San Diego has seen a surge of electric bikes on the streets and sidewalks. Electric bikes are different from regular bicycles in that they have a motor, battery to power the motor, drive train to integrate the motor, and a throttle to control power. E-bikes can achieve high acceleration and reach speeds of 25 mph or higher. As such, e-bike accidents often result in serious injuries to the head and neck. E-bikes can be owned or rented from e-bike sharing companies who typically provide little or no training up front, making accidents all the more likely.
One of the most common causes of e-bike accidents is failing to follow traffic safety rules. Rolling stop signs and failing to use turn signals are common traffic rule violations. Other common traffic rule violations include riding in prohibited areas (like sidewalks) and riding with two or more people on the bike.
Using a cell phone while riding a bike or e-bike is not illegal but is dangerous because it distracts the rider and affects their ability to control the bike and react to changing road conditions. Talking or texting while riding is a risky riding behavior which may cause an accident. Other risky riding behaviors include listening to music and using headphones while riding. Excessive speed and acceleration are common causes of e-bike accidents, as are running red lights, jay walking and failing to stop at stop signs. Drinking and riding is dangerous and illegal, and riding while fatigued is dangerous, too.
Liability for an e-bike accident depends on who caused the accident. Liable parties may include: the e-bike rider, vehicle drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, other e-bike riders, manufacturers, distributors, rental companies, and municipalities responsible for maintaining safe roads. E-bike rental companies have a duty to maintain their e-bikes in safe condition (motor, battery, chain, tires, and brakes) and may be held liable if their negligence caused an accident. Manufacturers and distributors may be held liable if a defective e-bike part they supplied causes an accident.
When ridden safely, e-bikes possess many great benefits. E-bikes enable the rider to cover longer distances than a bicycle, while still getting exercise and saving money on gas, insurance, car repairs, registration, and other costs of driving a car. E-bikes reduce vehicle traffic and are more space efficient than cars, which reduces traffic congestion on roads and in parking lots. E-bikes also protect the environment and save the rider time by avoiding traffic and parking hassles.
Following these tips will help you stay safe while e-biking:
E-bike riders must obey the same traffic rules as vehicles (CVC 21200). E-bike riders must use hand signals at turns (CVC 22108, CVC 22111). Children under 18 years old must wear a helmet while riding an e-bike (CVC 21212). Riding an e-bike with a passenger is illegal, unless there is a permanent passenger seat (CVC 21204). Riding e-bikes on the sidewalk is not permitted in many San Diego neighborhoods under local rules (CVC 21206). Riding e-bikes on the boardwalk is illegal (SDMC 84.18). E-bikes must be parked so as not to block sidewalks or bike paths (CVC 21210, CVC 21211).
California law divides e-bikes into three classes (CVC 312.5). Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes travel up to 20 mph and have a pedal assist. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes have no age requirement and can be ridden anywhere a bicycle can be ridden, unless specifically prohibited. The primary difference between Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes is that Class 2 e-bikes have a throttle assist, while Class 1 e-bikes do not. (CVC 312.5)
Class 3 e-bikes travel up to 28 mph, have pedal assist only (no throttle) and require the rider to be at least 16 years old (CVC 312.5, CVC 21213(a)). All riders of Class 3 e-bikes must wear a helmet, regardless of age (CVC 21213(b)). Class 3 e-bikes cannot be ridden on bike paths or trails which are not along the road (such as hiking and equestrian trails), unless specifically permitted (CVC 21207.5). Any e-bike that can go over 28 mph is not street legal.
Call 911 to have all injuries treated and have a police report made. Obtain a copy of the police report and maintain complete records of all treatment received. Contact a proven personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following the incident (before you contact an insurance company) to best preserve your legal rights.
James S. Iagmin Practice Areas – Brain Injuries
James S. Iagmin Practice Areas – Spinal Cord Injuries
City of San Diego, Bicycling, Authorized Shared Mobility Device Operators
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21200.5
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21200
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §22108
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §22111
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21212
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §312.5
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21213
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21207.5
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21204
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21206
San Diego Municipal Code, Article 4: Miscellaneous Driving Rules, Division 0: §84.18
California Legislative Information, California Vehicle Code §21210
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