Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole will be proposing a new Town Code ordinance at the Town Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday that would exclude people who operate electric-assisted bicycles (E-bikes) from using town sidewalks and multi-use paths, according to the meeting materials posted online by the Town today.
The Chief also is expected to propose a revision of the Town’s ordinance that prohibits driving motor vehicles on Southern Shores beaches so that it is more comprehensive—including, for example, a listing of the prohibited vehicles, not all of which are motorized—and contemporary.
The meeting agenda and materials may be accessed at https://southernshores-nc.municodemeetings.com/sites/southernshores-nc.municodemeetings.com/files/fileattachments/town_council/meeting/packets/11992/town_council_regular_meeting_packet_document_2.pdf. The Police Chief’s presentation is on pages 14-24.
Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center behind Town Hall.
There will be two public-comment periods during the meeting, the first of which will be before the Chief’s presentation, and the second of which will be shortly afterward.
Neither of the ordinances that the Chief is expected to propose are currently in the form of Town Code Amendments to be voted upon for enactment, although the language of each is substantially established.
NEW TOWN E-BIKE ORDINANCE
The popularity of E-bikes has surged during the past three years, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and technological innovation, as well as by the bikes’ affordability, environmental friendliness, and ease of use.
But not everyone is thrilled by how some people operate their new electric-assisted bicycles.
During the Town Council’s Aug. 2 meeting, Councilman Mark Batenic brought up what he considers to be dangerous behavior by people riding E-bikes. He cited their excessive speed and disregard of traffic signage.
Town Councilman Leo Holland responded to these concerns by saying he had been approached from behind when he was walking on a multi-use pathway by E-bicyclists who do not announce that they are passing him.
Such comments likely influenced the drafting of the proposed E-bike ordinance, which would be codified as Town Code sec. 20-12, within Code Chap. 20, “Motor Vehicles and Traffic,” in Article I (“In General”), and now reads as follows:
“No person operating an electric assisted bicycle shall go or ride upon any town sidewalk or multi-use path, except to cross at a designated crosswalk or at a street intersection.”
The definition of “electric assisted bicycle” that Chief Kole proposes using is the one in the N.C. General Statutes, sec. 20-4.01(7a). According to N.C. state law, an electric assisted bicycle is:
“A bicycle with two or three wheels that is equipped with a seat or saddle for use by the rider, fully operable pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor of no more than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a level surface when powered solely by such a motor is no greater than 20 miles per hour.”
It appears from “People for Bikes” literature included in the Tuesday meeting package (p. 19) and from our own research that electric bicycles are permitted on N.C. state-maintained sidewalks and multi-use paths, which are along state roads, if human-powered bicycles are permitted.
This means that E-bicyclists would still be able to operate their vehicles legally on the pathways adjacent to Southern Shores’ sections of N.C. Hwy. 12 (Ocean Boulevard and Duck Road) and U.S. Hwy. 158, regardless of whether a local ordinance prohibiting them is enacted.
REVISED ORDINANCE PROHIBITING DRIVING ON BEACH
Southern Shores currently prohibits “driving or landing aircraft on beaches” in an ordinance that dates to the first Town Code enacted in 1982 and is codified at sec. 20-109, within Article III of Chap. 20, titled “Operation of Vehicles.”
The cumbersome sec. 20-109 is poorly organized in one bloated paragraph and reflects a bygone concern about aircraft taking off and landing on the beach. It also seeks to protect the private property rights of oceanfront owners, specifying—if we read it correctly—that the prohibition against operating a motor vehicle or aircraft on a Southern Shores beach does not extend west of the low tidewater line.
That the area of beach affected by the ordinance is unclear is one of the problems with the current ordinance.
The revision that Chief Kole is expected to propose reads as follows:
“Section 20-109. Driving on the Beach.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any vehicle of any type, including but not limited to; motor vehicle, pickup truck, airplane/helicopter, beach buggy, jeep, motorcycle, bicycle, E-bicycle, any; one, two, three or four wheeled vehicles powered by any type of motor or physically propelled on the ocean beach area within the Town of Southern Shores.
“This shall not apply to Ocean Rescue, Fire, Police, USCG, Public Works or other town authorized entities such as beach survey/nourishment contractors, turtle (NEST) volunteers, Authorized Ocean/Sea mammal rescue/removal entities, authorized commercial fishing, or Extreme Emergency situation(s).”
We would clean up the punctuation in the language of the first paragraph, and also restructure its phrasing, if we could edit it. We have learned, however, that our editing suggestions are rarely appreciated by the Town, so we will not offer them here.
We do not support the driving of motorized vehicles on the Southern Shores beaches–with the exceptions noted.
RECOGNITION OF RESPONDERS: In other action scheduled during Tuesday’s meeting, the Town Council will recognize the responders who assisted with rescue efforts after an ultralight airplane crashed in the ocean Sept. 21 about a half-mile off of the Southern Shores beach.
The pilot of the privately owned airplane, who, Police Chief Kole previously announced, took off from First Flight Airport in Kill Devil Hills, was killed, but his passenger was rescued, thanks to extraordinary actions by responders, including local divers.
SSVFD CONTRACT AMENDMENTS: The Council will consider amendments to the Town’s current services contract with the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. in order to accommodate planned “renovations” by Dare County of the Emergency Medical Services station at 28 East Dogwood Trail. The County proposes to demolish that station, which Fire Service Real Estate Inc. owns, and the SSFVD also uses, and build a new facility.
BEACH NOURISHMENT: And finally, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn will update the progress of the Town’s beach nourishment project.
Yesterday Mr. Ogburn announced on the Town website that Weeks Marine currently has two crews working in Southern Shores: One is pumping sand south from 164 Ocean Blvd. to 6 Bluefin Lane, and the other is pumping sand north from 58 Ocean Blvd. to 78 Ocean Blvd.
The contractor suspended operations yesterday in anticipation of inclement weather and is expected to resume on Tuesday.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/28/22