With a unanimous vote, leaders in Irvine on Tuesday, July 11, took the city’s first steps in implementing regulations for e-bikes and other forms of electric transportation. 

The new regulations come as the popularity of e-bikes continues to swell, a trend that Irvine’s Public Safety Department says has led to steep increases of bike collisions involving juveniles. 

During the meeting, Lieutenant Matthew McLaughlin from Irvine Police Department’s Traffic and Events Bureau, explained that traffic collisions involving bicycles in Irvine have increased nearly 200% since 2019. 

More specifically, according to McLaughlin, e-bike collisions in Irvine have jumped nearly 25% between 2021 and 2022. 

“Last year, there were 83 traffic collisions involving bicycles in Irvine, that total is 172% higher when compared to 2021 and nearly 200% higher when compared to 2020,” he said. “Thirty-four percent of the bicycle collisions in 2022 involved an e-bicycle, as compared to only 10% in 2021. Fifty-nine percent of the bicycle collisions in 2022 involved a juvenile, and 86% of the bicycle collisions in 2022 occurred less than 1,000 yards or less from a school.” 

In terms of new regulations, Irvine will soon be regulating many aspects of the road, including the direction in which e-bikes will be allowed to ride. 

Once implemented, e-bike and electronic scooter operators will need to ride in the same direction as traffic. E-bikes will also be subject to a speed limit of 28 MPH on the highway and 20 MPH on bike paths and trails. New regulations will also make it illegal to modify e-bikes to achieve higher speeds, and will also require passengers to have their own seat.  

“In many instances, the proposed ordinances would coincide with the California Vehicle Code. these suggested amendments are intended to discourage the dangerous bike riding behavior that has been identified as common primary collision factors (PCF) in many of the bicycle accidents in Irvine,” McLaughlin said. “The four most common PCF in 2022’s bicycle collisions were unsafe speed for the conditions, failed to yield the right of way, unsafe turning movements and stop sign violations.”

Despite the fact that Irvine prides itself on a bike-friendly master plan, prior to Tuesday’s discussion, the city’s municipal code did not contain regulations surrounding the use and operation of e-bikes. 

The new ordinances will also restrict e-bikes from entering the Irvine Open Space, due to potential lithium-ion battery fire danger. 

In 2022, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan asked public safety to present needed amendments to the city’s municipal code for city officials to consider. 

The amendments, introduced by Irvine Public Safety and the city’s Traffic Engineering Department in March, were ultimately approved by the city’s Transportation Commission in May. 

Weighing the benefits e-bikes bring to riders, Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim said she understands the popularity, but said that unfortunately the trend for many riders is to ignore the rules of the road.  

“I want to embrace e-bikes because I see the value in having them,” she said. “But I also see how it is very much abused.” 

The ordinance will be implemented after its second reading at an upcoming Irvine City Council meeting.  

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