by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Sanibel City Council will consider city staff’s recommendations in November for temporary signage along the Shared Use Path, as an effort to curb poor or dangerous behavior while the SUP Master Plan is in progress. That decision was made in council’s Monday meeting.
Sanibel enacted a ban on throttle-controlled electric-bicycles two years ago, but they are turning up on the island’s busy shared use path system and creating a safety concern with their speed – Class 2’s can reach a maximum speed of 20 mph and Class 3’s reach 28 mph.
Councilman Dr. Scott Crater raised his concern over the fast throttle-controlled e-bikes on the path, and proposed painting 15 mph in areas of the Periwinkle Way section before the busy winter season begins. It would only be a suggested speed limit since there is not an ordinance to enforce it.
“It will be spring before the shared use path master plan will be completed and we are facing an entire season with e-bikes increasing in numbers,” said Crater.
Fellow council members agreed there is a potential safety issue, as well as other issues, which need addressed. But the city is working to complete the shared use path master plan, expected in April, and looking to reinstate a parks and recreation committee.
Mayor Holly Smith, Councilman John Henshaw and Councilman Mike Miller indicated they want to wait until those two things were done before making any decisions on a speed limit. Crater said it could be a “baby step” in the meantime.
Councilman Miller said based upon a 2012 survey of path users which showed bicycle and pedestrian traffic at intersections, and considering the path width, Periwinkle Way should be the safest area. The big issue is the vulnerable users – walkers, runners, family groups, young cyclists and the out-of-practice cyclists.
“We have high usage on all of our path segments and I’m not sure it makes sense that we treat Periwinkle any differently,” said Miller.
He suggested the city push the consultant to address SUP safety issues in the master plan, particularly in the context of considering a speed limit, and let the parks and rec committee pursue a solution once it’s reestablished.
Resident Roy Gibson spoke during public comment and shared council’s opinion that there should be additional review and study on the shared use path. But thought Crater’s proposal may be a good one for a demonstration project and could assist in the SUP review. “I would support that,” he said.
Gibson also said a vast majority of e-bikes are not equipped with speedometers, making speed awareness and enforcement a problem. He suggested the use of speed monitoring devices, which could also be used to reflect how widely excessive speed is experienced on the path.
Resident Chet Sadler called the speed limit proposal a “no brainer.”