California to roll out safety standards for e-bike riders

A woman in a green dress and red helmet pedals her e-bike past houses on a residential street
Nicole Capretz, founder and executive director of Climate Action Campaign, rides her electric bike to work in 2019 in San Diego.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The California Highway Patrol will develop safety standards for e-bike riders under legislation introduced by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week.

The law, AB 1946, requires the Highway Patrol to develop statewide safety guidelines and training programs by September 2023, covering topics including general e-bike safety, emergency maneuver skills, rules of the road and laws on electronic bicycles.

“While the majority of bicyclists follow the rules of the road, cities have seen an increase of pre-teens and teenagers breaking rules and engaging in dangerous behavior, such as not wearing a helmet, obeying traffic safety rules, and piling-on multiple riders onto a single bike,” a release from Boerner Horvath’s office said.

“Without statewide safety education and training standards, local authorities are faced with addressing e-bike safety concerns in their communities without direction or tools to educate riders.”

The state Senate passed the legislation in June with 37 senators voting in favor and three not voting. This month 73 Assembly members voted to approve it, while seven members did not vote. Newsom signed the legislation Monday.

Transportation and environmental advocates support e-bikes as a means of clean, affordable transportation. Boerner Horvath introduced a separate bill last year to provide rebates for e-bike purchases, which is still in the legislative process. But she noted that increases in ridership raise safety concerns.

“E-bikes make it easier to ride than ever before, though it also means less-experienced riders can travel faster with greater ease, increasing the risk of crashes and injuries,” Boerner Horvath’s statement said.

E-bike crashes can cause head, spinal and internal injuries and pose a risk of collisions with pedestrians, according to some research, while local hospitals have reported recent upticks in emergency room visits associated with such crashes.