ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria commissioners offered no support for a proposed eight-to-12 passenger pedal bus that would allow passengers to drink alcohol while traveling in traffic lanes at slow speeds.
Illinois resident and Anna Maria Island property owner Robert Secord pitched his pedal bus proposal to the Anna Maria Commission on Thursday, April 11. Secord said he would like to have one pedal bus in Anna Maria and another in Holmes Beach.
Secord said the pedal bus he has in mind has six seats on each side, with pedals underneath that are connected to the drive shaft. The pedal bus would be steered by a company employee who has full control of the steering and braking. Some pedal bus operations use a second employee as the tour host.
Secord said the business model is based on clients reserving the pedal bus in advance for a tour lasting 90 to 120 minutes.
Secord said a pedal bus can travel at 4 to 7 miles per hour and is equipped with a small motor for short-term use when needed.
“We don’t supply the alcohol. We permit it as a limousine or party bus, so they can bring their own beverages,” Secord said. “The primary marketing focus is the tour experience, coupled with maybe a beer or margarita.”
Secord said party bus operations have a strong appeal with women and are often used for bachelorette parties and wedding-related activities.
“The indirect benefit is how it promotes the rest of Anna Maria’s businesses,” he added.
“If it can happen, the pedal bus needs to be permitted as a private establishment to exempt it from open container and consumption laws on public roadways. That’s probably the biggest point of contention getting this business authorized in Anna Maria,” Secord acknowledged.
Commissioner Amy Tripp asked if a permit is needed.
“The open container is the $5,000 elephant in the room,” Mayor Dan Murphy said.
“Open container would be the issue,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Jones said in response to Murphy.
City Attorney Becky Vose said the city would have to rewrite its relevant ordinance. She asked Secord if the pedal bus would also pass through Holmes Beach. Secord said it would, and he has not yet presented his idea to Holmes Beach commissioners.
Commissioner Doug Copeland said, “I think you would find yourself hated because traffic is bad enough. The people that live here will say, ‘What the hell is this?’ They already curse the golf carts that don’t travel even 25 miles per hour. I think you’ll face a lot of negative feelings from the community, even if it were allowed.”
Commission Chair Brian Seymour said his biggest concern was the impact on residential neighborhoods.
“You’re putting a party-type atmosphere on our residential streets,” he said.
Seymour said he’s seen pedal buses in Key West and Daytona, but he thinks it would be an issue in Anna Maria.
“I have a problem with the open container piece. You can’t ride a bicycle with a beer in your hand. You can’t walk down the street with a beer in your hand,” Tripp said of the city ordinances, also noting that a passenger in a car can’t have an open beer.
“Going way below the speed limit on these really crowded, congested roads it seems really dangerous,” she added.
Commissioner Dale Woodland shared the concerns expressed by the other commissioners.
“I encourage you to go present to the other cities and see what kind of feedback you get,” Seymour said.
“It’s not a make-or-break deal for me. It’s an idea I thought would be pretty cool to present to the Island,” Secord said as the discussion ended with no formal request made and no commission action taken.