IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Bay Area Lawmaker Proposes E-Bike Restrictions for Minors

Assemblymember Damon Connolly, of San Rafael, has proposed a state law that would ban individuals under 16 years old from riding class 2 electric bicycles. The state prohibits minors from riding the speedier class 3 e-bikes.

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento.
Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages
(TNS) — Assemblymember Damon Connolly, D- San Rafael, has proposed a state law banning youths under 16 years old from riding class 2 electric bicycles.

Connolly, who introduced Assembly Bill 1778 on Wednesday, said he believes the regulations will reduce injury risks and enhance street safety.

"Striking a balance that prioritizes the safety of our community while keeping transportation options accessible to those who need them is a top priority," he said.

The bill will be assigned to a policy committee for review, according to his staff.

Class 2 e-bikes are throttle-operated and can travel up to 20 mph, faster than conventional bicycles and class 1 e-bikes, which don't have throttles.

The state prohibits people under 16 from riding the speedier class 3 e-bike, which can exceed 28 mph. AB 1778 would amend the state's vehicle code to expand that restriction to class 2 e-bikes, and would also require all riders to wear helmets when they use such vehicles. The bill would impose a "state-mandated local program" for violators.

In promoting the bill, Connolly cited Marin County data collected in the fall that revealed that the rate for electric bike-related crashes was nine times higher for youths than riders over age 20.

Connolly also noted the county's finding that 22% of 911 calls for bicycle crashes were related to e-bikes between Oct. 10 and Nov. 10. The county also reported that 71% of 911 calls on bicycle crashes for riders ages 10 to 19 involved e-bikes.

Marin County Supervisor Mary Sackett, who said she commutes to work on her e-bike, collaborated with Connolly on the bill. Sackett holds Connolly's former seat on the Board of Supervisors.

"I hope the bill will raise awareness about the different classes of e-bikes, and how parents need to do their research," she said. "By limiting class 2 throttle e-bikes to people over age 16, the hope is this legislation will result in fewer injuries among youth in trauma centers."

Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County's public health officer, expressed his support for Connolly's bill.

"This bill is a simple and important step to protect young people, while still supporting e-bike use," Willis said. "But it's just one layer, and it's part of the longer game in e-bike safety."

He added that the bill just entered the legislative process, which can take more than a year to complete.

"We also need to take simple steps now, and make sure that as drivers our eyes are up and we're giving bikes the room they need, and as riders we're wearing helmets and following the rules of the road, and as parents make the choice to go with a bike that's manageable for our kids," Willis said.

Connolly announced his bill during an event at the Marin County Civic Center three days before Christmas, when many parents were expected to give e-bikes as gifts to their children. He was joined by Sackett, Mill Valley police Chief Rick Navarro and Gwen Froh of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition joined him.

Froh also directs the Safe Routes to School program that offers bicycle safety classes to children in Marin County.

"We know that students will make mistakes on our roads, we know our roads need to be improved for infrastructure, but we can also agree that a crash going 10 mph has different consequences than a crash going at 20 to 30 mph," she said.

Navarro noted that Mill Valley has the first city council to adopt e-bike safety regulations in Northern California. He said that in Mill Valley, e-bike safety violators are required to take safety courses as well as have their parents take an hourlong class conducted by officers.

"Because we wanted to refrain from sending our youth to traffic court, we looked at restorative intervention measures that we could put in for e-bike rules of the road violations," he said.

Navarro said that his staff issued 53 citations for e-bike safety violations since the city ordinance went into effect in May.

Last year, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, D- Solana Beach, introduced AB 530, a stricter set of regulations that would prohibit minors under age 12 from riding e-bikes. It would also require e-bike riders to pass an online written test and carry state-issued licenses before they are permitted to ride.

The bill stalled and was referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee for review in September, according to legislative records. Connolly acknowledged Boerner's proposal when he announced his own e-bike bill.

"We're trying to be a little more surgical in this approach, open to further discussion of course, but that does underscore that this is not a new issue, that it has been increasing in concern I would say for the last couple of years and is not abating," he said. "So I think the time is right to really tackle it."

©2024 The Marin Independent Journal, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.