Jason Gibertoni is ready to be regulated.
He is one of the owners of Florida Free Rides, a company providing transportation on Clearwater Beach including Sand Key and Island Estates.
Gibertoni runs street-legal, low-speed vehicles that are commonly mistaken as golf carts. He sees licensing the slow-moving, for-hire cab business as a boon to business, afterall it could help remove some of the less reputable drivers on the island.
“We are looking to be the first to be certified through it,” Gibertoni said.
So he should circle his calendar for April 15. That is when rules regulating golf cart type vehicles, surrey bicycles, pedi-cabs and other low-speed, for-hire vehicles goes into effect. The City Council unanimously approved the ordinance requiring those business owners to register with the city at its meeting Thursday night. City leaders will give final approval on the restrictions at their next meeting.
Under the ordinance:
- Surrey bicycles can only be rented to drivers aged 16 or older unless accompanied by an adult. The vehicle can only have a single gear, with cable-lever drum brakes.
- Pedicabs are regulated similarly to bicycles. They have to have a headlight, pair of battery powered taillights and reflectors. The rules also would restrict the vehicles from navigating the roundabout but would allow them on the sidewalks near it in order to get from north to south beach.
- Low speed, golf cart-type vehicles must have seatbelts and head, stop and tail lamps. They would be restricted to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, essentially everywhere on the beach aside from getting to Island Estates, where the speed limit along Memorial Causeway is 45 mph. Drivers also can not solicit business at bus or Jolley Trolley stops.
Bob Longenecker, who runs the , said the rule banning a practice of soliciting passengers from bus stops will help the transportation service from unscrupulous drivers.
“The Jolley Trolley is quite pleased that you have cleaned up this industry that has flourished as a result of deregulation,” Longenecker said. “Some regulation is required and we appreciate your efforts.”
Aside from costs to meet safety requirements, business owners also will be looking at paying a $75 application fee and $50 permit fee for each driver of the for-hire vehicles.
All drivers and vehicles must be listed in the application. The city also is requiring an application fee of $75 for the safety certificate which has to be renewed Sept. 30 each year. The renewal fee is $50. Driver’s also have to register with the city, for a cost of $50.
At one point during the discussion vice mayor Paul Gibson made an amendment to the criminal history part of the ordinance which changes the background check from three years to five.
Gibson also tried to change the rules to ban the use of surrey bicycles and pedi-cabs altogher. That change failed.
“Some of our visitors are not the best drivers,” Gibson said. “They are looking around and they are going to nail one of these guys.”
Armand De Berzzinae, an owner at Fun Ride Rentals, said in seven years they have not had any accidents with rental surry bicycles. He also said he operated a pedi-cab, which has a top speed of about 12 mph, for five years accident-free along the 25 mph speed limit roads on Clearwater Beach.
De Berzzinae gave his approval of the rules but made one suggestion:
“Maybe we should slow the cars down and make everyone safer.”