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City Council Passes E-Bike Ordinance

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E-bike riders in Irvine will have to follow a speed limit of 28 miles per hour on streets and 20 miles per hour on bike paths. Riders will also be required to travel with the flow of traffic on streets and sidewalks under a new ordinance approved by the City Council at its July 11th meeting.
 
In addition, the ordinance requires e-bikes to yield to all pedestrians and vehicles when entering a roadway from an alley or driveway; bans e-bikes from the City’s Open Space areas; and prohibits people from tinkering with their e-bikes to increase their speed capability.
 
The ordinance was recommended to the Council by the Irvine Police Department (IPD) and the City’s Transportation Commission, in response to the Council’s October 2022 request that an ordinance addressing e-bikes be drafted.
 
In presenting the ordinance to the Council for approval, IPD Lt. Matt McLaughlin said that the number of bicycle-involved accidents in Irvine doubled in the last two years, driven mainly by a sharp increase in accidents involving e-bikes. He also noted that 80% of the accidents occurred within 1,000 feet of a school, and close to half involved bikes proceeding on sidewalks against the flow of street traffic.
 
McLaughlin showed video of an e-bike battery fire that took place in May, which the Fire Department had difficulty extinguishing because of the nature of the lithium ion batteries used on most e-bikes. The fire hazard posed by the batteries makes them especially problematic for Open Space trails. Due to the fire hazard, IPD, OC Fire Authority, and OC Parks staff recommended that e-bikes be banned from those trails.
 
Public commenters were divided, with some recounting distressing incidents with e-bikes and others defending e-bikes as environmentally friendly and a low-cost transportation alternative for students and low-income persons.
 
The provision requiring bikes to move on sidewalks in the same direction as the adjacent street traffic drew particular criticism, with some saying it would force riders to go across busy streets to get on the other side of the street in order to be riding with the flow of traffic.
 
There was also some sharp questioning from Councilmembers about enforcement and whether the ordinance went too far or, conversely, not far enough. In the end, however, after motions to delay or amend the ordinance failed, the Council voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance as presented.
Roger Bloom

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