Sanibel Looking At A Ban On E-Bikes On The Beach

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

A Facebook advertisement prompted Councilman Mike Miller to propose a ban on electric bikes on the beach. The city has an ordinance in place prohibiting motorized vehicles and mopeds on the beach, so Miller suggested restricting e-bikes as well.

“It was a Facebook ad about the availability of e-bikes for use on the beaches of Sanibel combined with my knowledge of e-bikes that were the impetus for the proposal,” said Miller.

Federal law considers e-bikes to be regular bikes, not motorized vehicles. That means they are legal to ride on most beaches across the country. While bikes on the beach has not been a major issue for Sanibel, it has been reportedly occurring more in the past year.

“In the last year or so I have seen more and more bikes on the beach,” Jim Cryder, president of the Sanibel Bike Club, said during public comment in the May council meeting. “In my personal opinion, bikes should not be allowed on the beach.”

Standard e-bike tires are not wide enough to work efficiently in the sand. It takes “fat tires” or tires wider than 3.5 inches. Since riding an e-bike in soft, loose sand is very difficult, it is common to ride close to the water where the sand is more compact – much like when walking.

“I think this is driven not only by the motor on an e-bike, but the fact some of the tires are four inches or wider than that, so it’s possible to ride them in the sand,” said Miller.

Safety was a concern for the council. As riders travel parallel to the water on their bike, beachgoers are traveling perpendicular from the water and there is a possibility of a collision.

In addition to human safety, repeated disturbances to shorebirds threatens their survival. These birds may have flown hundreds of miles before reaching the beach and arrive exhausted and hungry. So, the simple act of flushing them off their feeding and resting grounds burns up their reserves of energy and reduces their ability to complete their journey.

Resident Allison Ward said she never noticed bikes on the beach until recently and thinks it’s “horrible for our wildlife. People bike down where the birds are, where the sand is packed, and they scatter the birds which are just trying to rest…This is our sanctuary island.”

While it was a unanimous vote by council to have City Attorney John Agnew draft an ordinance prohibiting e-bikes on the beach, Councilman John Henshaw said he was reluctant to vote ‘yes.’ “I think it’s unsafe to say only e-bikes and staying silent on other bikes,” he said.

The draft ordinance is scheduled to be on the council’s June agenda for discussion. It’s the first of three steps.


Comments (5)

  1. No, i don’t think they are needed on the beaches. That being said, i believe you are missing the real problem that was quite apparent to me over the last four months on the island. There has been an explosion of EBikes on the bike/walk paths throughout the island. Traveling at excessive speeds (20mph), whipping around pedestrians and casual bikers. The main promenade of Periwinkle was ridiculous. The excessive speed and aggressive riding behavior by folks renting the bikes was ridiculous. It’s going to be problem, injury is inevitable. It’s the antithesis of mellow.

  2. Debbie Friedlund

    Bikes on the beach scare the resting migratory birds as much as loose dogs!

  3. All bikes should be prohibited on the beach.

    There’s no need to ride on our beautiful beaches with all of our amazing wildlife!!!

    Let’s protect…. Not ruin or destroy in any fashion.

  4. I do not think bikes of any kind should be allowed on the beaches. The safety of children and others enjoying the beaches as well as our wildlife would be put in harms way. As the article above reminds us Sanibel is a sanctuary island. There are plenty of designated bike paths all over the island for people to ride bikes. And speaking of those bike paths, they are getting more and more populated with e-bikes every year. Some are being ridden at higher speeds than is safe, and a collision with a heavier e-bike is potentially much more serious than with a manual bike. My husband and I have been coming to Sanibel for over 25 years and have seen the bike paths getting more and more crowded. The addition of e-bikes just adds to the risk level of accidents on the paths. I strongly encourage the council to consider prohibiting e-bikes on the bike paths and the beaches, unless they are being used by individuals with disabilities which prohibit them from utilizing a standard manual bike. I realize this will be challenging to regulate, but feel as though for the safety of all people riding bikes on the island, it is seriously necessary.

  5. E bikes are dangerous enough when ridden on the bike path! Often ridden by in-educated riders not knowing how to operate them; plus interrupting wildlife on the beaches and people on our bike path. Ban them on Sanibel! Jeff Moss

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