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CARLSBAD: City enacts new e-bike rules to address concerns

Downtown Carlsbad. (Photo by Steve Marcotte, OsideNews)

Carlsbad, CA— The Carlsbad City Council recently voted to update its local laws to make it easier to enforce the safe and considerate use of e-bikes, scooters and other similar ways of getting around town. The changes allow police to issue citations, but also allow first time violators to avoid penalty if they agree to take a safety course put on by the Police Department.

City Notes logo.Who is affected?

The updated ordinance covers a variety of motorized mobility devices including e-bikes, electrically motorized boards, low-speed vehicles, motorized scooters, shared electric scooters and other similar vehicles. It doesn’t apply to the type of mobility devices that people with disabilities use to get around.

What are the rules?

Specifically, the ordinance says riders:

  • Have a duty to always ride with care and to reduce speed when needed for safety;
  • Can’t have passengers on handlebars or back bike racks that aren’t specifically made for additional riders;
  • Can’t operate or ride an e-bike or similar motorized device on sidewalks, public drainage facilities, culverts, ditches, channels, or any public athletic or sports court or gymnasium in the city;
  • Must get off their e-bike on trails less than 5 feet wide when they’re within 50 feet of a pedestrian.

Why the change?

  • As the use of e-bikes has increased in Carlsbad over the past few years, so have the number of accidents.
  • There were 186 traffic collisions involving bicycles or e-bikes between January 2019 and December 2021. In 163 of those accidents, one or more people were injured.
  • The City Council, Carlsbad Police, city staff and community members have all observed people riding e-bikes unsafely or violating traffic laws and have raised concerns about the impact on public safety.
  • The updated ordinance gives the city more latitude to prohibit a broad range of careless behavior on e-bikes.
  • It also allows the city to be in charge of enforcement rather than referring all cases for prosecution in court.
  • For instance, the city could choose to offer a safety course to offenders instead of a citation and a court-ordered fine. The course may do more to impact future behavior, especially on younger riders who would have to complete it.

More e-bike safety efforts

The City of Carlsbad and Carlsbad Police have implemented several other initiatives in the past few years to enhance e-bike safety, including several that are ongoing:

  • More enforcement of traffic safety rules and vehicle code violations;
  • Created resources to explain laws governing e-bikes and provides safety tips;
  • Hosted and promoted e-bike safety webinars and classes;
  • Created public service announcements and social media campaigns promoting safety and the rules of the road;
  • Worked with schools and the San Diego County Bike Coalition to promote bicycle and e-bike safety, including through free classes. The coalition’s next virtual Smart Cycling class, which includes specific information on operating e-bikes, will be held April 5 and is free for all community members to attend.

Next steps

  • The updated ordinance will come back to the City Council for final approval on April 5 and take effect May 5.
  • The city will inform residents about the changes and continue to promote e-bike safety.

— News release offers cities and other government agencies in our region the opportunity to share their news by submitting press releases for publication. Send yours to news[at]

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CARLSBAD: City enacts new e-bike rules to address concerns