E-bikes: environmentally friendly, but a real public safety worry in coastal O.C.

An electric bike rider along the San Onofre State Beach Trail at Trestles in San Clemente.
An electric bike rider along the San Onofre State Beach Trail at Trestles on Thursday in San Clemente. Orange County cities are attempting to regulate e-bikes with varying degrees of success, reports Hannah Fry.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning! It’s Wednesday, Jan. 18. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen bringing you today’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events for you.

They’re convenient, our environmentally conscious state has endorsed them by setting aside $10 million in rebates and, although their price tags can range from $1,000 to $5,000, they have become increasingly popular since the beginning of the pandemic. But not everyone in coastal Orange County is thrilled with the proliferation of e-bikes, according to this deep look at the subject by our Los Angeles Times colleague Hannah Fry.

Fry spoke to one resident in Newport Beach who can step from the patio of his home onto the boardwalk along the Balboa Peninsula. He told her that on crowded days he has to remember to slow down and check both directions before making the move or risk injury by a passing e-bike.

“It’s like stepping onto the 405 Freeway,” Fred Levine told Fry. While the boardwalk has a posted 8 mph speed limit, it’s not adhered to, he said.

“He’s watched people get mowed down, dogs hit and too many near misses to count,” Fry writes. “City leaders for years have studied how to manage the proliferation of e-bikes along the route but have stopped short of banning them.”

Fry picked up a quote from another Newport Beach denizen and president of the Central Newport Beach Community Assn., Maureen Cotton, who in August told the Newport Beach City Council that the situation on the busy boardwalk is “mayhem.”

Looking into the issue, Fry asked the O.C. medical community about injuries riders themselves have sustained in e-bike mishaps and learned the numbers are piling up.

“During the first 10 months of last year, staffers at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo documented 198 e-bike injuries. Doctors saw 113 injuries in 2021 and just 34 in 2020, according to data provided by the hospital,” she reports. “Between January and October of last year, 78 of the 198 people who suffered an injury on an e-bike were not wearing helmets and 99 suffered some type of head injury, data show.”

Tetsuya Takeuchi, the trauma medical director at Providence Mission Hospital, told Fry it’s her feeling “we got a device a little bit too fast, and the culture is not completely set for it. It’s a convenient vehicle, it’s environmentally friendly — there’s a lot of advantages. But we need to think about the safety of the rider and the safety of the people around them.”

Fry learned that at Childrens Hospital Orange County, doctors treated 47 trauma patients who suffered e-bike-related injuries last year, with the most common ailments being concussions, bone fractures, skull fractures and facial fractures, according to Makenzie Ferguson, an injury prevention coordinator at the hospital.

In May, fewer than half of those treated were wearing a helmet at the time of their injury, Ferguson told Fry.

The reporter delved into actions taken by various cities grappling with incidents involving e-bikes along pathways shared by pedestrians. Lake Forest set e-bike speed limits of 10 mph on the street or 5 mph on sidewalks. In Aliso Viejo, e-bikers can ride up to only 5 mph on the sidewalk. The bikes can’t be used in commercial centers or city parking lots.

In Irvine the police department has offered bike safety classes, engaged in high-visibility enforcement operations and other efforts, but that city is still looking into regulations they can put into place, Fry reports.

“San Clemente city officials early last year banned electric bikes from their coastal boardwalk after months of complaints from residents who say they witnessed crashes, speeding and other reckless behavior from people riding e-bikes,” Fry writes.

Levine, the Newport Beach man who’s worried about the e-bike riders along the boardwalk adjacent to his patio, endorses a hard line.

“[City ‘boardwalk ambassadors’] tell them to slow down, but what is that going to do? They either slow down when they pass them or they give them the finger and move on,” Levine said. “If they really want to fix things, they need to write tickets and enforce the speed limit.”

MORE NEWS

Train passengers walk from an Amtrak train to buses at the Oceanside Transit Center on Thursday.
Train passengers walk from an Amtrak train to buses at the Oceanside Transit Center on Thursday. Amtrak passengers have to take the buses from Oceanside to Irvine because train service is out in San Clemente due to rail repair.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

— The “bus bridge” between Oceanside and Irvine, which has been going for more than three months while a slope stabilization project is underway in San Clemente, doesn’t seem to be fazing Amtrak riders, according to this report by Phil Diehl of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The total trip — train from Fullerton to Irvine, bus from Irvine to Oceanside, train from Oceanside to Santa Fe Station in San Diego, or vice versa — takes 2½ to three hours depending on the time of day and costs about $36 one way for coach or $56 for business class, Diehl reports.

— The $30.6-million sale of an estate in Newport Coast is so far the most expensive of the year, according to Paul Daftarian of Luxe Real Estate. The three-story, 31,651-square-foot property, closed on Jan. 4 on 1 Pelican Crest Drive, is the highest gross on-market sale in the area. The property has seven bathrooms, eight full bathrooms, three half bathrooms, a chef’s kitchen and a 13-seat movie theater, among other luxurious features.

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center is seeking donations to repair damages from the recent storms ravaging the state. The center’s goal is to raise $23,000 to fix exterior electrical boxes and a leaking roof. As of Jan. 14, the center has raised $12,234.55. Those interested in donating can do so by visiting https://wetlands-and-wildlife-care-center.snwbll.com/emergency-repair-fund.

Laguna Beach adopted a resolution calling on government officials across Orange County to stand with the Iranian people in their fight for freedom and backing sanctions against the oppressive regime. Mayor Bob Whalen and Councilman Alex Rounaghi introduced the resolution, which passed unanimously. Costa Mesa had passed a similar resolution and is among nine cities in the county that have publicly supported the human rights movement in Iran.

— A day after Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) announced her bid for the U.S. Senate, former Rep. Harley Rouda announced he would seek another term in Congress in Porter’s district. Rouda, who was elected in 2018 and served one term, was unseated by Michelle Steel, a Republican. Rouda was considering another run for Congress last year, but when Porter jumped into the 47th Congressional District, he got out of the way. Porter’s Republican opponent last November, businessman Scott Baugh, announced he would run again for the seat.

— S.A. Moffett Elementary School in Huntington Beach and Plavan Elementary in Fountain Valley were named California Distinguished Schools by the state Department of Education. They were among 38 elementary schools in Orange County, and 356 statewide, to make the cut. Schools recognized hold the Distinguished Schools title for two years.

— A weighted majority of ballots cast by property owners within the Diamond Street district favored the underground utility project, which has been billed as a public-safety improvement in Laguna Beach. The city will enter a $1.32-million contract with Hot Line Construction to carry out the project, which will see eight utility poles over 1,000 linear feet of overhead wires removed. In last week’s City Council meeting, the city staff reported that 18 of the possible 20 ballots were cast with 11 voting in favor of the project.

PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS

Orange County Fire Authority swift water rescue team members set up in a Laguna Hills creek.
Members of multiple Orange County Fire Authority swift water rescue teams pushed through a creek in Laguna Hills on Saturday afternoon in preparation for extracting a woman out of fast-moving waters. The woman was saved and returned to her family.
(Courtesy of the Orange County Fire Authority)

— Orange County firefighters on Saturday rescued a woman who was trapped in rushing flood waters in Laguna Hills. The county’s Fire Authority received a distress call at 3:28 p.m. and dispatched an air and ground crew to a flooded creek near the 24400 block of Christina Court and found the woman clinging to a tree in the creek bed. After she was successfully rescued, she was checked by medical personnel but declined treatment and returned to her family, authorities said.

— There remain some unanswered questions about the death over the weekend of an Orange County public defender, Elliot Blair. The 33-year-old attorney from Orange was in Baja’s Rosarito, where he was vacationing with his wife to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, according to reports. Mexican authorities say they believe Blair died in an accidental fall from the third story of a building while a friend who started a GoFundMe campaign for the family described it as a “brutal crime.” An attorney for the family says they’ll conduct a separate investigation.

— Police responding to reports of a suspicious person at a home on Old Ranch Road in Seal Beach shot and killed an armed man Monday evening, department officials said Tuesday morning. The man who died was identified as Michael Bernard Emch Jr., who was associated with multiple addresses. Emch, 47, had been the subject of an active restraining order stemming from a domestic violence incident in Seal Beach in July, police said. Anyone who might have information relevant to investigators are asked to contact Seal Beach Sgt. Jeff Gibson at (562) 799-4100, ext. 1128, or JGibson@sealbeachca.gov.

— A Huntington Beach family is scrambling to find another place to live after the driver of a sport-utility vehicle lost control on Friday morning and slammed into the side of the house they were renting on Fountain Lane. Officials said the driver of the BMW, an adult woman, lost control as she headed west on Heil Avenue. She veered left and went through a short brick wall and steel side gate before hitting the house. The home was red-tagged, and the landlord told the tenants it will take six months to a year to complete the repairs.

— Sally Nava Kanarek, 76, of Huntington Beach, was arrested on Jan. 12 by Newport Beach police on suspicion of stealing more than $90,000 from an elderly client, who authorities say didn’t have the capacity to consent to her actions. Kanarek reportedly moved into the victim’s home in 2020 and, on learning of the victim’s medical condition, allegedly gained control of the client’s finances while posing as their “healthcare manager.” Officials said Kanarek also sold the victim two annuities valuing more than $580,000, which came with a commission of over $7,800. She also reportedly attempted to withdraw over $110,000 from the victim’s IRA and to sell that person’s home.

— An Irvine man was arrested on suspicion of homicide after his father’s body was found Saturday in the home they shared. Tyler Shipper, 24, was taken into custody shortly after his father, Bruce Shipper, 69, was found dead in the home, according to the Irvine Police Department. “A knife suspected of being used in the crime was recovered at the scene,” the police department said in a statement.

— Huntington Beach police officers dispatched at about noon yesterday to the 15000 block of Huntington Village Lane, near McFadden Avenue and the San Diego (405) Freeway, regarding reports of assault with a deadly weapon, located a man suffering from gunshot wounds, according to a City News Service report. He was taken to a hospital; his condition was not immediately known. Huntington Beach police urged anyone with any information regarding the shooting to call them at (714) 375-5066 or Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) 847-6227.

— Laguna Beach Fire Capt. Patrick Cary has battled massive forest fires around the southwest and said the hardest part is being away from his wife and two children. The self-described family man was unanimously named 2022 firefighter of the year by the Laguna Beach Fire Department. He credits training, preparation and years of experience for helping him make it through numerous large-scale disasters.

LIFE & LEISURE

Artist Melissa Murphy, better known as "Melissa Murals," paints surfaces all over Surf City.
Artist Melissa Murphy, better known as “Melissa Murals,” paints surfaces all over Surf City including this wall on the side of a mini-mart in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Melissa Murphy is best known as “Melissa Murals” and the local artist’s passion has grown into a full-time gig. A few months ago she was hired for one of her largest projects — the exterior of the Sunset Lounge in Sunset Beach. From electrical boxes outside City Hall, to Bud & Gene’s restaurant at the end of the pier, the Edison graduate’s work is sprawled all over her hometown of Huntington Beach.

— Teacher Amber Cambria and library volunteer Sheila Plotkin teamed up to create the Butterfly Book Project to find homes for books discontinued by the Huntington Beach Central Library’s used bookstore, and have found grateful recipients. A recent visit to the Friends of the Library bookstore inspired Cambria to start a Facebook page for people seeking children’s books. Not long after it was set up, requests began coming in.

— If taking part in Dry January was one of your New Year’s resolutions, well, TimesOC writer Sarah Mosqueda talked to a handful of Orange County spots that make the monthlong challenge less of a buzzkill. Mixing Glass and Market is one such spot. The Costa Mesa shop has ingredients for making the perfect zero-proof cocktail at home. Khan Saab Desi Kitchen in Fullerton has a selection of mock-tails from its fully zero-proof bar that will get you a step closer to completing Dry January if you are looking to head out for the night.

SPORTS

Members of the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team are all smiles after winning a tournament.
Members of the Newport Harbor High girls’ water polo team are all smiles after winning the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Saturday.
(Matt Szabo / Daily Pilot)

— Newport Harbor girls’ water polo won the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions for the first time in program history, earning a 13-11 overtime win against Surf League rival Laguna Beach in the title match. The No. 6-seeded Sailors finished the runner-up 10 times in the competition before Saturday’s historic victory over the No. 4-seeded Breakers. Senior goalkeeper Anna Reed, who made 10 saves in the title match, earned tournament MVP honors, while junior center Ryan Chalupnik was an all-tournament team selection.

The Angels agreed to terms with five of their eight arbitration-eligible players, with pitcher Patrick Sandoval, outfielder Taylor Ward, first baseman Jared Walsh, pitcher Jaime Barría and pitcher Griffin Canning all reaching an agreement with the Halos. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe, utility infielder Gio Urshela and Luis Rengifo were not able to reach agreements with the team.

CALENDAR THIS

 Jane Lynch attends the 2019 Amazon Prime Day Concert in New York.
Jane Lynch, shown above arriving at the 2019 Amazon Prime Day Concert in New York, makes her Cabaret Series debut in the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center this Thursday through Saturday. The show’s called “Jane Lynch & Her Friends Who Can Sing!”
(Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images)

— The Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the venue this Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 19, 20 and 21, for “Jane Lynch & Her Friends Who Can Sing!” The actor, singer, playwright and author will be showcased in performances that promise music and laughter. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. each date. Tickets start at $99 and can be reserved here.

— Famed illusionist Harry Houdini’s milk can escape was one of the most well-known stunts. Those items became the most coveted among Houdini collectors, and the world-premiere exhibit at Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center in Anaheim showcases that collection. Houdini’s handcuffs, stage props and the famed milk can from the 1908 escape illusion are all part of the exhibit that is open until Jan. 22.

KEEP IN TOUCH

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We appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com or vincent.nguyen@latimes.com.