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    Board trying to nanny OC e-bike riders
    • June 12, 2024

    Whenever we see lawmakers rush to impose new regulations, we like to remind readers about one of the core traits of a free society: self-regulation. If most people behave in a reasonable and conscientious manner, there’s little need for government intervention. This concept is the starting point on our thoughts about Orange County’s new e-bike rules.

    Orange County’s Board of Supervisors recently passed rules governing those electric-powered bicycles that now are ubiquitous on roads and trails. Supervisor Katrina Foley, who spearheaded the effort, has complained that e-bike accidents have soared 500 percent over four years. Residents have complained about riders speeding on sidewalks – and “street takeovers,” where dozens of riders snarl traffic and pop wheelies.

    Those concerns are legitimate, but accidents and complaints are up largely because the usage of e-bikes has increased exponentially over that time. Those street takeovers are annoying, but they are fairly uncommon – and police already have tools available to deal with road-blocking pranksters.

    California has been trying to encourage e-bike usage to reduce car reliance, so overregulating their use runs counter to those goals. The OC rules impose speed limits of 28 mph, require helmet use for those under 18, require e-bikes to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and make a distinction between e-bikes and more-powerful motorized bicycles which already require DMV licensing.

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    The code also forbids “unsafe operation” of bicycles or e-bikes. Riders may not operate bikes “in any manner that endangers any person or animal,” the rule explains. Some OC cities passed similar bans on “unsafe” riding. That term seems vague – and the entire package strikes us as unnecessarily complex. We can’t imagine that police agencies will devote the resources to operate bicycle speed traps.

    According to the rules, “No person shall operate a bicycle or electric bicycle at a speed that is greater than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for other users and the surface, width and grade of the road.” That’s certainly the right standard, however difficult to enforce. But, seriously, did we really need a new law to say as much?

    ​ Orange County Register