The Half Moon Bay City Council has delayed a regulation decision for e-bike and motorized scooter use on coastal trails to gather more policy information.
Half Moon Bay is clarifying its laws around three different classes of e-bikes for use on the California Coastal Trail, Naomi Partridge Trail and Eastside Parallel Trail. E-bikes and other electric skateboards, scooters and hoverboards are becoming more popular but have garnered controversy over concerns about speeding and congestion with pedestrians and bicyclists on narrow coastal trails. The rise in e-bikes has prompted the city to update its current ordinance.
California in 2016 allowed class one and two e-bikes on all trails and paths unless a city decides otherwise, with class three e-bikes currently prohibited. Class one is a low-speed pedal-assisted bike with an electronic motor for when the rider is pedaling and goes up to 20 mph. Class two is a throttle-assisted bicycle propelled exclusively with an electric motor and goes up to 20 mph. Class three has an electric motor that assists the rider in reaching 28 mph. Class three tends to mirror mopeds or lower-speed motorcycles and achieves higher speeds.
The council used its May 17 meeting to begin initial discussions on how it wants to regulate e-bikes, e-mountain bikes and motorized skateboards and scooters. The council decided it did not have enough information and delayed a policy decision until staff brought more information on what the public wants and how other cities are dealing with e-bikes. City staff recommends the council permit class one and two e-bikes on the California Coastal Trail and Naomi Partridge Trail and Eastside Parallel Trail but block class three e-bikes on the California Coastal Trail. However, class three e-bikes will be allowed on the Naomi Partridge Trail and Eastside Parallel Trail and remain legal on Highway 1, State Route 92 and city streets.
The ban on class three bikes on the California Coastal Trail would be because of congestion issues for pedestrians and families walking. Staff also recommended prohibiting gasoline-powered and motorized electric scooters on the California Coastal Trail.
Mayor Debbie Ruddock suggested prohibiting all gas-powered vehicles and asked the city to talk with coastal communities for advice on its e-bike policy. Ruddock wanted one seamless approach along the coastal trail and asked staff to talk with different city and state organizations to gather more information.
“I think we could probably set policy tonight if we wanted to, but I don’t feel like we’ve hit the sweet spot,” Ruddock said.
Councilmember Joaquin Jimenez noted students from El Granada ride electric bikes to middle and high school, while other people use electric bikes to go to work. He wanted to offer e-bike road options for people who need e-bikes to commute.
“I don’t think we are ready to deliberate. I don’t think we have enough information,” Jimenez said.
Councilmember Harvey Rarback said he was fine waiting longer before deciding. However, he recommended prohibiting gasoline-powered vehicles on all the trails to protect the environment. City Manager Bob Nisbet said the city would look into other city laws, what state agencies recommend and how to prioritize enforcement.
“E-bikes are not going anywhere. They are proliferating. They are everywhere and getting cheaper and lighter,” Nisbet said.