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Use of electric bikes on Pinellas Trail may be on horizon

Bicyclists travel on the Pinellas Trail near 49th Street. A committee is expected to recommend whether to allow the use of electric bicycles on the trail.
Bicyclists travel on the Pinellas Trail near 49th Street. A committee is expected to recommend whether to allow the use of electric bicycles on the trail.
Published Jun. 16, 2015

Commuters and cyclists who frequent the Pinellas Trail may soon be permitted to use electric bicycles along its 47-mile length.

A committee has been formed to study the possibility and will take the next several months to sort out the pros and cons.

"The emphasis is on doing this right," said Brian Smith, chairman of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Tom Ferraro, who sits on the committee that will make the recommendation and whose involvement in bike and pedestrian issues spans two decades, said he is open to a conversation weighing the options.

"I'd rather be proactive than put a blind eye to the issue," Ferraro said.

Those who use the trail, he added, need to do so with care and consider how their actions affect others' enjoyment of the space. There's always going to be that person who "does something stupid," so it's also a matter of stressing public awareness and mindfulness of others, he said.

Though motorized vehicles are banned from the trail, electric bikes can be seen zipping along at times. Most of the offenders are believed to be commuters, Ferraro said.

Bike committee member Chip Haynes said he has seen a flurry of motorcycles, golf carts and dirt bikes on the trail.

"What they're going to have to do is take a very, very close look at the (county ordinance). There are so many angles to this," Haynes said. "There's no enforcement. The trail's like the Wild West out there."

Responsibility for enforcement falls on park rangers.

Even while there appears to be a lack of enforcement on the trail, Haynes said, this is a good starting point for the committee. Haynes said he remains a staunch opponent of allowing electric vehicles on the trail.

"I'm fighting a losing battle here, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Contact Michael Majchrowicz at mmajchrowicz@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

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