For the past several years, more and more Morro Bay businesses have begun renting electric bikes or e-bikes to the public, as cruising around the waterfront grows in popularity.
The proliferation of these rental bikes would seem to be a perfect recipe for disaster, but according to City officials there haven’t been very many bad crashes reported involving e-bikes, though they have happened.
Anyone who’s driven a car or ridden a bike down the Embarcadero can attest that e-bike rentals are growing in popularity.
Nevertheless California has a new law this year calling on the Highway Patrol to come up with a training regiment for e-bike riders to make sure they are safe in what is becoming a major factor in bike crashes, including several fatalities.
“Electric bicycles are heavier and faster than standard bicycles,” reads a news release from the CHP announcing its online training program, “and, without the proper safety education and training, e-bike riders have a higher risk of becoming severely injured or killed in a crash.
“As e-bikes become more commonplace, it’s also important for drivers to familiarize themselves with sharing the road with e-bike riders.”
One issue is that while minors are required to wear a safety helmet when riding any bicycle, adults in California are not required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle nor an e-bike, though most people do.
That’s because e-bikes, even those with a throttle and not just pedal-assist electric motors, are not considered motorized vehicles, like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, or a Vespa scooter would be.
“Assembly Bill 1946,” the CHP said, “which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom and took effect on Jan. 1, required the CHP to work with relevant stakeholders to develop an online training program that offers information on e-bike safety, emergency maneuver skills, rules of the road, and laws related to e-bikes.
“The e-bike safety and training program,” the CHP continued, “features tutorials, videos, a quiz, and other interactive elements with an easy-to-follow, intuitive presentation to help make the material engaging, practical and informative.”
According to CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee, “With the rise in popularity of e-bikes across the state, the CHP worked with Gov. Newsom’s Administration, the Legislature, and key stakeholders to develop California’s first e-bike safety and training program. The CHP’s program can be accessed on our website and is designed to promote safety for those who choose to ride this alternative mode of transportation.”
In Morro Bay, the City has taken some notice of e-bikes on some of the pedestrian paths in town, particularly on the Cloisters Park bike and pedestrian path. The City posted “5 mph speed limit” signs as one comes to blind curves on the north end of the path.
Cloisters bike path is a popular place for citizens to walk their dogs, making riding fast on the path even more dangerous due to the dog leashes.
According to preliminary data from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, the CHP said, there were more than 9,600 bicycle-involved crashes in 2022. At least 225 of those crashes involved an e-bike, including four that resulted in fatal injuries. This reflects a significant increase from the previous year when there were 80 e-bike crashes reported in California.”
So if readers have an e-bike, or are thinking about getting one, take the CHP’s safety course at: www.chp.ca.gov/Programs-Services/Services-Information/Bike-and-Ped-Safety to give yourself a better chance to avoid a bad crash.