Miami Beach’s Spring Break Scooter Rental Ban Could be Reversed

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach’s Spring Break Scooter Rental Ban Could be Reversed:

Compromise would require GPS tracking devices, 24-hour contact info for rental businesses

Miami Beach Commissioners took a first step this month to reverse a ban on rentals of motorized scooters during the month of March but it’s far from a done deal. Following a difficult spring break, Commissioners sought ways of cracking down on bad behavior. One of those, unruly riders on mopeds and small motorcycles, prompted a hotly debated ordinance that banned scooter rentals during the height of spring break. It ultimately passed but with a vote of 4-3 on second reading in May.

Commissioner Ricky Arriola, one of the staunchest opponents of the law, introduced an ordinance this month to reverse the ban in favor of new rules that the scooter companies say would provide protections year-round. Hinting at potential legal issues with the ban, Arriola said, “I think we came up with a good compromise.”
 
Juan-Carlos Planas who represents a number of scooter companies on the Beach said the compromise involves putting GPS tracking devices on all rental scooters along with the number of the company that rented it, “So if an officer sees a bad actor on a scooter, he calls the number” and the scooter can be turned off. “Once they shut it off, it’s shut off for good.” Planas said renters will get instructions detailing the City Code with regard to operating scooters and the scooter companies will have “rovers” out on the street ensuring rules are being followed. 
 
The instructions will be clear, Planas said. “If they violate that code, their scooter rental will be terminated immediately.” 
 
Removing the ban and putting this compromise in place, he added, extends the protection year-round. “This is providing protection all the time now,” Planas said. “We’re going to get Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day” rather than just a ban in March. “You’re going to get enhanced protections and this is going to be better for the residents and it’s going to send a message that if they come here and rent scooters and break our laws, they’re going to have a very short-term rental.”
 
The original sponsor of the ban, Commissioner John Alemán said, it “created the burning platform for these guys to come to the table with a solution. They did ask me right after that if I would remain open minded if they came forward with a solution… and I said that I would.”
 
Alemán said she is “willing to try it and they know that if it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first one to sponsor going back to the full and complete rental ban. But I don’t mind trying compromise solutions and seeing if they work.”
 
Mayor Dan Gelber was not a fan of the compromise. I don’t think the answer... is to say ‘let’s just put the scooters there and give them hotlines.’” Noting the late hour – after 9:30 pm at the end of a marathon Commission meeting – he said he would prefer more discussion but, given the time, that was not possible on first reading. He said he was going to vote against it but if the ordinance had the votes, further dialogue could take place on second reading.
 
“I can convince you by second reading,” Planas said.
 
“No, you can’t,” Gelber shot back.
 
Arriola said, “It’s real simple for me. I was against it the first time for a lot of reasons. We all talk about less traffic. Scooters is one of the ways in terms of mobility. Tourists like having the scooters when they come. It’s part of the vacation experience.”
 
“More importantly,” Arriola added, “we all talk about wanting to support our local small businesses so what we’re literally doing is saying ‘Hey Mr. Small Business, thank you for opening on Miami Beach and investing your entire nest egg in the business but we’re going to ban your most lucrative weekends from doing business in the City. Then, by the way, we’re going to make it even harder for you because all the same tourists can go over the causeway to Miami and rent them and drive them back.’ It’s, like, ludicrous guys. I’m begging you to quit being ludicrous and just stop it.”
 
“This is the wrong way to solve a problem,” Arriola said. “If what we’re trying to do is stop idiots from doing wheelies and breaking our laws, they’ve come up with an elegant solution. Cops can see the company they rented it from and track [violators] down and appropriately fine them.”
 
When Planas again said the compromise removes the prohibition in March but adds protections year round, Gelber said, “We could add the protections and keep the prohibitions.”
 
Arriola said, “You’re basically saying, ‘Hey the weekend you make all your money, we just took that away from you.’ And we don’t solve the problem by the way.”
 
“I don’t disagree with your logic,” Gelber said, but added, “I don’t know that this has been bad for us.”
 
Arriola said, “This is our typical behavior. Something happens and we immediately ban it. We’re very reactionary. Rather than trying to address and solve it. There isn’t even proof the people causing it are renting them from here. They could be coming over the causeway from another jurisdiction and partying here on their own scooters.”
 
In addition to removing the prohibitions on rentals from March 1 through March 31 each year, the ordinance requires that rental companies provide rules to customers prior to rental or leasing; affix to the scooters the name and telephone number of the person or business entity renting the vehicle; install and maintain a fully operable global positioning system (GPS) tracking device on each motorized scooter; provide notice on an annual basis certifying the GPS devices have been installed on each vehicle; and provide the City’s Police Department and Code Compliance Department with a phone number where the rental company can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regarding potential violations. Covered under the ordinance are mopeds, motorcycles powered by a motor with a displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less, and motorized bicycles.
 
Commissioners ultimately supported the measure on first reading 5-1 with Gelber voting against, but Mark Samuelian and Micky Steinberg were clear their votes were for first reading only to allow a longer discussion on its second presentation to the Commission. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez was absent.
 
“I’ll support it on first reading,” Samuelien said, “because I know where it's coming from. We’re trying to have enforcement but we’re also trying to balance with the business community so I look forward to a more spirited discussion towards second reading.”
 
Background and ordinance, here

 
 Image: screen shot from resident video

 

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