Solana Beach adds diversion program for bicyclists in new ordinance

Solana Beach City Council recently approved an ordinance to help improve safety for bicyclists.
Solana Beach City Council recently approved an ordinance to help improve safety for bicyclists.
(Phil Diehl/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Cities including Encinitas, Carlsbad have already begun allowing riders who receive citations to complete a safety course in lieu of a fine


Solana Beach became the latest city in North County to approve an ordinance aimed at improving bicycle safety, especially due to the proliferation of e-bikes on the road over the last few years.

The ordinance, which passed a first reading by council members on Aug. 23, includes a diversion option that allows bicycle and e-bike riders who receive citations to complete a safety training course in lieu of paying the fine. It would go into effect 30 days after a second reading next month.

Much of the discussion during the council meeting focused on whether bicyclists should be able to use the sidewalk. The ordinance included a provision that makes it illegal to ride on the sidewalk along any street that has a bike lane. The council added additional language about requiring riders to yield to pedestrians.

Solana Beach Deputy Mayor David Zito said there should be some flexibility for children who bike to Skyline Elementary School on Lomas Santa Fe.

“It’s not a large population, but there is a very notable population of young kids that bike to school, and they won’t do it if they have to get on the street there,” Zito said. “We will have to build a much better facility on the street for those kids to bike to school. And I would like to see that continue, and so the only way I can see doing that is give the sheriff the discretion. If they’re biking safely, they’re not going to bother to cite them.”

Two neighboring cities have already adopted similar traffic safety regulations with diversion programs for bicycles in response to e-bike riders who were killed by drivers in cars.

In Carlsbad, approximately two-thirds of people who received a citation completed a safety course since the city enacted a set of traffic safety measures last year, according to data from Carlsbad police. Those measures followed an emergency declaration that went into effect last year after Christine Embree, 35, was struck and killed while riding her e-bike. The driver who initiated the collision was charged with manslaughter.

In Encinitas, the sheriff’s department said that many children have completed the safety course after being approached by deputies about common violations, typically involving helmets. The city declared its own emergency proclamation in June after 15-year-old Brodee Champlain-Kingman was killed in a collision with a van while riding an e-bike.

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner agreed with the benefits of e-bike usage by local students. She also mentioned the city’s ongoing Lomas Santa Fe Corridor Improvement project, which is being designed in part to more safely accommodate standard bicycles and e-bikes.

“We know that it’s much better than having a bunch of moms and dads in their cars driving kids to and from school, giving them a little sense of independence and so forth,” Heebner said.