Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian file A man rides an E-bike in Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new ordinance that prohibits E-bikes from most places where pedestrians walk, with some exceptions.

In approving Santa Cruz County Code 9.54, the supervisors expanded the previous rule governing motorized bikes and expanded it to include those with electric motors. 

The ordinance came as increasing numbers of people use E-bikes. According to a study by Portland State University, e-bike sales in the United States skyrocketed by 269% between 2019 and 2022.

“We’ve seen a fabulous uptake and adoption of this new type of bike, which can travel anywhere from 20 to 28 miles per hour depending on the type of bike,” said Supervisor Manu Koenig, who brought the item to the board.

They can also weigh between 40 and 70 pounds, double the weight of a traditional bicycle.

“The problem is that 20 to 28 miles per hour is pretty darn fast, especially when people are riding on sidewalks,” Koenig said.  

That can pose a hazard for pedestrians and others using the path. Koenig said that his office has received several complaints.

The ordinance—which will come back to the board at the next meeting for adoption—follows a similar proposed state Assembly bill that would prohibit children under 12 from riding E-bikes.

While E-bikes’ status as personal property, and not a vehicle, prohibits officials from requiring licenses, they can regulate where the bikes are allowed.

Under the new rules, E-bike riders in the unincorporated parts of the county cannot use them on sidewalks, unless there is no bike lane and as long as there are no pedestrians.

Koenig said that exception came with the knowledge that many young people use E-bikes.

“We recognize that there are a lot of young riders out there as well, and there’s just simply locations where—especially if there is no bike lane—as parents and community members, we wouldn’t want them riding there,” Koenig said.

Additionally, E-bikes are prohibited from park trails, unless the parks director makes specific exceptions.

Scofflaws face a $100 fine for the first violation, $200 for a second violation within one year and $500 for each additional violation in the same year.

The new rule was welcome news to Michael Lewis of Live Oak, who asked the supervisors to delete the exceptions.

“The sidewalks are designed for pedestrian usage , that’s why they are called sidewalks,” he said.

Jean Brocklebank agreed, saying that she walks nearly every day, and that her disabilities prevent her from dodging oncoming bikes.

“Do we want walkable communities or not,” she asked.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


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