EMERGENCY ORDINANCE: City Council enacts new e-bike restrictions

MBPD is stepping up enforcement of e-bike infractions. Photo courtesy MBPD

by Mark McDermott 

Local e-bike riders will face a new legal terrain after the Manhattan Beach Council on Tuesday night enacted an emergency ordinance that will enforce a 15 mph speed limit on the beach bike path, outlaw bikes in several locations in the city, including the Greenbelt and all sidewalks, and impose fines ranging from $500 to $1000 for infractions. 

Mayor Richard Montgomery said the City could not wait for state action on an issue that is threatening public safety. 

“The urgency ordinance was needed due to the ever-increasing number of e-bike riders and interactions between e-bikes, pedestrians and motorists,”  Montgomery said, in an interview after the meeting. “State law, as it currently exists, is extremely weak on protecting all concerned. The City of Manhattan Beach acted with urgency to protect everyone.” 

MBPD initially proposed a 20 mph speed limit on the Marvin Braude Bike Path, the County bike lanes that exist closest to the beach, running parallel to the pedestrian path. Previously, no speed limit existed. 

MBPD Chief Rachel Johnson said that the 20 mph limit would enable officers to identify those who are speeding without necessarily using radar devices. 

“We’re looking at something that would clearly be faster than most people are traveling on the path and something that would be more unsafe and easier to identify,” Johnson said. 

Mayor Pro tem Joe Franklin, over the past year, has led an e-bike education campaign along with the Manhattan Beach Police Department, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, and parent volunteers. He suggested lowering the proposed speed limit to 15 mph.

“Twenty miles an hour zipping in and out is just way too fast,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t give people a chance to react. You’re getting too close to people who are not on any bike and are going slower. It really creates a huge public safety issue. So I think if we ratchet it down to 15, it’s just going to bring more calm to an ever-growing and crowded bike path…. I mean, I wouldn’t take my smaller children, as a parent, on the bike path at any time, because it’s just so much traffic and so much is happening.” 

The new location restrictions include no e-bikes on all city sidewalks, walk streets, plazas, grass areas and lawns, the Civic Center, the main library, the Metlox property, The Strand, all parking structures and lots, and the beach. 

Montgomery warned that the sidewalk restrictions could be undermined by a proposed state law currently under consideration and asked residents to contact state legislators. 

“Imagine a bill passes and our police cannot enforce e-bikes riding down downtown sidewalks going to the pier, “ he said. “This bill strips the City’s ability to enforce e-bikes on sidewalks and every sidewalk in California. So I urge you all to call Senator Ben Allen.” 

City ordinances cannot override state law. The idea behind the emergency ordinance, which took effect immediately after it was unanimously approved by the council, is to do all within the City’s powers to address e-bike safety concerns. As the staff report noted, no changes to the City’s bike laws had been enacted for the last 51 years.  

“The Manhattan Beach Municipal Code’s current regulations regarding bicycles were adopted in 1961, and most recently amended in 1972,” the report said. “Accordingly, the Municipal Code regulations do not address e-bicycles or motorized bicycles, and contain archaic, outdated regulations no longer applicable at this time. Due to safety concerns related to bicycles, e-bicycles, and motorized bicycles, and several recent bicycle-related deaths and injuries reported in the media, the City Council finds that there is a current and immediate threat to the public peace, health, safety and welfare posed by the Municipal Code’s antiquated bicycle regulations.” 

The emergency ordinance lasts nine months or until state law changes. 

“We’re probably one of the only communities to be doing this,” said Councilwoman Amy Howarth. “Hopefully, we’ll be leading the way. And hopefully, the state will support more bicycle safety. But we’ve got to do this.” ER


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