Huntington Beach will allow e-bikes on beach path

A man rides an e-bike on the bike path in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday night unanimously voted to reverse a ban on e-bicycles on the bike path next to the beach.

Council members Mike Posey and Natalie Moser brought the item forward for consideration. It reverses a 2017 ban on e-bikes at the beach, which was put in place before their recent uptick in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2017 code change stated no person may operate or possess a motor-driven bicycle or motorcycle, automobile or truck at the beach, other than for law enforcement, lifesaving or emergency purposes.

Although e-bikes will now be allowed, they will still be subject to regulations, including speed enforcement.

“Back in 2017, e-bikes were really, really rare,” Posey said. “I think Pedego was just coming on ... For me, I didn’t have an awareness of e-bikes until really the last couple of years. When I voted for that change in 2017, I was envisioning what I had seen a proliferation of around downtown, which are two-stroke internal combustion [vehicles] on the beach trail.”

Posey said the Orange County Parks Commission, which he currently serves on, has had conversations about allowing e-bikes into the back country in county parks.

The issue is similar to the plastic bag ban issue, he said, which was a reason why he ran for City Council in in 2014. Plastic bags were banned in Surf City in 2013, but that ban was repealed two years later.

“We can’t ban a safe and legal product when the issue is really enforcement,” Posey said. “For plastic bags, the enforcement issue was litter ... and for e-bikes the enforcement issue is speed.”

Joseph Ali, the owner of Zack's in Huntington Beach, puts away a rental e-bike on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Moser said the goal is to create a safe environment for everyone who uses the path.

“Even a five miles-per-hour speed limit, with pedestrians there, you can’t really ride a bike like that without falling over,” she said. “It just brings to mind that we need to be smart and thoughtful about what we do. How do we make this safe, and how do we make it workable for people? I know that creating a plan here will allow us to do that.”

Mayor Kim Carr made it clear during the meeting that she was in favor of allowing e-bikes on the bike path, but not on the sand, and Posey subsequently clarified that was also his intention.

“I personally do not want to see our beach turn into Pismo Beach, and have a lot of people using e-bikes up and down the coastline, especially in the summertime when we have children and families utilizing the shoreline,” Carr said.

Joe Ali, owner of Zack’s near the Huntington Beach Pier, said his store rents out e-bikes to customers but puts a cap on how fast they can go. He believes the speed limit for the e-bikes should be 10 to 15 miles per hour, at most.

“Some of these people aren’t going to obey the speed limit,” he said. “We want everyone to be safe.”

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