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Encinitas lawmaker proposes making electric bikes illegal for kids under age of 12

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-25 10:22:53-04

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) - The recent death of an Encinitas teenager riding an electric bike has local and state leaders looking at the safety of e-bikes.

Brodee Champlain-Kingman,15, died just over a month ago after getting hit by a work van while trying to make a left turn onto Santa Fe Avenue from South El Camino Real in Encinitas

Zachary Joelson is a graduate of San Dieguito Academy, where Brodee had just finished his first year.

"It's sad, but it’s also gonna at least turn this around and take advantage of this opportunity to really promote safety with E-bikes," Joelson said.

Days after Brodee's death, the Encinitas City Council declared a local state of emergency over e-bikes.

Now, a North County lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that she believes will protect riders.

Assemblymember Tasha Boerner wants to require a written test and a state-issued photo ID for those without a driver's license, AB 530 would prohibit kids under 12 from riding e-bikes, and it would create an e-bike training program.

"We should consider maybe 13, 14 or 15-year-olds be exempt from e-bikes," said Niko Sougias, owner of Charlie's Electric Bike in Encinitas.

The business owner and father of two says the proposed law is a good start.

”I just cringe anytime I see a kid almost get hit, and it’s like, what are we? Do we want kids to die and ride bikes and be free and all that, or do we just want kids to be safe and not die; I want kids to be safe and not die," Sougias said.

Former Olympic cyclist and Encinitas resident Shaun Wallace says he's generally not a fan of more regulation.

"Anything that regulates cycling is likely to have a net negative effect whether it’s requiring licensing, or registration or helmets overall because the benefits so outweigh the risks," said Wallace.

But he says e-bikes and young riders might be the exception.

"Perhaps kids under 12 don’t really need an e-bike. It’s not like they’re going off doing the grocery shopping or commuting to work, so if they have to actually pedal the thing themselves on 100% kid power. I think that’s probably not a bad thing either," said Wallace.

Critics of the bill question how it would be enforced. They also question how many riders under the age of 12 have been involved in accidents.

The following is the text of AB 530.

"Existing law defines an electric bicycle and classifies electric bicycles into three classes with different restrictions. Under existing law, an electric bicycle is a bicycle, and rules pertaining to the operation of bicycles apply to electric bicycles. Existing law prohibits a person under 16 years of age from operating a class 3 electric bicycle. A violation of the Vehicle Code is a crime.

This bill would prohibit a person under 12 years of age from operating an electric bicycle of any class. The bill would state the intent of the Legislature to create an e-bike license program with an online written test and a state-issued photo identification for those persons without a valid driver’s license, prohibit persons under 12 years of age from riding e-bikes, and create a stakeholders working group composed of the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the Transportation Agency, bicycle groups, policy and fiscal staff, and other relevant stakeholders to work on recommendations to establish an e-bike training program and license. Because the bill would prohibit certain persons from riding electric bicycles, the violation of which would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.