San Clemente city officials are cracking down on e-bike usage, after complaints from residents who say they’re endangering people on the beach, pier and coastal trails.

City council voted unanimously last Tuesday in favor of the ordinance banning e-bikes. This decision comes after various accidents and reports of e-bikes flying down narrow paths on the coastal trails.

“There is really no room for e-bikes on the pier, down by the pier or on the Beach Trail,” San Clemente resident Jenifer Massey said at the meeting.

“I almost got killed by a grown man going 30 miles per hour at an area where it says ‘Walk bikes’ down by the pier that nobody observes.”

San Clemente resident Jenifer Massey

All bicycles are already banned on bridges, and signage directs riders to walk their bikes across these structures. Last year, the council placed restrictions, like speed limits, on e-bikes, but not a ban.

The new ordinance also bars bike-riding along Corto Lane, an especially narrow trail that slims down to just five feet.

“It’s down to a public safety factor,” San Clemente resident Susan Ambrose said at the Jan. 18 meeting. “It’s been dangerous … the community would feel much safer without electric bicycles on the coastal trail.”

Samantha Wylie, the beaches, parks and recreation director, said this 300-yard section is the most narrow of all municipal trails. 

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The council has been debating e-bike usage since 2018. 

From March to December 2021, city officials used an online portal to gather public input regarding e-bikes and bicycles in the city’s beaches, parks, sidewalks, streets and trails. 

Of the 367 comments the city received, 34% were directed at trail activity, with 89% of the overall trail comments directed toward the beach trails.

City officials moved forward to implement the ban after getting resident feedback through the portal.

“Most of the comments were focused on trail activity, and I will say a lot of them are very specific to the Beach Trail as well, we saw that ring very loudly,” Wylie said at the Dec. 21 council meeting. “The other component that we saw come forward is a concern and various incidents that occured on streets and sidewalks as well.”

Although the new ordinance only applies to the beach, pier and coastal trails, city staff said a discussion regarding sidewalks and streets will also come forward later this year.

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Some residents pointed out the difference between riding e-bikes on the inland trails instead of the beach trails. 

“During COVID-19, these bike paths and trails have been a God-send to me and have provided a safe source of exercise and a place to get some needed fresh air and sunlight,” San Clemente resident Patrick Brashear said at the Jan. 18 meeting. “Without the assistance of my e-bike, these trails would be out of my reach.”

Although the original ordinance included all municipal trails in the ban, the council amended the prohibition to include just the coastal trails.

“There’s no problem [on the inland trails],” Councilmember Laura Ferguson said during the meeting. “They’re much wider trails. I don’t believe the city has received problems in the times we’ve addressed e-bikes, even last year, we didn’t have any issues presented to us on those mountainous, inland municipal trails.”

San Clemente city officials have also implemented e-bike and bicycle safety events aimed mostly at youth. 

For example, a “Bike Safety Rodeo” in partnership with San Clemente Police Services focused on the safe use of e-bikes and general bicycle safety.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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