E-bikes need to take extra precautions

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Logo courtesy of Seal Beach PD

Hi Seal Beach,

Recently we’ve heard from some Old Town residents regarding electric bikes being used around town. There have been reports of a couple of close calls involving those riding e-bikes and pedestrians, both on the bike path and on the streets. Seal Beach is such a friendly town that I hate to think that people are being discourteous when riding electric bikes.

Pedestrians walk about three miles per hour. Bikes go about 15 miles per hour. Just the differences in speed alone make this a dangerous combination.  Pedestrians aren’t always on the lookout for bikes either, so bicyclists should let pedestrians know they are there by ringing a bell or shouting “on your left.”  Bicyclists should avoid suddenly entering the lanes of traffic as well. Those driving cars don’t expect a cyclist to merge into the lanes of traffic, even if it is legal to do so.  At intersections, bicyclists should slow and come to a complete stop (unless at a green traffic light) and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.  These simple tips will help make our roads, bike paths, and sidewalks safer for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Here’s a little bit of a refresher on the laws surrounding electric bicycles.

Generally, electric bikes are regulated just like normal bicycles in terms of the laws listed in the California Vehicle Code.  This means that anyone riding an electric or human-powered bicycle is subject to all the same rules of the road as a person driving a motor vehicle.  As I’ve written about before, if you are riding a bike, electric or human-powered, you still have to follow the rules of the road including stopping at stop signs, signaling, having proper lighting equipment, not be intoxicated, and all the other laws.

However, unlike motor vehicles, electric bikes do not need to be registered, nor do you need a driver’s license, and vehicle insurance is not required to operate one.

Here’s where things get a bit complicated. California has three different classes of electric bikes:

A Class 1 bicycle is one equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.  A Class 2 bicycle is one equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. And a Class 3 bicycle is one equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.

If you are under 21 years old, you may not ride a Class 3 bike unless you are wearing a helmet.  If you are under 16 years old, you may not ride a Class 3 electric bike at all (unless you are the passenger).

To make things even more complicated, the San Gabriel River bikeway is considered a “Class I” bike path and Class 3 electric bikes are prohibited from riding on Class I bike paths…..

To make things even MORE complicated, California also defines motorcycles, mopeds, and motor-driven cycles, all of which are prohibited along the San Gabriel River trail.  A motorcycle has 2-3 wheels and an engine size larger than 150 cc.  A motor-driven cycle has 2-3 wheels and an engine size smaller than 149 cc . And a moped, also known as a motorized bicycle, has 2-3 wheels and an electric motor with an automatic transmission that produces less than 4 gross brake horsepower.  Unlike electric bicycles, you must have a driver’s license (normally with a motorcycle endorsement) to operate these vehicles.

Kids must wear helmets when they are riding bicycles, including electric bikes.  California Vehicle Code §21212(a) states (in part): “A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet…”

Please remember to follow all the rules of the road, but also be a courteous driver, whether in a car or on a bike.

Please keep your questions coming!  Email me at askacop@sealbeachca.gov today!

E-bikes need to take extra precautions