Motorized Bikes on Sidewalks and Bike Paths


Harry B asked: Four years ago I realized that powerful interests were determined to turn non-motorized facilities such as shared-use paths (rail-trails, multi-use paths, etc.) and even sidewalks into public ways where people could ride motorized bicycles at high speeds with the motor providing as much as 100% of the power. This past year they were remarkably successful in California and I fear Florida is now on their radar. This is a complicated issue because I believe these organizations which stand to profit from the sales of e-bikes are determined to overwhelm any opposition before the public even realizes what is happening.

I have long argued that shared-use paths like the one I ride, the Withlacoochee State Trail (WST), meet the statutory definition of bicycle path [1], and that motorized bicycles which meet the statutory definition of bicycle [2] are forbidden by statute [3] from being ridden on them if the motor is providing any power. For the past three years the DEP has agreed with me, and I have reported many people who have been motoring along on e-bikes—some have been stopped by park authorities and warned their e-bikes were illegal. However, the promoters of these motorized bicycles have been itching for a show-down and managed to force one this winter.

A few months ago I lost the battle when the DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks (which manages Florida’s State Parks) issued the following statement via the Withlacoochee State Trail’s Citizen Support Organization’s Facebook page: “DEP has issued clarification of rules for the use of pedal-assist bikes/trikes on all State Trails, including the Withlacoochee State Trail. Pedal-assist bikes and trikes are now allowed on any of the State Trails and can be used by anyone. They cannot have the capability of going more than 20mph, nor be able to proceed on flat ground if they are not being pedaled/propelled by the rider. If the bike/trike has the capability of continuing on flat ground on its own without pedaling, this bike is not considered pedal-assist and is not allowed.”

I have vigorously protested this decision and continue to contend that the statutes forbid motorized bicycles from being operated on shared-use paths. I have also informed the DEP that I believe they are in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 120 Fla. Stat.) because they have created a new class of motorized bicycles which is not defined in the Statutes without following the procedure required by that statute.

About the same time I began to discuss the issue of e-bikes being ridden on a local County owned shared-use path and sidewalks with a Sheriff’s Deputy, then a Sergeant, and eventually a Captain. After consulting with other jurisdictions (mostly universities) the Captain responded that § 316.1995(1) [3] only applies to mopeds, not to motorized bicycles.

Neither of us could find any case law to support our positions, so I finally requested that he ask the State Attorney General for her opinion regarding this issue. He responded: “I will seek out a law enforcement liaison with the attorney general’s office just for their clarification. Getting any attorney general’s office opinion is done through priority. So I will start with the liaison, asking for an opinion…” I will report here what I learn.

I apologize for the length of this message: I’ve tried to keep it narrowly focused on the statutory question but also wanted to provide a little background to what is unfolding behind the scenes.

[1] § 316.003(63): “BICYCLE PATH.—Any road, path, or way that is open to bicycle travel, which road, path, or way is physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or by a barrier and is located either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent right-of-way.”

[2] § 316.003(2) ”BICYCLE.—Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride…”

[3] § 316.1995(1): “Driving upon sidewalk or bicycle path.— Except as provided in s. 316.008 or s. 316.212(8), a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk…”


Excellent summary of the issue.  I believe the Segway folks did the same thing even before they started selling them. They are permitted on sidewalks and bike paths.

One item to consider is that local authorities can pass ordinances regulating bicycles in their jurisdictions. Possibly DEP is considering that option?

Your point is a good one and you have obviously given it a lot of attention. On this site, we only address the laws as they exist. You issue is an advocacy issue and should be addressed by the FBA board and possibly added to the legislative agenda for action.

By separate means I will address your comments to the FBA board.

18 Comments on “Motorized Bikes on Sidewalks and Bike Paths

  1. Geo,

    The DEP has changed the rules in a manner which I believe is not legal under existing laws, and my discussion with the local Sheriff’s department was focused on the interpretation of existing laws. The advocacy aspect of my comments here were made because this is not happening in a vacuum.

    The FBA has consistently claimed that motorized bicycles are forbidden from being operated on sidewalks and bicycle paths while their motors are providing power, while the above mentioned jurisdictions claim precisely the opposite—both interpretations of the existing laws can’t be correct.

    Regarding your comment: “One item to consider is that local authorities can pass ordinances regulating bicycles in their jurisdictions. Possibly DEP is considering that option?”

    No. It is very clear from my discussions with the DEP (specifically their Division of Recreation and Parks) that they do not want their new rule to be understood as a change to any existing rules. If they had done so, the Administrative Procedure Act (Chap. 120 Fla. Stat.) requires them to follow a procedure which includes publishing a notice of the proposed new rule, or changes to an existing one, in the Florida Administrative Weekly (FAW) where it would be subject to public scrutiny and comment (does FBA monitor the FAW?). This was not done, and I have warned them I plan to contact the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee and ask it to review what I believe is their violation of § 120.54 by creating a new rule without complying with the procedure for adopting such a rule.

    Essentially what the DEP and the local Sheriff’s department are claiming is that motorized bicycles and human powered bicycles are statutorily one and the same and are therefore regulated identically: wherever the one may be operated the other may also be operated (although the DEP places a speed limit and pedaling requirement on motorized bicycles which it does not on human powered bicycles).

    Permit me to quote from a response I received from the DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks’ Bureau Chief who made the new rule (which he claims is not a new rule): “The review of the statutory definition of what constitutes a bicycle and how we have been interpreting motorized/non-motorized use came about due to a request for clarification from trail users. The decision to follow the statutory definition of what constitutes a bicycle in legal terms was an easy one, made by the statute itself. This review was conducted by myself, and further discussed with our Division Field Bureau Chiefs in order to ensure consistent interpretation of the statute statewide. As you pointed out, this does not allow the use of all electric, or motorized bikes, only those that meet the statutory definition. [1] All sections of F.S. 316 use the definitions provided at the beginning of the statute so that for example, where bicycle path is reference, the definition as provided by the statute is used. These vehicles that meet the definition of bicycle in F.S.316 are currently allowed on sidewalks in the state of Florida.”

    [1] This sentence is incorrect. I wrote that the definition of a motorized bicycle (§ 316.003(2)) includes vehicles which can be propelled solely by their electric motor as long as they can also be propelled by their pedals in addition to, or instead of, their motors. That is why “DUI Scooters” such as the X-Treme E-Bike line of electric scooters can legally be sold and operated in Florida as motorized bicycles—no pedaling required.

    • Some people do not have the physical ability to ride non-assisted or walk any meaningful distance due to physical reasons. Anyone arguing AGAINST personal electric vehicles (PEV’s) being allowed on these trails should be ashamed. Stop crying and live your own life; leave those of us trying to live ours alone. Those paths are paid for by my taxes as much as yours, so as long as there is no option for me to opt out of paying taxes for something you cry-babies claim I shouldn’t be able to use, we will fight you every step of the way.

      Also, the rules about “motorized vehicles” on such paths were implemented BEFORE electric vehicles, which run silently and emission free. The legislative intent never included PEV’s and was designed to keep pollution and noise levels down for trail users. PEV’s maintain the legislative intent, and should not be hindered.

      As for the speed, cyclists cruise at 15 to 25 mph with no assistance, but nobody here is crying about them. The solution is simple: A speed limit and mandatory bells/horns. Anything else is effectively able-ism. If you want less pollution, we NEED more infrastructure for PEV’S, not less.

  2. Harry B,

    I have sent all the information to the FBA Board of Directors for their consideration.

    As I stated before, i don’t see how DEP or the Sheriff can interpret the statute to allow motorized bicycles on sidewalks or bike paths.

    As noted, a shared-use path or trail doesn’t fall in the same category, since there is no statutory definition and 316.1995 doesn’t specifically address motorized vehicles on those paths.

  3. Also, FBA inquiry to DMV about the gas/electric assist motor question resulted in their new Procedure 68 which clarified the issue. Maybe they can be as successful with DEP.

  4. The DEP DRP response essentially makes the following argument:

    1. A bicycle of any type that meets the “statutory definition” of “Bicycle” (s. 316.003(2)) is “currently allowed on sidewalks” (and bicycle paths) in the state of Florida (i.e., except where prohibited by the local jurisdiction, although the response doesn’t mention this).

    2. An e-bike that satisfies the conditions established for a “motorized bicycle” in the definition of “Bicycle” meets the statutory definition.

    3. Therefore, such an e-bike may be used on any sidewalk or bicycle path in Florida that is open to bicycles, with the motor engaged.

    The conclusion is a non sequitur, because it assumes that permission for an operator to drive or ride a vehicle on a sidewalk or bicycle path automatically implies permission for the operator to engage any motor that could power the vehicle. S. 316.1995(1) explicitly prohibits use of motor power.

    In Florida a motorcycle may be ridden on a sidewalk, as long as the rider did not use motor power.

    A motorized wheelchair may be used on a sidewalk, powered on, because s. 316.1995(3) explicitly excepts motorized wheelchairs from the provisions of the section.

    A powered golf cart may be operated on a sidewalk under conditions referenced in s. 316.1995(1).

    A Segway may be operated on a sidewalk, because Segway’s lobbyists were careful to have “electric personal assistive mobility device” defined as a “device”, not as a “vehicle” and, for good measure, had S. 316.2068 spell out that an EPAMD may be operated on a sidewalk, subject to regulation by local jurisdictions.

  5. I would be remiss by not adding the following information which I uncovered during my research:

    1) The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has published “A Guide to Moped, Gopeds, Pocket Bikes & Motorized Scooters”. [1] It has a chart which shows that a “Motorized Bicycle (elec) power” may be operated on a sidewalk/bike path under pedal power.

    The question, “What are the consequences should my child be stopped by a law enforcement officer while riding his … motorized bicycle?” is answered thus: “If caught operating a motorized bicycle using engine power…, the operator will be issued a moving traffic citation for operating a motorized vehicle on a sidewalk. Florida Statute 316.1995”

    2) The River to Sea TPO has published a document about Florida Laws as part of its Bicycle & Pedestrian Program. [2] A comment to the definition of bicycle reads, “A motorized bicycle that satisfies this definition is nevertheless subject to restrictions on sidewalks (see “Sidewalk riding” below).

    And the section entitled “Sidewalk riding” contains this comment: “No bicycle may be propelled by other than human power on a sidewalk.” (There is a dead link to an FDOT page which I have been unable to find.)

    3) And then we have the City of Miami Beach’s Bicycle Program “Safety Rules and Laws” document [3] which addresses the issue not only of sidewalk riding, but even equates the term “shared-use path” with “bicycle path”:

    “Driving on a shared-use path or sidewalk. (Section 316.1995, F.S.) No person shall drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.”




  6. Trying to figure out why it would bother you so much that people can use an e-bike on the Withlacoochee Trail. Or sidewalks for that matter.

    You want an e-bike that can only go 20-30mph to be forced to share the road with cars?

    Nah. I’d rather not get plastered all over the road by someone looking at their phone, thank you… and good job telling on people using an e-bike just out having fun. You’re making the world a better place.

  7. John,

    On this site, we are trying to help familiarize everyone with the laws about bicycling. You obviously don’t agree with the laws that are in place now. You should address your concerns to those who wrote the laws, your state legislators.

    • Geo, I am suffering from a chronic illness which has neurologically impaired my legs – I have recently purchased a eBike so that I can enjoy the outdoors as I once did before this illness. I am not sure what your point is for wanting to stop someone like me from simply having a chance to feel normal again as I do not have the ability to pedal. I would hope that you would understand that there are many factors to consider when trying to prevent someone’s right to recreation….Anyone so hell bent on this clearly has bigger problems than me….Get a life!

  8. I have health issues and was considering an E bike for the bike path in Ohio in case I couldn’t get back on my own. Having an assist would give me peace of mind and let me enjoy nature while getting back in shape. Why should other people care to share the bike path with someone that needs that piece of mind? I sure wouldn’t want to ride with cars.

  9. Geoff,

    I suggest researching Ohio’s laws about bike paths. As you can see from the above, motorized vehicles are not permitted on bike paths in Florida.

  10. Geo,
    I hope this message finds you well. I have attempted to read through all of the posts regarding ebike use, and I am still having trouble understanding a few points related to using ebikes that are capable of propelling themselves without human pedaling (but are primarily used as, and meet the statutory definition of a bicycle).

    Is it legal to operate (use the throttle exclusively) an ebike on the beach, or in mountain biking areas where bicycles are permitted so long as the bicycle is governed at 20mph and otherwise meets the statutory definition of a bicycle?

    I plan to build a bike for someone who suffers from muscular fatigue so they can continue long distance mountain biking, but was curious if it was illegal for the rider to take a break from pedaling and use the throttle exclusively, so long as the motor did not propel the rider faster than 20mph on flat land.

    I understand that there are some local ordinances that might address this issue (I apologize if my question is extremely broad) – we typically go riding at Canaveral Seashore/Playalinda, New Smyrna, and the Little Big Econ Park.

    Thank you for your help clarifying this issue!

  11. Geo,
    I am interested in building an ebike that could help an individual with mobility issues continue long distance mountain biking, but I am confused as to how bikes with throttles are regulated in certain areas. We ride primary at Canaveral Seashore, New Smyrna Beach, and the Little Big Econ Forest trail system, all of which have areas that welcome bicycles, but have signage that says “No Motorized Vehicles.”

    My question is this:
    Is it legal to take a break from pedaling and rely on a throttle in spaces where bicycles are permitted, so long as the ebike in question still fits the statutory definition of a bicycle? (20mph flat land, predominantly used a bicycle, etc.). I was unsure how to interpret the discussion of § 316.003(2) above.

    I understand that motors should not be engaged on sidewalks [per the law, and common sense]…nor should any cyclist travel 20mph on a sidewalk. I am interested to know whether it is legal for my friend to use the throttle on a bike on the beach, or in open trail systems when he is unable to pedal if the vehicle is governed at 20mph, and is predominantly used as a bicycle.

    Thank you for your work clarifying these issues!
    [apologies if this question was posted twice]

  12. Answered Question? — Still Seems Murky
    I think I might have found an answer to my question about throttles in a previous post. I’m sorry I did not locate it before submitting my question [twice because I don’t know how the internet works]:

    I am still having trouble understanding this completely, but it appears as though the general consensus is that as long as an eBike with a throttle is also used for pedaling it meets the statutory definition of a bicycle:

    “…propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground…”

    so it can be used in places where bicycles are allowed. The debate on simultaneous human/electric power is still confusing me, but my question refers more directly to using a mountain bike with an electric assist motor with a throttle option on beaches, and in trail systems where bicycles are allowed. I plan to speak with local authorities [and advocate for the use of this technology] to ensure my friend is able to ride his bike, and take a break using a throttle, so long as the bicycle is always governed at 20mph and is also used for pedaling [although perhaps not simultaneously all of the time].

  13. Jd,

    While I understand your position, on this site we only try to state the laws and discuss them. If you don’t agree with the laws, you should address your concerns to those who wrote them, your legislators.

    • In hindsight I guess I could see your position as well as we don’t want a bunch of hot rod idiots flying down the bike paths on electric bikes jeopardizing small children on the bike path. However I do believe that there needs to be a concession made for those who are handicapped and have no other means of enjoying the bike path other than sitting on a motorized bicycle …A little common sense should be applied which I know has nothing to do with law as law rarely adresses common sense …Please excuse any typos as I am voice messaging this reply …

  14. Jd,

    You might want to check the ADA regulations to see if there is anything that addresses this. That is beyond the scope of this site though.

  15. After perusing the forerunning comments, it appears you do not care to share bike paths withanyone other than “True Tree Huggers” and those who agree with your tightly held bias against anyone not as physicall fit as yourself. I would think you would welcome persons seeking to experience fresh air and the outdoors. I have, for years, financially contributed to Wildlife Conservation and over that time have noticed their tendency to become zealous and elitist on the part of their organizations. Your superior attitude is tiring.

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