Online e-bike forum addresses safety, laws

Street photo
The city of Encinitas is one of the North County communities where e-bike usage has increased.
(Karen Billing)

With e-bike usage on the rise throughout North County streets, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach hosted an online e-bike safety forum on Aug. 31 to discuss safety tips, laws and other information for riders to know.

“With the increase in e-bike traffic, there’s also been an increase in complaints regarding ebikes,” said David Drake, a San Diego sheriff’s deputy.

Riders without helmets represent one of the most prevalent safety issues. Riders who are under 17 are required to wear helmets for Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, which can reach speeds of 20 mph. All riders on Class 3 e-bikes, which can reach 28 mph, are required by law to wear helmets. Drake said he’s been writing tickets to children for not wearing helmets.

“That’s one of the most common complaints I get and also one of the most common violations that I address, and that’s either no helmet — usually they’ll have the helmet with them and they’re not wearing it — or the helmet’s not strapped at all,” he said.

Drake also said that e-bike riders, particularly children, need to understand traffic laws.

“If you’re riding an e-bike, you’re expected to understand the rules of the road and follow the same rules of the road as cars are required to follow,” he said. “And that can be tough for a 7, 8 or 9 year old.”

Some of the other common e-bike violations include riding on sidewalks, particularly along business districts that typically have sidewalks crowded with pedestrians; weaving in and out of traffic; and riding with a passenger, even when the bike is designed for one person.

“The biggest violation I see, especially around school time, is passengers on an e-bike,” Drake said. “You may have a passenger on an e-bike, but the e-bike has to be designed for one. They can’t be sitting on the cargo holder on the back, they need to be sitting on a seat that’s designed for a passenger.”

Kevin Baross, education programs manager for the San Diego County Bike Coalition, mentioned the free e-bike safety presentations that the coalition offers to local schools. The organization’s website ( also includes safety tips, more information about different types of e-bikes, laws and other resources.

“As much as some people may want it one way or the other, e-bikes are not going away and roads are designed for people, not just people in cars,” he said. “There’s a way we can all get along.”