by SC Staff Writer Jan Holly/photos by SC Associate Publisher, Photographer Chuck Larsen
Council unanimously approved an ordinance for Class 1 pedal assist e-bikes during its Dec. 3 meeting at City Hall. The ordinance was proffered by Vice-Mayor Mick Denham and only class 1 e-bikes were approved. All other micro-mobility devices, including throttle control e-bikes, are banned from the shared use path.
The proposed ordinance included requiring a permit for e-bikes as a visual identifier to prove they are legal, and as a means for police to enforce the law. The proposal also included a ban on e-bike rentals.
During public comment, a number of islanders voiced opposition to both permitting and the rental prohibition. As one resident put it, “The permitting restriction is silly and doesn’t make sense.”
Island resident Bob Smith spoke against all e-bikes on the SUP. “E-bike fatalities and injuries are rising,” he said. “The force of impact can be four times worse than an ordinary bike,” which he claimed owed to the e-bike’s greater mass.
Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bikes, contradicted Smith’s claim. “We have rented Class 1 e-bikes for over two years,” he said. “Our Class 1 renters have had zero accidents. Every renter gets educated on e-bike operation and safety. The average speed is 9-13 mph. The weight of e-bikes changes every day,” he added. “They are getting lighter and lighter.”
Councilwoman Holly Smith entered into the record a statement from the Sanibel Bicycle Club. “The Bike Club supports the ordinance,” she said, “including allowing class 1 e-bikes. The club opposes city permitting and the ban on rentals.”
A major objection to the permitting regulation came from island resident John Henshaw. “It’s the people, not the equipment,” he said. “Class 1 e-bikes can be operated safely. A sworn affidavit swearing to ownership disallows riders other than the owner. This is untenable,” he added. “You can only ride one bike at a time.”
Mayor Kevin Ruane spoke to heeding the will of the community. “I will not support the ordinance as is,” he said. “I support the community’s wishes — to remove the permitting requirement and the ban on rentals.”
Councilman Jason Maughan noted that he had met no one “opposing pedal assist. I am concerned about mopeds. We should protect the Class 1s.”
Councilwoman Smith applauded Billy’s Bikes “as the gold standard” for e-bike rentals, “but rentals can get out of hand,” she said. “In the future, we may need to look at the impact and address it at a later date.”
The amended ordinance, which eliminates the permitting requirement and the ban on rentals, was unanimously approved — effective immediately. City staff will return to council at its January meeting with recommendations on appropriate signage.
Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to purchase the Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank building located on Library Way. The building, which is near the Center4Life’s current facility, will be used to provide the senior center with a new, and better, facility.
In supporting the resolution, Maughan said, “it’s a strong building located just where it needs to be. It will take care of CHR [Community Housing and Resources], and we are fulfilling a promise to our senior citizens.”
Denham lauded Ruane for his role in bringing about this purchase. “I thought this was an impossible dream,” Denham said. “I am thankful and proud of the team that accomplished this. Mr. Mayor, I thank you for your leadership, your vision and your determination.”
Ruane affirmed that islanders will not incur a cost from this $1,890,000 purchase. “I can assure everyone in this room that your taxes won’t go up, and they may go down,” he said. “Rest assured that everything is being done in a prudent way.” He also proposed demolishing the old C4L building. “I will look to council members on this,” he said, “but my thought is to knock it down and provide the new C4L with adequate parking.” There were no objections to this suggestion.
Ding Darling’s 75th Anniversary Celebrated
City Council and a sizable group of staff, board members and volunteers from the J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge joined together to celebrate ‘Ding’s’ 75th anniversary. Council honored the ‘Ding’ with a pre-meeting reception and a proclamation.
As Mayor Ruane said during his reading of the proclamation, the Refuge encompasses “more than 6,400 acres of critical island and offshore habitat. It has become one of the nation’s most visited and famous of the more than 560 national wildlife refuges, with nearly one million visitors a year.”
The proclamation also noted conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling’s crucial role in bringing the refuge to fruition in 1945. The refuge was posthumously named for Darling in 1967.
Temporary refuge manager Kevin Godsea thanked the City of Sanibel “for this recognition. This really kicks off our 75th year of being a refuge here on the island. It is a great opportunity to highlight all the things that the refuge has meant to this community, and what the community means to the refuge. It’s a great thing for the island,” he added.