San Clemente plans ban for e-bikes from beach path, trails, sand and pier – Orange County Register

San Clemente officials want to better control e-bike chaos on the popular beach path, sand, pier, sidewalks, trails and streets as the city grapples with the influx of the fast-moving electric bicycles in recent years.

Electric bikes allow people to travel further distances and get places faster. But there can be a downside, including careless riders who zip past pedestrians on tight trails and sidewalks, a problem the city is trying to crack down on.

City officials are writing up laws to reflect stricter rules prohibiting e-bikes on the popular beach trail, which spans the city’s coast, as well as banning the electronic bikes from the beach and pier.

The City Council also recently opted to add trails further inland to the list of areas that would be banned.

Leaders in San Clemente, one of many towns that has seen a surge in e-bike use in recent years, have been discussing changing regulations for the past year given an increase of resident complaints about unruly behavior.

In February, the City Council opted to do an “educational blitz” rather than hard bans on e-bikes at popular spots throughout the city. The city developed a “bike rodeo” in conjunction with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to promote bike safety, which included e-bike rules of the road.

San Clemente is taking steps to ban e-bikes from the beach trail, inland trails, the pier and sand. (Photo by Laylan Connelly/SCNG)

Earlier this year, residents were asked to write in about their concerns for a survey gathered by the city.

Samantha Wylie, the city’s recreation manager, said 367 comments were received, many focusing on trail activity, much of it directed at the beach trail.

“We saw that ring very loudly,” she said.

The bike trail, built in 2003, was designed for multiple uses, walkers, runners and cyclists, but that was before the e-bikes came into the picture.

Councilman Steve Knoblock called e-bikes on the trail “problematic.”

“The beach trail was designed as a pedestrian experience, in addition to pedal bikes,” he said at the recent council meeting. “My experience has been practically run off the trail by generally young people, I’m guessing 30 mph, maybe even plus.

“It’s a concern,” he said. “I have no problem supporting a prohibition of e-bikes on the beach trail.”

Lifeguards and park rangers reported in summer months a huge increase in e-bikes on the pier, some walked or pushed, but many people also riding them.

The current city code allows bikes to be walked or pushed, but doesn’t specify if they can be parked along the pier’s railings or not, which “inhibits access, takes away from visitor enjoyment and it’s a safety concern as well,” Wylie said.

So the council agreed to include prohibiting e-bikes on the pier in the new laws and to add more bike racks at the base of the pier.

Several speakers at last week’s meeting spoke about frustration with the bikes on trails and sidewalks.

One man called them a “public nuisance and safety hazard,” and compared them to motorcycles, suggesting the city require registration and license plates to better track and document bad behavior. The City Council asked staff to return with information on other cities that require bikes to be registered.

Another commenter said just that day, she saw four reckless teenagers taking up the bike path, one plowing into and injuring a woman’s dog. He brushed himself off without apologizing and sped off, she said.

Riding on sidewalks is already illegal, based on a law passed in 2015, officials said. So better signage and education could be the answer to deter riders from going on sidewalks, they said.

Councilmen Gene James and Chris Duncan both worried about a constraint on resources to enforce rules.

“We simply don’t have the resources to enforce effectively, but we can enforce selectively on high-density days,” James said.

Gina Moritz-Bertrand, who was taking a stroll with friend Mary Franta on recent morning, had mixed feelings about the bikes being banned on trails.

As an e-bike owner, she uses one often when heading to the beach and takes it on the city’s expansive trail system. But she also sees younger riders not following rules like walking the e-bikes on the pedestrian bridge, as required by law.

“It can be a little dangerous and it’s mostly the teenagers. They aren’t aware they are going so fast,” she said. “I’m kind of torn.”

Franta said she has no problem with the bikes on the trails, as long as riders are respectful.

“The young people whiz by, zooming past you,” she said. “They probably have faster reflexes than us old people. But zero experience.”

But, just like she did growing up, they’ll crash and learn.

“When we grew up, it was the school of hard knocks. That school is still open,” she said. “Even if they pass a rule, do you think everyone is going to follow it. Who is going to enforce it?”

Officials also talked about better education and signage along trails.

The change to city ordinances need to come back to the City Council for final approval before becoming law.

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