Lifeguards to do their part to help the planet by biking between towers

Encinitas lifeguards could soon be spotted biking on the beach instead of using their trucks for routine trips, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from city-owned vehicles.

On March 14, the City Council unanimously agreed to accept a donation of two beach cruiser-style bikes from the Electra Bike Co. Valued at $1,840, these non-electric bikes will be fitted with special racks and other equipment and will be exclusively used by the city's marine safety division.

"These would be for non-emergency use — to transport guards to remote towers and to provide medical resupply also to the remote towers," Crystal Nejara, the city's Climate Action Plan program administrator, told the council. "And, this would actually alleviate some of the vehicle use and reduce emissions ... because we would be reducing the vehicle miles traveled on the beach."

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the lifeguards' bike use could have other benefits beyond environmental ones.

"I really like the idea of us having lifeguards on bikes because I think ... (people on the beach) don't really like to have vehicles driving around next to them or going by," she said. "You're just so much more friendly when you're on a bike and you can say, 'Hello,' and it's easy to stop."

If the lifeguards later decide they want more bikes, she'd support that, she added.

Councilman Mark Muir, a retired city fire chief, said he wanted to make certain that the new bikes wouldn't be used for emergency calls.

Encinitas Lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles told him that the lifeguards wouldn't jump on the bikes to respond to an emergency call, "but if they're biking on the beach and somebody needs help, they're going to stop and deal with it."

Accepting the bike donation was part of a host of actions the council took March 14 to cut the city's carbon emissions and thus help ease global climate concerns. Other actions included:

Agreeing to enter into an agreement with Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the North County Transit District to create a regional bike share program. The one-year pilot project would allow residents and tourists to rent bikes for short trips and thus avoid using their cars.Authorizing the city manager to put together a licensing agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric for 10 electric vehicle charging stations at the city's Public Works Yard.Upgrading three electric vehicle charging stations in the City Hall parking lot.Buying electric or low-emission vehicles to replace city fleet vehicles that are scheduled for retirement this year.The city's fleet currently includes 11 hybrid vehicles, one plug-in hybrid vehicle and one all-electric vehicle, a city staff report notes. A Climate Action Plan, which the City Council approved in January, calls for Encinitas to convert all its gasoline-fueled cars and light-duty trucks to zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

The city currently has 33 heavy- and medium-duty diesel vehicles and 56 light-duty vehicles in its municipal fleet, a city staff report notes. Plans call for the city's heavy-duty diesel vehicles to switch to renewable diesel fuel.

Finding a supplier for the renewable fuel should be relatively easy as Carlsbad already gets it delivered for its city vehicles, Nejara told the council.

-- Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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