Electric bikes will now be allowed on the beach path that lines the sand in Huntington Beach, but more education and enforcement is needed, officials said, to ensure the fast-moving bikes can co-exist with other path users.
The City Council on Monday, April 5, voted unanimously to strike a previous ban on e-bikes put in place in 2017, before the recent surge in popularity.
Electric bike usage has surged along the coast, but also inland on city streets and mountain bike trails. The increase in popularity is, in part, due to the coronavirus pandemic as people looked for creative ways to get outside for exercise. Some users splurged using extra stimulus money on the bikes that can cost anywhere from several hundred to thousands of dollars.
Councilman Mike Posey, who supported the 2017 ban, said he his initial concern were the two-stroke mopeds that were popping up around town.
“I didn’t have an awareness of e-bikes until the last couple years,” he said during the council’s discuss.
Posey said fast-forward to the past year and his being involved in several discussions as a board member for the Orange County Parks Commission, where they have “perpetual, robust conversations of how to allow e-bikes in parks,” and it had him reconsidering Huntington Beach’s ban.
The county commission is currently looking at creating loop trails and increasing the footprint available to e-bikes, but also at how to keep people from treading onto conservation land and damaging trails, he said.
Councilwoman Natalie Moser teamed with Posey to bring the ban reversal before the council for consideration. She noted that with the ordinance being repealed, the city will need to address speed limits and how to enforce rules.
Moser heard a range of responses from the community, she said.
On one hand, e-bikes allow for more accessibility. People with health issues can use them with ease and riders can go longer and farther with the help of the motor, she said. On the other hand, some people voiced not feeling safe co-mixing with fast bikes.
E-bikes can go upward 20 mph – some require peddling to assist the motor, others move with just the twist of a throttle.
“How do we make it safe and how do we make it workable for people? I know creating a plan will help us do that,” Moser said.
She noted adding a public education component will be important in addition to enforcement. A city-wide mobility study will soon be in the works, she noted.
Councilwoman Kim Carr said it was important to differentiate between beach path usage and the actual beach, where the bikes will still not be allowed.
“I personally don’t want to see our beach turn in to Pismo Beach and seeing people on the beach zipping up and down, especially during summer when we have families and kids using our coastline,” she said.
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“This is strictly for the paved trail and not off-road, not on the sand,” he said.
Huntington Beach’s oceanfront path is a popular destination for people around Orange County. Jon Gerber, a 35-year cyclist, said he often visits from Dana Point.
Despite owning several e-bikes himself, he said in an email he didn’t think removing the ban was a good idea. “While the e-bike has created a tremendous alternative to cars, these ‘bikes’ are inherently dangerous due to the lack of training and easy access of any age.”
He said he sees riders going too fast, not wearing helmets and being reckless in disregarding the rules of the road. He’d support requiring a license from the DMV.
Huntington Beach isn’t the first coastal city to grapple with the influx of the electronic bikes.
In San Clemente, officials recently discussed increasing concerns about the fast-moving riders that mix with others on the narrow, dirt path that lines the beach.
While city leaders opted not to drop the speed limit, they directed staff to initiate an “education blitz,” to curb speeding e-bike users.
City staffers will also develop more bike safety programs and workshops and a way for the public to report complaints. A resident survey is posted on the city’s website asking for e-bike feedback.
Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach started to crack down on speeding e-bike users in recent months after increased complaints about people going too fast and riding on the sidewalks and The Strand. The focus has been on educating people of state and local laws.
Newport Beach officials have been discussing similar concerns about e-bikes, directing staff to study more ways to curb reckless behavior.
Source: Orange County Register
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