E-bikes, a legal way to get around or a loophole for dangerous drivers?

E-bikes don't require license to ride

It looks like a moped, sounds like a scooter. Only this ride requires, really very little.

"There's no mess, there's no fuss, there's no gas, there's no oil," said Maria Fordor, owner of 1 Stop Scooter Shop in Lake Park

They're called electric bikes. They are equipped with 2 wheels and pedals.  They can't go faster than 20 miles per hour and a driver's license?

You don't need one.

That, some say, is the problem.

Michael Kutner started e-biking about a year ago.

"To just kind of stay mobile to and from work, go grocery shopping and go to the health club,” he told  the Contact 5 Investigators.

He doesn't have driver's license anymore.

"I have multiple DUIs. I suffered through the disease of addiction and I'm trying to make a great comeback from that," he explained.

A recovering drug addict, Michael lost his license to drive in 2008, after his fourth DUI conviction.

"I have no one to blame but me.  As an ex-school teacher, the last place I thought I was going to find myself wasn't locked behind prison doors," he said.

But he did.

Today, he's turned himself around.  He’s now clinical director at a substance abuse center.

"I can only make the wrong a right," said Michael.

Michael is one of a growing number of convicted DUI offenders turning to e-bikes as a way to get around.

"I'm just trying to get back to and from work and be a productive citizen again," he said.

But DUI victim advocates fear e-bikes can have dangerous consequences.

"I'm just imagining a scooter that's scootin' along, not making a sound and potentially with convicted drunk drivers driving them. So I'm not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about these e-bikes at all,” said Diego Asencio, civil trial attorney who often represents victims of DUI offenders.

“These are supposed to be punishment and now if they can just turn around and get an e-bike, my first concern is that they may cause a crash,” said Asencio.

A volunteer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Asencio is planning to bring up the issue as a possible one for lawmakers like State Representative Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, to address next session.

“It’s a loophole. How do you define the people like Michael Kutner from the people who are just repeat DUI offenders, menaces to society and they're just on our roads now on these electric bikes,” Slosberg told the Contact 5 Investigators.

Slosberg believes the solution is upgrading the law on e-bikes to moped status, which requires a helmet and a driver's license. 

Michael Kutner hopes the law stays just the way it is.

He says he's a man on the mend and is looking ahead.

"People want me off the road and I understand that.  But if I stay stuck in the past I'm never going to move forward and be any good to my family and friends and the people who are counting on me," said Michael.

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?

According to FL Statute 316.003:

(2) BICYCLE.--Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized
bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electrichelper 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, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally
recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does
not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground
when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person
under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle

 
Print this article Back to Top

Comments