Aliso Viejo has approved new regulations to control the use of motorized recreational transportation like e-bikes in hopes of heightening the safety of both the public and the riders.  

The City Council voted unanimously in September to give final approval to the ordinance that will amend the existing municipal code on pedestrian, bicycle, and skateboard regulations as well as motorized recreational transportation. This amendment will now allow law enforcement officials to cite illegally-operated electronically-powered modes of transportation that have been growing in popularity in both public spaces and privately-owned parks. This move follows an extensive push by residents of Aliso Viejo for the City Council to take action.  

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“It’s a really explosive event,” City Manager David Doyle said during the council meeting. “I don’t think I’ve seen more emails about a certain subject over a short period of time.” 

Capt. Scott Merrill, the city’s chief of police services, also said motorized bikes, scooters, and boards have been the subjects of one of the biggest complaints the department has seen in the last several months.  

Other cities in Orange County have been experiencing popularization of motorized recreational vehicles as well. In January, San Clemente banned the use of e-bikes on the pier, beaches, and certain trails after debating the issue since 2018. The California Department of Parks and Recreation prohibited the use of e-bikes in state parks last year, limiting their use to designated areas and public roadways.  

Aliso Viejo’s new ordinance will prohibit motorized vehicles on sidewalks in heavily-populated areas, specifically commercial complexes or sidewalks near school buildings, churches, or recreational centers while those facilities are in use. All forms of motorized transport are also prohibited to be ridden in any parking lots or property owned and/or operated by the city, according to a city staff report.

On sidewalks where operation is permitted, a speed limit of 5 mph will be enforced for all vehicles. The city’s public works director is to post and maintain signs adjacent to sidewalks indicating the limits and prohibitions of the area.  

Motorized boards and scooters are not permitted to be operated in public parks except in designated areas established by the public works director or for privately-owned parks by the park’s owner. Electric bikes are permitted for use only on designated trails or roads. In these areas, the speed limit for e-bikes is 10 mph. There are three different classes of e-bikes that set age requirements and other rules for the riders. This regulation applies to all of them, according to the ordinance.

Mayor Ross Chun emphasized that all of these conditions are established to prioritize the reduction of collisions and injuries.

“The safety of the public and the safety of the riders is being considered and focused on,” Chun said.  

Aliso Viejo resident Brad Trevethan owns an electric scooter, motorized board, and a toddler e-bike. Trevethan has witnessed the risks associated with reckless riding of these motorized vehicles firsthand.  

“I agree with the sidewalk speed limit,” said Trevethan during a recent interview at a park.

He said he had seen a child riding too fast on an e-bike almost collide with a woman and her dog.  

The proposed ordinance gives “law enforcement the ability (to) issue citations in both public and private parks, provided appropriate signs are posted,” according to the city staff report. 

Merrill, the chief of police services, indicated that often a warning will come first.     

City Manager David Doyle said during the council meeting that the city wants riders to understand the impacts of their activity.

“Our focus has always been on education,” he said. 

Merrill explained that citations become necessary when the education approach does not work. 

The city says the main purpose of the new ordinance is to make sure everyone riding these vehicles is doing it in a safe manner and as a result reduce the number of traffic collisions involving these vehicles.  

This ordinance will go into effect by Oct. 21. 

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