Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Back in January, deep in Orange County, California, the city of San Clemente banned e-bikes from their beach trails. Some of the trails leading to the beach are narrow, and the riders are zipping past pedestrians at dangerous speeds. Some of this has to do with bikes that don’t legally fall into the Class 1- or Class 2-legal definitions of e-bikes. We’re seeing an uptick in bikes that exceed those limits, or even Class 3 limits, and that is troubling for all of us. 

“We’re seeing an uptick in bikes that exceed those limits, or even Class 3 limits, and that is troubling for all of us.” 

This hits home, because where I live (up the coast in Santa Monica), the city council banned anything electric from the beach bike path because of accidents involving Bird scooters, the first scooter-share company. I can’t ride the beach bike path in my own town, so if I want to ride on that path on an e-bike, I have to ride to the next beachside town down in Venice to ride it legally. 

The San Clemente case is more on-topic about e-bikes than the general ban in Santa Monica. What I want to know is, will they enforce it? The Santa Monica ban was to make it easy to codify something as an electric vehicle, the idea being easy enforcement. I go down to the path on foot all the time to walk, and on any given day many of the bicycles on the path are e-bikes. Some are fairly stealthy, some ridiculously obvious. Almost all, however, are going the same speed as the other bikes, so it’s almost a non-issue.

Many of the speed demons I see there are the hunched-over road cyclists who like to go especially fast. On the street bike lanes, that’s one thing, but on the beach path, pedestrians regularly change directions or misjudge how fast a bike is approaching them as they cross. Going fast on the beach bike path is an injury waiting to happen.

OWNERSHIP

People ask me all the time about what e-bike I own. In all honesty, I don’t own one and haven’t yet owned one. The reason is that since I have so many at my disposal, I always have one or two to bring home to ride. It’s a great problem to have, and I’m far luckier than our sister mags Road Bike Action and Mountain Bike Action, who have struggled to get bikes to review because many bike companies don’t have enough products to sell, let alone load out for a test, thanks to supply-chain issues. 

I fully understand and appreciate that. Fortunately, we’re seeing signs that the supply-chain issues are starting to rebound, and I think e-bike sales are going to continue their massive growth. 

I’m looking at buying a motorcycle. I love gas bikes in many of the same ways I love electric bikes. There are differences, like the amount of sound. I love the loud sound of an ICE bike, and the engagement that is required with the gears, the clutch, the entire experience. But, the simple serenity of electric motorcycles is also very zen; it’s a different experience. 

I know President Biden’s Build Back Better bill is somewhat divisive, but it did offer some amazing incentives for buying electric bicycles and motorcycles. Originally, Californian Congressman Jimmy Panetta and Congressional Bike Caucus Chairman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act to encourage the use of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, through a consumer tax credit. Due to the distance, speed and ease by which they can travel, e-bikes will help replace vehicle
trips and commutes and reduce carbon emissions.

The original tax credit was $1500, but so far that’s been whittled down to $900. For electric motorcycles that fit certain criteria (e.g., American-made), the credit is currently $7500. That means that the cost for a $20,000-ish electric motorcycle might be cut in half between that and other federal, state and local rebates. Suddenly, the argument against electric is moot.

If you have a chance, talk to your representatives on the state and federal level. Let them know you want better support for electric bicycles because they are the most efficient form of transportation out there. More incentives will help more of us get on two wheels to enjoy the greatest life ever!

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