikes in Longboat Key so far. 

“We’re gratefully unable to find any of those,” Parsons said. “We do recognize that enforcement of the 10 mph speed limit is challenging for the police department.” 

Vice Mayor Mike Haycock suggested that the town find a way to start enforcing the speed limit on sidewalks. He said it would be clear to see if a bike is traveling at an excessive speed, even if the use of radar at that speed is ineffective. 

“My concern is someone is going to get hit with one of these big, gigantic bikes going 30 miles per hour,” Haycock said.

Chief of Police George Turner said enforcement would be difficult. The department doesn't have the manpower to put officers on bicycles, he said. 

In the end, commissioners agreed that more outreach with residents and visitors and updated signage that more clearly depicts the speed limit would be the next steps.



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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