Volusia’s history of beach driving dates back to the 1800s. According to the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Bureau website, VisitNSBFL.com, “in August 1889, the town’s 300-foot-wide stretch of sand was marked “Beach Street” and dedicated for a public highway. The first car was driven on New Smyrna’s beach around 1904.” There are old photographs that show picnicking visitors standing by clusters of early model Fords – perhaps the first of tailgate parties.
Today, people are riding the newly popular electric bikes (E-bike) and other electric motorized devices, such as the skateboard-like mono-wheels (Onewheel), onto the beach. Currently, these vehicles are prohibited on Volusia beaches. Volusia County’s Beach Safety-Ocean Rescue can issue a $50 fine to operators in violation, and, as is with all county ordinances, can be a physical arrest if the need arises.
Volusia County manages the beaches with several local, state and federal divisions including: coastal, beach safety, parks, recreation and culture and environmental management. According to the county’s code of ordinances, Chapter 20, refers to the Beach Code. In regards to motor vehicles, ordinance 20-174(1) was created in 1988 and modified in 1989 to add concession language.
Motor vehicles are only permitted on the driving portions of the beach and are only permitted to operate within the driving area on the driving portions of the beach pursuant to the United States Fish and Wildlife Incidental Take Permit (ITP) and Section 20-174(2) of the Code. The ITP is associated with the county’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). According to VolusiaSeaTurtles.org, the HCP commits the county to protecting sea turtles, piping plovers, other coastal wildlife and their habitat, while allowing public driving on parts of the beaches.
According to Kevin Captain, Director, Community Information for Volusia County, “E-bikes and other electric motorized devices are motor vehicles as defined in Chapter 20.” If the code was to be modified to authorize E-bikes and Onewheels, they would be subject to only riding on the driving portions within the driving area.
Additionally, Section 20-175, defines unauthorized vehicles. Motor vehicles as defined by the Code, that are incapable of being registered and titled pursuant to Florida Law, are also prohibited from operating on the beach.
Kevin Mount, President of Flaunt Electric Vehicles, an established Volusia grown business since 2013, finds it interesting the county has defined E-Bikes as a motor vehicle. As he understands it, the United States Department of Transportation is responsible for that. “E-Bikes are more closely related to a regular bicycle,” he explained. “The E-Bikes that our company produces are regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Commission, not the National Highway Safety Administration, and therefore can not be considered a motor vehicle.”
“At a future County Council meeting, County staff shall seek the County Council’s direction as to whether to amend the code to permit e-bikes and other electric motorized devices to operate on the beach pursuant to the direction provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that oversees and enforces the County’s ITP,” explained Captain.
Locations like New Smyrna Beach, Ponce Inlet, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach have ramps available for beachgoers to access. Each year, for a fee, the ramps are open to vehicles between sunrise and sunset November 1st through April 30th. The beach is open to vehicles May 1st through October 30th from 8:00am to 7:00pm. The beach is always open and free to pedestrians and bicyclists.