SUPPORT THIS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the DP Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.
By Breeana Greenberg
As electric bikes have zoomed into popularity, Dana Point Police Services ran an information session on Nov. 17 to educate riders on e-bike safety. Laguna Niguel Police Chief Virgil Asuncion and Dana Point School Resources Deputy Joy Severson presented the rules of the road and how to ride safely.
“It’s up to us as parents, as teachers, as neighbors, as friends to educate our family and our community members,” Asuncion said.
Asuncion, a father of three, said that e-bike safety hits home after a couple of his son’s friends were involved in a minor accident.
“As we went through the pandemic, and e-bikes became popular, we were seeing a trend of accidents and injuries,” Asuncion said. “So, in Laguna Niguel, our city council wanted to do something about it. … I was tasked with making this presentation and making sure that we get all the information out here.”
Essentially, an e-bike is a bicycle with a motor on it, Asuncion explained.
There are three classes of e-bikes. Class 1 e-bikes are pedal-assisted only and reach a maximum speed of 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes also can only reach a maximum speed of 20 mph; however, they have a throttle that can boost a rider’s speed even when they are not pedaling.
Class 3 e-bikes, which are also pedal-assisted but do not have a throttle, stop providing motor assistance when the bike reaches 28 mph. Kids under 16 are not allowed to ride Class 3 e-bikes.
Passengers are not allowed on any bike unless it is a tandem bike or has a built-in seat.
There are 28 parks and 11 trails in Dana Point, and there is signage letting riders know where they can or cannot ride their e-bike.
“Some of them are a little bit more obvious, like your conservation trails that overlook the harbor; those paths are little dirt paths that only one or two people can fit, so obviously, you can’t really be riding an e-bike through those areas,” Severson explained.
California Vehicle Code prohibits Class 3 e-bikes on paths, lanes, or trails, unless allowed by local ordinances, and gives local authority to prohibit Class 1 or 2 e-bikes on specific trails.
E-bikes are allowed on sidewalks, but riders are required to follow a 5-mph speed limit on sidewalks.
“I have kids myself; I prefer them riding on the sidewalk, and I know most parents do,” Asuncion said, noting that he tells his kids that if they “see someone walking, walking the dog, slow down, and let them know, ‘Hey, I’m here behind you,’ ring your bell and go really slow, ride next to them: ‘Hey, I’m on your left.’ ”
Bicycles or e-bikes are essentially vehicles, Asuncion said, so riders need to follow the rules of the road.
“We tell kids, act like a car, be predictable, be visible, making eye contact if you’re trying to cross the street,” Asuncion said. “OK, just simple stuff that we as licensed drivers know going for that driver’s test, like we have to teach our kids the same thing getting them ready to ride these bikes on regular roadways.”
Asuncion added that riders should wear bright, reflective clothing and make sure to use hand signals.
All riders must wear a fastened helmet for a Class 3 e-bike, and everyone under 17 must wear a helmet while riding Class 1 and 2 e-bikes.
Severson, who is primarily assigned to Dana Hills High School, added that she sees a lot of riders with helmets on but not fastened, and some helmets hanging from their bicycles’ handlebars.
“I tell these kids, it’s not really going to do much if you fall off your bike,” Severson said. “If your helmet’s not fastened to you, it’s not going to work.”
“Hey, I don’t know if it’s an ego thing,” Severson continued. “I know the floppy hair is really cool right now. So it’s not like you’re gonna mess your hair up; you know, everyone’s got kind of the helmet hair going on anyways; you gotta wear those helmets.”
According to Asuncion, Mission Hospital has seen a significant rise in e-bike-related injuries. He added that in 2019, there were 179 documented injuries and 304 in 2020. As of June 2021, Mission Hospital had already seen 43 trauma patients, 15 of whom were under the age of 17, Asuncion said.
“We’re going to educate as much as we can, but at some point, if it does not get fixed, we’re going to start enforcing, and unfortunately, some parents will be upset,” Asuncion said. “But at the end of the day, we want our kids to be safe, and we want to prevent a tragic accident.”
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org