Be sure to scroll through this post for important links to information and videos about e-bike rules and safety!
Bikes are cool! Electric bikes, aka e-bikes, are especially practical and, in some cases, essential modes of transportation. However, ask any adult driving a vehicle, in the proximity of a school, close to the opening or closing bell, and they’ll tell you that e-bikes are not only an annoyance, but they can also become a hazard when operated by inexperienced riders. E-bikes can be a threat to the safety of the rider, pedestrians and any nearby vehicle.
Given the everywhere nature of the e-bike these days, we felt it was time to address the electric bike phenomena and explore the good, the nuisance-factor and the hazards surrounding our kids’ ongoing infatuation with the e-bike!
A tech shift, craze or aftereffects of Covid lockdown?
Maybe it’s us, but it seems that ever since Covid restrictions were lifted, electric bikes took over the roads. We’re not sure if the timing is coincidental or simply the next technological trend that’s caught on like a craze. Whatever the reason, school is back in session and an abundance of e-bikes are back on the road!
Motorists’ responsibility to e-bike riders
The phrase, “It takes two,” is useful in the discussion of e-bike riders and vehicle drivers’ responsibilities to one another while on the road. Moving cohesively, without the threat of harm, is the goal. So, it’s also incumbent upon licensed drivers of vehicles in the vicinity of a biker to take care that speed and proximity are monitored when encountering an e-bike. It really is a two-way street of care, respect and awareness for all concerned.
Of course, there are undeniable advantages to riding e-bikes for the individual, the community and the environment:
- They take you to your destination faster than a typical bike.
- They reduce traffic congestion in the community.
- They’re emission-free.
- They save money.
- They’re fun!
The disadvantages are obvious, from an adult perspective, especially when considering the age of the average rider-operator on our neighborhood roads:
- They can be a danger to both the rider and other vehicles on the road.
- Rider-operators often don’t follow the rules of the road and become a hazard by riding against traffic, darting in and out of bike lanes and failing to stop at stop signs, to name a few.
- Rider-operators frequently speed in areas where pedestrians walk, people congregate and throughout shopping area parking lots.
- Rules of the road
- Sidewalks, bike lanes and awareness of pedestrians
Many kids who ride electric bikes are doing so without a helmet. It’s not unusual to see at least one helmetless young rider on a given day. Riding without a helmet increases the risk of serious head injury in the event of a fall or collision.
Rules of the road
One of the biggest problems with electric bikes is that many kids who ride them don’t know the rules of the road. They might not realize the duty to yield to oncoming traffic, to halt at stop signs or to stop at red lights. Such infractions can lead to dangerous situations for both the kids on the e-bikes, pedestrians and other vehicles.
Sidewalks, bike lanes and pedestrians
Fact: Pedestrians have the right of way. In some business areas, electric bikes are not permitted on sidewalks. Care should be given to pedestrian walkways and crosswalks. Every licensed driver knows these important rules of thumb. But what about unlicensed e-bikers? Do they know such rules?
It’s a good practice to walk bikes when there’s an abundance of walkers in a given area. When accessible in a community, e-bikes belong in bike lanes. When driven on a roadway, it’s the e-bike rider’s responsibility to follow road rules.
Riding doubled up on an e-bike is a recipe for injury. Two people riding on a single-seat e-bike is an obvious hazard. If the bike tips over, riders fall off or the bike collides with a stagnant object, or moving vehicle, all risk serious injury.
Electric bikes have the capacity to move faster than regular bikes. E-bikes are categorized in three classes:
Class 1 – Pedal-assisted, top speed 20 mph; no age requirement
Class 2 – Throttle-assisted, top speed 20 mph; no age requirement
Class 3 – Pedal-assisted + speedometer, top speed 28 mph; must be 16 years of age
Even at 20 miles per hour, the power of electric bikes can overwhelm young, inexperienced rider-operators. The potential force and momentum of an e-bike can cause operators to drive recklessly – even without intending to do so – lose control and make road rules meaningless. The knowledge that inappropriate speed, especially in congested areas, can lead to serious accidents and injuries, should be conveyed regularly to our e-bike riding kids.
CA electric bike commonsense laws
The California Vehicle Code outlines the basic rules of the road for two-wheeled vehicles. Here are a handful:
- Age requirement is 16 years and older for a class 3 e-bike.
- A helmet is required for riders under 18 years of age.
- Transporting a passenger is prohibited.
- A driver’s license is not required.
- It’s illegal to ride on a path, trail or freeway.
- E-bikes are allowed bicycle lane access if local ordinances permit.
A school permit to ride
School started last week in some areas of North County. It begins this week in most other areas. Ask any parent who has been in the vicinity of an elementary, middle or high school during drop off or pick- up and they’ll tell you about the steady stream of young, inexperienced bikers they encounter.
As the academic doors open within our communities, many school administrators are establishing new rules for their e-bike riding students. Some administrators are informing parents that, this year, students will have to take an e-bike safety course and pass a test to receive an e-bike permit. The school-issued permit will allow kids to ride their bikes to school.
We asked one such administrator to explain her school’s new, e-bike policy. Here’s what Katie Friedrichs, principal of Oak Crest Middle School in Encinitas shared with us:
At Oak Crest we are constantly monitoring students’ safety. Over the past two years, the number of bikes and e-bikes have tripled. We have heard a large number of safety concerns from parents and community members, as well as witnessing students riding unsafely. We have developed a policy here at Oak Crest that we hope will teach our students about bike safety. Students at Oak Crest who would like to ride their bikes to campus must attend a bike safety class on campus and sign a bike permit. Parents will also have to sign the permit and go over the safety course and rules with their students. The bike safety courses start in September and we are looking forward to providing these courses for our Oak Crest Waves. We will continue to monitor our students as they enter and exit campus on bikes, and hope to see improvement in bike safety around our community!
As school gets underway be sure to watch (and share with your kids) this video short about e-Bike safety.
Reminders & tips to make e-biking safe and enjoyable
Keep in mind several ways to make riding electric bikes safer:
- Ensure that kids always wear helmets when riding an e-bike.
- Be sure to share the link below (about the rules of the road) and follow up to make sure they’re following them.
- Remind kids to ride their electric bikes in bike lanes whenever possible and allowed.
- When riding at night, e-bikes and their riders are difficult to see. Reflectors on pedals and wheels, light attachments (white light in the front and red light in the back) and reflective clothing make the rider more visible to approaching vehicles.
- Ride with traffic, in the same direction as other vehicles.
- Take special caution at intersections – the most common location of collisions.
- Be aware of “sharrows” – the name for the area of a bike lane that does not accommodate both a biker and a vehicle because it’s too narrow. In these areas, the painted road markings allow bikers to ride in the vehicle lanes. Vehicles are not allowed to pass bikers in sharrow areas.
- Share the road and respect fellow riders and drivers.
- Keep the lines of communication open and talk to your kids about safety.
- Watch this informational video by the San Diego County Bike Coalition.
We’d like to hear from both parents and kids on their e-bike views and experiences! Please take a moment to respond to these questions so we can keep the conversation going:
- Why do you (or your child) ride an e-bike?
- What has been your experience with e-bikes?
- Do you have any e-bike safety tips to share?
Let us know! Click the “Contact Us” button (below in the footer) and leave a comment. We may use your reply in an upcoming article. We look forward to hearing from you!