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Santa Cruz County moves to restrict e-bikes scooters from most sidewalks, parks


Written by KPIX STAFF

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KPIX-TV)- The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval Tuesday to an updated ordinance restricting electronic bikes and scooters from most sidewalks and parks.

The move comes ahead of a rollout of a bikeshare program that will see hundreds of the devices available by the year's end.

The change to the county code was proposed by Supervisor Manu Koenig and co-authored by Supervisor Zach Friend. Koenig said during the board's meeting that the changes were needed to update the ordinance regulating motorized bikes, such as mopeds, in the face of the growing prevalence of electronic bikes, scooters and skateboards.

The new law would restrict e-bikes and other devices from being ridden on sidewalks unless there is no available bikeway in the location, an exception Koenig said was designed to make riding safer for younger bicyclists who can't ride with traffic.

Some public commenters urged the board to scrap that allowance and ban the devices from sidewalks altogether.

"We need to have sidewalks that are safe," said public commenter Jean Brocklebank. 

She said her disabilities made it difficult to avoid a fast-moving bike riding on the sidewalk. She objected to the lack of clarity on which sidewalks would be exempt.

"We have to make this ordinance stronger," Brocklebank said.

E-bikes would also be banned from use in county parks, unless explicitly allowed by the Parks Department.

Violations would remain infractions.

The proposed ordinance comes as the county is preparing to introduce as many as 600 e-bikes in 2024 through a contract with the bikeshare company BCycle Electric. Up to 2,000 e-bikes could be introduced in the county by 2029, according to Koenig.

State law defines three classes of e-bike, depending on their speed, motor, and the availability of a throttle, but leaves their regulation to local jurisdictions. Top speeds generally range between 20-28 mph.

Supervisor Justin Cummings said the move was a first step and said installing more bike lanes would be a good next step.

The draft ordinance was approved unanimously and will be taken up again for a final vote at an upcoming meeting. 

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