homepage logo

Alternate view on electric bicycles

By Staff | Jun 11, 2019

To the editor:

I am writing to offer an opinion on the proposed ban on electric bicycles (e-bikes) on Sanibel’s shared paths. As annual Sanibel vacationers since 1983, my wife and I cannot overstate our love and appreciation for your city and the beautiful island it occupies. Like so many other visitors and vacationers that we have met over the years, we consider Sanibel a “second home,” and we look forward to our annual visits. We are avid bikers, and have always rented bikes when there, and we greatly appreciate using the paths.

Now in our seventies, like many seniors, we have some physical limitations than can limit our bike riding. We purchased e-bikes a couple years ago, and they are a blessing to those of us that wish to remain as active as possible. Electric bikes are practical, reliable and safe.

We have recently returned from another Sanibel vacation where we rented electric bikes off-island and had them delivered to our condo. We had a delightful experience; the shared paths are perfectly suited for e-bike use. I am confident that among the hundreds of people we shared the paths with, very few would have even noticed that we were not riding traditional bikes.

In researching to discover if this issue had received any media attention, I found an online article on the Fort Myers NBC2 website offering rationale for an e-bike ban. I have highlighted the various comments below and hope to offer an informed alternate view.

“I have no problem with the technology of electric bikes and scooters. What I am concerned about is the abuse of them on relatively narrow shared-use paths that we have on Sanibel,” Vice Mayor Mick Denham said.

If narrowness of the paths is a concern, why not eliminate recumbent bikes and the four-seat surreys? Both of which require more width space than a two-wheel bicycle.

In my experience, it’s not the width of the path, it’s the abuse of right-away on the path that should be the greatest concern. I have been forced to “go to the grass” to avoid collisions on numerous occasions. Especially the surreys! Watching two of them meet on a path is scary.

Denham wants to ban scooters and electric bikes because he said the island’s shared-use path is already too busy. “It’s used by everybody. Walkers, joggers, runners, children holding their mother’s hand,” Denham said.

We need to define too busy. Sanibel is too busy, the streets, restaurants, etc. It’s part of the vibe we all love. I don’t see permitting e-bikes to be an issue of adding to the crowd. I believe e-bikes would simply be an additional option in lieu of a traditional bike. Remember, if they are available, they will be an expensive option. They are not for children or families.

Denham said things could become dangerous if there are devices on the path that can go more than 10 miles per hour.

If 10 miles per hour is an acceptable speed, why not post it? As it is currently, I have met, or have been passed by traditional two-wheelers riding at a speed I consider too fast, certainly faster than 10 mph.

Billy Kirkland who makes a living renting bikes and buggies on the island agreed with Denham. “Full-throttle electric bikes do not need to be on our shared-use path,” Kirkland said.

I have rented bikes from Billy many, many times. I doubt that he can be objective about this issue. I wouldn’t fault him for not wanting any new competition.

“When we have bikes coming in two directions, I don’t think there’s really room for motorized scooters also,” Karen Onyschuk said.

I’m uncertain about the references to “scooters.” E-bikes are not scooters. For all practical purposes, they are comparable in size to traditional bikes.

Let me say that I am not naive enough to believe an e-bike rider can’t be careless or reckless but, isn’t that true of almost everything? How many automobiles run the stop signs at Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay every day? Or, how many drivers just can’t help but drive above the speed limit on San-Cap Road?

Thank you for reading my comments. I hope they might contribute to a healthy debate on this subject.

Dr. Gerald T. Darnell

Clarkston, Michigan