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HomeNewsThe E-Bike Craze Has Reached Southern California Surf Communities, and They’re Not...

The E-Bike Craze Has Reached Southern California Surf Communities, and They’re Not Happy

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Many people agree that E-bikes have a lot of benefits. However, this does not automatically cancel out the risks of using them. 

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In recent years, surfing and e-bikes have become linked, especially in areas like Trestles in San Clemente, CA, where there is a long trek down to the beach from the available parking. 

E-bikes make the trek faster and less stressful, hence its popularity. But not everyone’s happy about it, and tensions have escalated recently.

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Where the Chaos Began 

One of the most recent debates on the relevance of the link between e-bikes and surfing was triggered by a veteran Longboarder named Joel Tudor.  

It all began after Tudor posted a picture of a sticker that reads: “No e-bikes in California State Parks,” he captioned it: “Greatest sticker ever made.” It was enough to ignite the flames, and comments quickly followed. 

Piled Up Surf Boards on a Beach
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How People Responded 

After Tudor shared the post, many netizens with opinions on the subject took to the comment section to share their thoughts. 

Joel Tudor catching a wave
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Tom Servais, an iconic surf photographer, said: “Not sure why they are called e-bikes, a bicycle with a motor is usually called a motorcycle?” 

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Surf vagabond Tyler Warren also pitched in with a lengthy text on the dangers e-bikes now pose, especially in state parks and beach trails. 

What Tyler Warren Had To Say

Warren said: “One day they will understand when it’s a five mph state park speed limit and 11 old go 20mph on a beach trail and hit old ladies, & there is no open space left in the line-up and on the beach.”

Tyler Warren
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He mentioned how 9-15-year-old kids without licenses do dangerous stunts like wheelies in the middle of lanes and intersections. Then he talked about how e-bikers disturb the harmony and how they are “too lazy and busy to walk and take a moment.”

Are These Concerns Valid? 

Some people have chalked it up to conservative people being harsh with more progressive people, but according to regulars at beaches, the dangers are very real. 

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Just ask Fred Levine, who owns a beachfront home in Newport Beach. “It’s like stepping onto the 405 Freeway,” he said. Levine says he has seen people “get mowed down, dogs hit, and too many near misses to count.”

Beachfront house
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What Is the Government Doing About It? 

City leaders have been aware of the issues. According to reports, they have been studying how to manage the proliferation of e-bikes along beach routes but have stopped short of banning them.

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Maureen Cotton, president of the Central Newport Beach Community Assn., told the City Council during a meeting urging the authorities to address e-bikes in 2022: “What we’re witnessing on the boardwalk is mayhem.”

We Have COVID-19 to Thank for the Popularity of E-Bikes

The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the rise in the popularity of e-bikes.  

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E-bikes have been around for years. However, gyms were shut down during the pandemic, and people had to find alternative forms of exercise and recreation. Hence their growth. 

The Issue Is a Widespread One 

The popularity of e-bikes is not just restricted to one city but many in Orange County. It has become a dilemma as they try to balance the state’s climate goals, which require people to stop using their gas-fueled vehicles so often, with concerns about rider and pedestrian safety. 

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Rider and pedestrian safety are the foremost problems linked to e-bikes. They can travel at considerable speeds that can cause accidents, hence the concern. 

How Fast Do They Really Go? 

The top speed most e-bikes can reach is 20 mph. However, some newer models can reach 28 mph or higher. 

An e-bike
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E-bikes are classified under three categories under state law. Type 1 is a low-speed pedal-assisted bicycle, while type 2 has a pedal and a throttle. Type 3 bikes are faster and have pedal assistance. They also require riders to be at least 16 years old and wear helmets.

Accidents Have Been on the Rise 

The popularity of e-bikes also means more accidents. In the first ten months of 2022, staff of Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo documented 198 e-bike injuries. In 2021, doctors attended to 113 injuries.

Hospital ward
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Between January and October 2022, 78 of the 198 people who suffered an injury on an e-bike were not wearing helmets. 99 of them walked away with some head injury. 

The Most Common Accidents 

In 2022, at CHOC, a children’s hospital in Orange County, doctors have had to work on about 47 trauma patients and victims of e-bike-related injuries. 

Bike accident
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The most common accidents cause concussions, bone fractures, skull fractures, and facial fractures, according to Makenzie Ferguson, an injury prevention coordinator at the hospital.

What the Doctors Are Saying 

Tetsuya Takeuchi, the trauma medical director at Providence Mission Hospital, said: “My feeling about the whole situation with e-bikes is that we got a device a little bit too fast, and the culture is not completely set for it.”

An hospital in the US
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He continued: “It’s a convenient vehicle, it’s environmentally friendly — there’s a lot of advantages. But we need to think about the safety of the rider and the safety of the people around them.”

Banning – A Barely Working Solution

In response to e-bikes’ hazards, officials have resorted to banning them in some areas, especially coastal boardwalks. 

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Signs and stickers have also been made to communicate repercussions to those who flout the rules. In San Clemente, you get a $100 fine for using e-bikes on the beach or trail.

Unfortunately, many still use the bikes in these areas. This shows how much work still needs to be done to regulate their use. But should they be regulated in the first place? Would it matter if these people were using regular bikes?

The answer will always be subjective.

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