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Debate over e-bikes on Kern River Parkway Trail continues

What is an e-bike?
Posted: 10:04 AM, Jun 21, 2021
Updated: 2021-06-21 20:16:06-04
Electric Bike Crackdown

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The debate over e-bikes continues in Kern County. This time about whether or not they should be banned from bike paths at the Kern River Parkway.

Back in 2015 California legislators updated laws to encompass e-bikes. Assembly Bill 10-96 defines them as "as a bike with fully operable pedals and an electric motor up to 750 watts."
It also recognizes three different types of e-bikes.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition:

A "Class 1 electric bicycle," or "low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

A "Class 2 electric bicycle," or "low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

A "Class 3 electric bicycle," or "speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and is equipped with a speedometer.

Or to put it simply according to the BBC, "an e-bike is any bicycle that uses an integrated electric motor to assist in propulsion. While some come equipped with a throttle and can be used like a moped, they can all be pedaled - a distinction that legally separates them from electric motorcycles."

Currently, the multi-use path designates one part for pedestrians and another for Class 1 and Class 2 bikes. However, a proposed change to allow Class 3 and additional e-bikes on the Kern River Parkway Trail pitted Bakersfield city Councilmember Andrae Gonzales and Councilmember Ken Weir against one another.

That proposal included a revision to the language of the city’s ordinance to allow Class 3 bikes and other e-vehicles like e-scooters on the Kern River Trail. At the same time, it would prohibit vehicles like mopeds and motorcycles on that same path.

Gonzales made a motion to move an item regarding e-bikes from committee to full council, but Weir pumped the breaks.

“I don't see a point in destroying what’s already difficult to maintain,” argued Weir.

Gonzales told 23ABC the issue won’t come back to the committee until staff gets further direction from the city council at their next meeting, during council comments. Gonzales adds he’ll need to make a full referral in order to bring the issue back up to full council.

“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the more people actively using the space in a positive way, helps eliminate a lot of the negative elements and safety concerns.”

Public comments raised at the meeting were split, for and against the ordinance. Some expressed concerns about e-bike’s interference with the equestrian trail, but as was brought up in the meeting, there's no code that defines the off-path trails as equestrian trails.

From San Diego to the Bay Area a lot of cities are cracking down on e-bikes and electric scooters.

First off there is no rule about who can ride electric bikes and scooters. There's no age requirement and a driver's license isn't necessary. Keep in mind you do have to wear a helmet when riding e-bikes.

As far as the debate over riding on sidewalks, California law says you can ride an e-bike on the sidewalk in areas where normal bikes are allowed. Typically, e-bikes go about 25 miles an hour. Finally, it is illegal in California to modify electric bikes in such a way that the speed capabilities are enhanced.

Do You Need a License to Drive an Electric Bike in California?

No, you do not need a driver or operator’s license to use an electric bicycle in California. You also do not need to register the bicycle or put on a license plate as you would for a moped or motorcycle. However, you must obey traffic laws when using an electric bike, as you would on a regular bicycle. You must follow stop signs, traffic signals, rights-of-way rules, speed limits, and other laws.

Do You Have to Wear a Helmet on an Electric Bike in California?

You must wear an approved helmet while operating or riding on an electric bicycle in California if you are 17 or under. If you are 18 or older, you do not need to wear a helmet on a standard bicycle, Class 1 eBike, or Class 2 eBike. You must, however, wear a helmet while riding a Class 3 eBike, moped, or motorcycle. An approved helmet has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker ensuring it meets federal safety and quality standards.

Can You Ride an Electric Bike on the Sidewalk in California?

You may only ride an electric bike on the sidewalk in California if you could do so with a regular bicycle. This eliminates most downtown areas. Although California does not have a statewide law prohibiting bicycles on the sidewalk, local ordinances exist in most cities banning bicycle use on sidewalks in downtown business districts. You can ride an eBike on a sidewalk in California if street signs expressly grant this right, or if you are in a region that permits this action, such as on private property.

How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go?

Most electric bikes max out at a top motor-assisted speed of 20 miles per hour. However, speed eBikes can reach 28 miles per hour using their electric motors. Electric bicyclists must obey posted speed limits as they would if they were driving motor vehicles. Otherwise, they could receive speeding tickets from local law enforcement.

Can I Modify My Electric Bike?

It is against the law in California to modify or otherwise tamper with electric bicycles in a way that changes the speed capability, unless the rider also changes the bicycle’s classification. Electric bicycles with motors of more than 750 watts are technically motorcycles according to the law and require Class M licenses and helmets.
Henshaw & Henry, PC.

23ABC posted a message asking viewers, "Do you think e-bikes should be allowed on Kern River bike paths?"