What Are the Dangers of Electric Bikes in Newport Beach?

A proliferation of electric bicycles and other motorized vehicles on the Newport Beach boardwalk has raised safety concerns among city leaders and the public.

The Newport Beach City Council has responded by adopting an ordinance setting a speed limit for electric bicycles and other motorized transportation devices and increasing maximum fines for violations from $50 to $200, according to the Daily Pilot, a local LA Times publication.

Under the newly adopted ordinance, the speed limit on the boardwalk is 8 mph. Electric bicycles have motors that will generate speeds up to 20 mph or faster.

Many of Newport Beach’s users of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are new to the vehicles, such as tourists or day-trippers who have rented them for a few hours of fun. Their inexperience and unfamiliarity with local laws and speed limits can make them dangerous riders.

If you have been injured in an e-bike accident in Newport Beach that was not your fault, the Orange County personal injury lawyers of Sam & Ash Injury Law are ready to assist you.

We may be able to recover compensation to help you pay for your medical bills and cover other losses such as sick leave and vacation leave you had to burn because of your injuries.

Increase in E-Bike Accidents in Orange County

In November, a CBS2 Los Angeles report headlined “Orange County Sees Spike In E-Bike Accidents” cited a 500% increase in electric bike accidents from a year ago at Providence Mission Hospital Mission Viejo.

“The most common injuries are broken bones, arms, and legs, followed by head injuries, followed by internal organ injuries,” Dr. Tetsuya Takeuchi, a trauma surgeon at Mission Hospital, told CBS2.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon, whose district includes the 3-mile Balboa Peninsula boardwalk, said boardwalk safety has been the No. 1 issue in all her town hall meetings. “The reason we’re sitting here tonight, and we have a room full of people…  is that people are violating these fundamental laws of our city … cavalierly and with impunity,” Dixon told a Council meeting in September.

What Is An Electric Bike In California?

California law defines electric bikes as bicycles with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.

California classifies three types of e-bikes:

  • Class 1: A low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when a speed of 20 mph is reached.
  • Class 2: A low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor used exclusively to propel the bicycle and NOT capable of providing assistance when a speed of 20 mph is reached.
  • Class 3: A low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a speedometer and a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when a speed of 28 mph is reached.

All Class 3 e-bike riders must by law:

  • Be 16 years old or older
  • Wear a bicycle safety helmet
  • Not transport passengers

Class 3 e-bikes are allowed in bike lanes adjacent to public roads but are not allowed on bike paths or trails unless authorized by local ordinance. Local governments may restrict or specify the conditions for the operation of all classes of e-bicycles on paths or trails.

In addition to establishing an 8 mph speed limit on the boardwalk, Newport Beach’s new ordinance declares that “No person using the boardwalk shall engage in any activity on the boardwalk that creates an unreasonable risk of injury to any person.”

It also establishes a “walk zone” for bicycles and motorized transportation devices (including e-bikes) in the plaza at the base of the Newport Pier and authorizes the city’s traffic engineer to establish other special restrictions on bicyclists, pedestrians, e-cyclists, and roller skaters.

Safety Rules for California E-Bike Riders

All e-bike riders must follow the same rules of the road that other cyclists follow. Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the road in the same direction as traffic and obey traffic signs and signals.

They have the same requirements as any slow-moving vehicle to stay to the right. Wearing a helmet is required by law for anyone under 18 and is the proper safety measure for any bike rider.

The Newport Beach Police Department recently advised the public that bicyclists need to use lights from dusk to dawn, with a front white light and rear red flashing light or reflectors.

Meanwhile, motorists are required to provide at least three feet of space when passing bike riders. Motorists should yield to bicyclists at intersections and as directed by signs and signals, and should be especially careful making turns.

When opening a car door or pulling out of a parking space, motorists should look out for approaching bicyclists to prevent hitting a cyclist.

Potential Dangers of E-Bikes

An early study of e-bikes found not only that the higher speeds pose a danger, but that less experienced e-bike users don’t understand the vehicle’s power. One example is over-acceleration and subsequent loss of control when an inexperienced user begins a ride.

The researchers also said that elderly riders appreciate motor-assisted pedaling, but there is a higher safety risk because of their inability to control the faster bicycles.

An e-bike becomes dangerous to pedestrians and others when the rider fails to follow traffic rules or recklessly disregards the rules and speed limits.

A bicycle accident typically ends with the rider thrown to the ground. This may follow a collision with a pedestrian, another bicyclist, motor vehicle, tree, or any kind of structure.

These accidents can cause blunt-force trauma to anyone involved, including:

  • Broken bones, particularly arms, legs, hands, and facial fractures
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Sprains and strains, particularly affecting the lower back or major joints, such as knees, ankles, and elbows
  • Cuts and bruises

Contact Our Newport Beach E-Bike Accident Lawyers

If you have been injured in an e-bike crash that wasn’t your fault, the at-fault party may be held responsible for your medical bills, property damage, loss of income from missed work, and any other losses from the accident.

At Sam & Ash Injury Law, our e-bike accident lawyers understand e-bike accidents and the negligence that often causes them. We’re ready to provide you with personalized legal services geared toward you and your unique case.

Call us 24/7 at 949-304-2000 or contact us online so we can help you get What’s Right. There are no fees until we win, and we’ll always fight for you.


Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.