Solana Beach council members discuss options for increased e-bike safety

Solana Beach City Hall
(Staff file photo)

Following local emergency declarations in Carlsbad and Encinitas due to tragic e-bike deaths, Solana Beach council members also began discussing potential regulations during a July 12 meeting.

“The increase in these bikes has led to some unfortunate incidents and accidents in the region,” Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade said. “Local agencies, including Carlsbad and Encinitas, have responded with some regulations primarily focused on education, primarily of our younger e-bike riders.”

The council discussion centered mostly around education, especially for children, before they take to the streets with an e-bike. Class 1 and 2 e-bikes can reach assisted speeds of up to 20 mph, and Class 3 e-bike riders can zoom up to 28 mph. E-bikes are subject to the same traffic laws as cars, but there are little to no prerequisites for buying or using one.

Solana Beach Deputy Mayor David Zito said that e-bikes are part of “a great movement going on right now,” and warned against adding regulations that are overly burdensome.

“We have a lot of kids going to school via another mechanism that isn’t their parent dropping them off in a car, and I think we need to approach this from yes, we want to keep our people safe, but let’s see if we can do that without killing the movement,” Zito said. “And if we’re going to send all these kids to the DMV, that will kill the movement.”

According to a Del Mar Times analysis earlier this year, e-bike collisions along the North County coastal corridor of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have increased each year from 2018-22, even as the total number of traffic collisions ticked downward.

Collisions involving e-bikes over that five-year period resulted in 232 injuries and three deaths, according to data from the San Diego County Sheriff. One of those deaths included a driver who struck an e-bike rider in Solana Beach.

In Carlsbad, 35-year-old Christine Embree was struck and killed by an automobile driver while she was riding an e-bike in 2022. Her death, and the overall rise in e-bike and bicycle collisions, resulted in a local emergency declared by the Carlsbad City Council. Education and enforcement were two of the main components of the city’s renewed approach to bicycle safety.

In Encinitas, the City Council declared a local emergency after Brodee Braxton Champlain-Kingman, 15, was killed in a collision with a cargo van last month.

Local leaders have still largely supported e-bikes as an alternative, environmentally-friendly means of transportation.

“People who ride e-bikes are doing it for a lot of positive, good reasons,” Jill Cooper, a member of grassroots group BikeWalkSolana, said to Solana Beach council members during public comment. “It’s a healthy thing to do, you’re thinking outside the car, we’re helping the planet and it’s also fun with friends. But we want it to be fun and safe for everybody.”