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 , and that motorized bicycles which meet the statutory definition of bicycle  are forbidden by statute  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)  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.
 § 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.”
 § 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…”
 § 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.