News: Rules Of The Road

MIAMI BEACH APPROVES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SEGWAYS.

In response to a flood of complaints from across the city, the Miami Beach City Commission approved new regulations for Segways and similar type vehicles.

“We have now prohibited Segways in Lummus Park, the Beachwalk, sidewalks on both sides of Ocean Drive in most of South Beach, all of South Pointe Park and the Baywalk south of Fifth Street,” said Commissioner Michael Grieco, who has championed the effort to curb what has become ongoing accidents, incidents and injuries involving the vehicles. “Those riding Segways and trikes in these areas will be issued traffic citations that will need to be paid or addressed in court.”

Segways are a brand of two-wheeled, battery powered, self balancing personal transportation devices. There are other manufacturers as well. They have become more popular in recent years and were first regulated in 2012.

“I’m not sure when they started to become popular but the first ordinance to regulate them was passed in 2012,” Ronald Starkman, director of the South of Fifth Neighborhood Association (SOFNA), told SunPost prior to the new restrictions. “Before then, the City had little ability to regulate them because of State law. The State of Florida subsequently changed the law to give local authorities the ability to regulate for public safety concerns.”

Starkman said the 2012 ordinance passed an 8 mile-per-hour speed restriction (controlled by an electronic governor) and also set limits on where the vehicles could be operated. However, he feels the ordinance “turned out to be inadequate.” As use of Segways has increased, so too has the carnage left in their wake, prompting need for additional regulation. Activists presented SunPost with numerous digital images of the bloody aftermaths of numerous Segway accidents – including ones in which it was the operator clearly harmed. SunPost cannot identify operators and has opted not to print the disturbing images.

Grieco, Starkman and numerous other activists and critics said that the use of the vehicles has increased and prompted the need for additional regulation. The combination of vehicle operators who might be trying out a Segway for the first time and a pedestrian city such as Miami Beach makes for a dangerous situation, critics feel.

“Some people say that bicycles can cause accidents and damage as well,” Starkman told SunPost prior to the latest commission decision. “However, most people are familiar with operating bicycles. In this case, most visitors have never used Segways before, unlike with bicycles. The natural psychology is for operators to want to see how fast the vehicles can go. Combined with bicycles and pedestrians in walkways – it causes problems.”

A recent initial proposed by Commissioner Jonah Wolfson was considered inadequate by SOFNA and other activists, leading to the latest City action.

Grieco has mixed feelings about whether or not the new regulations will adequately address the issue.

“Yes and no,” Grieco said. “Any step forward in protecting bicyclists and pedestrians from motorized vehicles is going in the right direction, but the ordinance is far from perfect. As recently as [May 27], I was meeting with staff and legal to discuss what other steps we need to take as they apply to additional areas of the city, enforcement, signage, etc.”

Grieco pointed out that the new measures affect Segways and their ilk, but that “trikes” have long been regulated separately.

“Motorized ‘trikes’” are and have always been illegal to operate anywhere other than the street,” Grieco said. “They qualify as non-human-powered vehicles and, in-turn, they are only allowed where cars are allowed. We needed to address Segways separately as they are controlled under different state regulations.”

Most believe Segways and similar vehicles are almost exclusively used by tourists.

“I’ve never seen one of my neighbors or friends on one,” said Beach resident Emily D’Ambrose. “However, I have seen a lot of them jetting around the city and the operators don’t always look that competent. Or maybe it’s a sobriety issue.”

Beach resident Gregory Jay said he has tried Segways, but prefers his bicycle.

“In the right environment and if you know what you’re doing, they seem like they would be safe with the right rules and regulations too,” he said. “Still, I’ve seen a lot of irresponsible use of them all over the place.”

Grieco told SunPost he has heard few complaints about the new restrictions.

“Vendors, yes,” he said. “Users, no, but we have not started the signage placement or enforcement yet, as this passed right before Memorial Day Weekend.”

About Michael W Sasser

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