Samuel asked: Can I ride my class 3 ebike off road, like in the grass far from traffic, or out in nature?
The statute allows electric bicycles anywhere that bicycles are allowed.
s. 316.20655 – Electric Bicycle Regulations
An operator may ride an electric bicycle where bicycles are allowed, including, but not limited to, streets, highways, roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or multiuse paths.
The exception would be any local ordinance that further restricts operation. You would need to check the authority that has jurisdiction over the property to see if any regulations are in place.
Although the OP’s question dealt with the operation of his electric bicycle where Chap. 316 normally does not apply, the answer may lead people to a wrong conclusion about where and how they may operate electric bicycles because it ignores statutory restrictions on their operation.
It is critical to understand that an electric bicycle is required to be equipped with “fully operable pedals” in addition to an electric motor which is capable of propelling the vehicle either in combination with its pedals or instead of them. [s. 316.003(22), 2020] In other words, it’s a hybrid vehicle that must be capable of being operated in the same manner as a bicycle–solely by human power.
The answer ignores two restrictions which apply to all vehicles, including electric bicycles:
1) Section 316.1995(1) forbids the operation of any vehicle upon a sidewalk or bicycle path unless it is propelled solely by human power. The addition of “s. 316.20655” to that section ostensibly gives local jurisdictions the authority under s. 316.008 to regulate electric bicycles, but the language of s. 316.1995 is crystal clear: by statute, electric bicycles may only be operated on sidewalks or bicycle paths if they are propelled solely by human power.
2) Section 316.2065(9) states: “A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.” Just as s. 316.1995(1) applies to ALL vehicles, including electric bicycles, this law also applies to them: if they are crossing a roadway in a crosswalk, their rights and duties vis-à-vis motorists are the same as those of pedestrians only while they are being propelled solely by human power.
So, we see that sidewalks and bike paths continue to be facilities where vehicles, including electric bicycles, may only be propelled solely by human power. There is nothing confusing or illogical about this because electric bicycles are required to be capable of being propelled solely by human power, so the fact that they may not be operated on certain facilities unless they are propelled solely by human power is consistent with their design.
s. 316.1995 – Driving upon Sidewalk or Bicycle Path
(1) Except as provided in …. s. 316.20655, …. a person may not 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.
s. 316.20655 – Electric Bicycle Regulations
(7) An operator may ride an electric bicycle where bicycles are allowed, including, but not limited to, streets, highways, roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or multiuse paths.
(1) …. this section may not be construed to prevent a local government, through the exercise of its powers under s. 316.008, from adopting an ordinance governing the operation of electric bicycles on streets, highways, sidewalks, and sidewalk areas under the local government’s jurisdiction or to prevent a municipality, county, or agency of the state having jurisdiction over a bicycle path, multiuse path, or trail network from restricting or prohibiting the operation of an electric bicycle on a bicycle path, multiuse path, or trail network.
The point I think you are trying to make (without actually saying so) is that electric bicycles may be operated anywhere bicycles may be operated whether they are being propelled solely by human power, solely by motor power, or by a combination of both. However, if that had been the intention of the Legislature, it should have said so, but it didn’t.
As you noted, s. 316.1995(1) states: “Except as provided in . . . s. 316.20655, . . . a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk . . ..” However, the Legislature did not create such an exception in s. 316.20655!
If it had intended to remove that restriction upon electric bicycles, it should have included a provision such as: “notwithstanding s. 316.1995, an operator may ride an electric bicycle anywhere bicycles are allowed while its motor is providing propulsion.” However, this it did not do.
While s. 316.20655(7), which you quoted, does say that “an operator may ride an electric bicycle where bicycles are allowed . . .”, it does not say “the operator may ride an electric bicycle while the motor is providing propulsion where bicycles are allowed . . ..” Whether or not this was intentional may never be known, but the fact remains that only vehicles which are propelled solely by human power may be operated on certain specified facilities. And because an electric bicycle is required by its definition to be capable of being propelled solely by human power, such a restriction is reasonable because the Legislature has imposed a restriction that is fully consistent with its design.
Furthermore, the rights and duties afforded pedestrians traveling upon sidewalks and crosswalks vis-à-vis motorists are extended only to a person “propelling a vehicle by human power” while traveling upon said facilities. [s. 316.2065(9)] If the Legislature had intended to extend these same rights and duties to the operators of electric bicycles while their motor are providing propulsion, would it not have removed the “by human power” restriction?
And, if as FBA seems to be claiming, electric bicycles may be propelled upon bicycle and multiuse paths while their motors are providing propulsion, how does that square with Chap. 339.81, the Florida Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Network? Please consider:
* “The Legislature . . . finds that improving bicyclist . . . safety . . ..” [s. 339.81(1)] The operators of electric bicycles are not mentioned, although a person propelling an electric bicycle by human power alone would certainly be considered a bicyclist.
* “Therefor, the Legislature declares that the development of a nonmotorized trail network . . ..” [s. 339.81(1)] No mention about a trail where people can motor along on electric bicycles while being propelled by powerful motors, some of them not even turning a pedal.
* “It is the intent of the Legislature that the department . . . develop the Florida Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Network, consisting of a statewide network of nonmotorized trails which allows nonmotorized vehicles and pedestrians to access a variety of origins and destinations with limited exposure to motorized vehicles.” [s. 339.81(1)] How is it possible to not notice the “nonmotorized” theme?
* This network of trails is to provide “nonmotorized transportation opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians . . .” [s. 339.81(2)] There’s that “nonmotorized” term…again.
It seems to me the Legislature went out of its way to stress that the SUN Trail Network is for non-motorized transportation opportunities, and that its users are entitled to not be threatened by motorized things while they are enjoying the benefits and safety of traveling under their own power. Is FBA really claiming that a “bicycle” being propelled by a powerful motor at speeds up to 28 mph is a non-motorized device? No, the very idea of people motoring along on ‘nonmotorized’ trails makes a mockery of the very concept of the term ‘nonmotorized’.
So, putting this all together, I submit this is the law as it stands: a person may ride an electric bicycle where bicycles are allowed; however, a person may only propel an electric bicycle by human power upon a sidewalk, a crosswalk, or a bicycle path.
“So, we see that sidewalks and bike paths continue to be facilities where vehicles, including electric bicycles, may only be propelled solely by human power. There is nothing confusing or illogical about this because electric bicycles are required to be capable of being propelled solely by human power, so the fact that they may not be operated on certain facilities unless they are propelled solely by human power is consistent with their design.”
It would be far better to have strict speed limits on such paths. You can ride like an idiot on any type of bike. Allowing electric use also helps older people or those with injuries.
What do you propose is an appropriate speed for facilities where people riding bicycles, people motoring along on electric bicycles (some of them not even pedaling), young mothers pushing baby strollers, families with kids just learning to ride bicycles (some of them with motors), elderly people, etc., are sharing the same narrow path?
And, how do you propose jurisdictions *strictly* enforce that speed limit? Should they dispatch LEO in police cars, on motorcycles, or electric bicycles to motor up and down the paths? And where do you propose jurisdictions obtain the funds?
People have been propelling bicycles by human power alone for more than 25 years on our shared-use paths, and they apparently function so well people everywhere are clamoring for more. Apparently the percentage of people who ride like “idiots” is so small there has been little need for law enforcement to address their recklessness.
Only a tiny percentage of people are able to propel bicycles at speeds in excess of 15 mph for more than a few minutes, so the speed at which shared-use paths typically operate is self-regulated at a speed below that, probably between 10 and 12 mph. As long as e-bikes are regulated by their design to not operate at higher speeds than, let’s say 15 mph, they will fit in with traditional bicycles and not create new hazards for trail users. However, if e-bikes are permitted to operate at speeds up to the Class 3’s 28 mph motor assisted limit on existing shared-use paths, the fundamental nature of these emerging jewels in our transportation system will change dramatically.
“Allowing electric use also helps older people or those with injuries.”
Yes, e-bikes can be a boon for such people, but how do they benefit from ones that can go 20 or even 28 mph? Unless they have a fair amount of experience at these high speeds (which only a tiny percentage of people have), they will be operating at speeds much higher than they have the skills to handle them, creating new hazards for themselves and innocent fellow trail users.
Because of the misinformation that is being spread by the bicycle industry and its supporters about this new law, I predict tort lawyers will have found a new source of revenue as people who are illegally operating e-bikes on sidewalks, crosswalks, and shared-use paths will increasingly be sued for damages they inflict on their victims when things go wrong.