Orange County Is Cracking Down on Dangerous E-Bike Use

New E-Bike Regulations in Orange County

riding e-bikes

Due to a surge in e-bike accidents and complaints about people misusing electric bicycles, Orange County is implementing new e-bike restrictions on county trails and roads. Local leaders have debated for years how to handle one of the most popular non-automobile vehicles in Orange County, which residents say is regularly misused. 

A popular debate is how e-bike speed levels should be regulated. While some e-bikes can only reach about 20 mph, others can go nearly 30 mph without a licensed operator. According to Bill Sellin, one of the directors of the OC Bicycle Coalition, the bikes causing issues in Orange County aren’t technically e-bikes but motorized bicycles or zero-emission motorcycles (ZEMs). These motorized bicycles are often marketed as electric bicycles despite going much faster than permitted by California law.

The OC Board of Supervisors approved a series of new regulations intended to protect e-bike riders and other road users.


What Are the New E-Bike Rules in Orange County?

  • No one under the age of 16 years old is permitted to ride a Class 3 e-bike.
  • All people who ride Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets on roads, bikeways, and trails.
  • E-bike users must yield to pedestrians and equestrians while using sidewalks.
  • E-bikers are not permitted more than two abreast on roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks.
  • Multiple people are not allowed to ride on the same bike unless it is a tandem bicycle or they have a small child with their own seat.


3 Classes of Electric Bikes

california ebike laws

Class 1 E-Bikes

Class 1 e-bikes are often considered the most similar to conventional bicycles. They provide an extra boost for uphill climbs or longer rides. They are equipped with a motor that assists the rider only when they are pedaling, and this assistance cuts off once the bike reaches 20 mph. 

Class 2 E-Bikes

Class 2 e-bikes have a throttle-activated motor that can propel the bike without pedaling. Unlike Class 1, the motor assistance stops assisting the rider once they reach 20 mph. The key difference lies in the throttle feature, which allows the rider to cruise without continuous pedaling. This makes Class 2 e-bikes particularly appealing for those who need occasional breaks from pedaling. 

Class 3 E-Bikes

Class 3 e-bikes provide pedal assistance up to 28 miles per hour. They are the fastest e-bikes allowed on public roads, and because of their higher speeds, they come with stricter regulations. Class 3 e-bikes are generally prohibited on bike paths or trails unless specifically authorized by a local ordinance.


California E-Bike Laws

Age Restrictions

  • Currently, there are no specific age restrictions for Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes.
  • Riders of Class 3 e-bikes must be at least 16 years old.

Helmet Laws

  • All riders under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets when operating any class of e-bike.
  • For Class 3 e-bikes, helmets are mandatory for all riders, regardless of age. 

Licensing and Registration

E-bikes are not considered motor vehicles under the California Vehicle Code. Unlike motor-driven cycles and mopeds, most e-bikes in California do not require a motorcycle license to operate them. Therefore, electric bikes are exempt from the motor vehicle financial responsibility, driver’s license, and license plate requirements. However, electric bicycle riders must adhere to the same rules of the road as all other cyclists.


Electric Bicycles vs. Zero-Emission Motorcycles

electric motor bikes

E-bikes have pedals and provide motor assistance to enhance pedaling. Electric bikes must not exceed 750 watts and must not exceed 28 mph. Electric bike motors must disengage when brake functions are applied. Unlike e-bikes, zero-emission motorcycles do not have pedals and rely solely on motor power for propulsion. Under California law, ZEMs must be registered with the DMV and cannot ride in bicycle lanes. 


Are E-Bikes Dangerous?

In urban areas like Orange County, e-bike accidents are becoming more common. According to CBS News, a hospital in Orange County has reported a 500% increase in electric bike accidents compared to this time last year.

Unlike conventional bicycles, electric bicycles can reach higher speeds with minimal effort. Electric bikes can be dangerous, and riders of e-bikes are at a higher risk of severe injury and death than traditional bike users. Between 2017 and 2022, there were approximately 53,000 emergency department visits and 104 deaths related to e-bikes. In 2022 alone, there were 24,400 emergency department visits related to electric bikes.


Common Injuries Sustained in E-Bike Accidents

The higher speeds of e-bikes compared to traditional bicycles often lead to more significant impacts during collisions. Common injuries sustained in e-bike accidents include:

  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Head injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Abrasions and lacerations
  • Sprains and strains
  • Contusions
  • Facial injuries
  • Internal injuries


Where Can I Ride My E-Bike in Santa Ana?

bicycle path

In Santa Ana, e-bike riders can enjoy a variety of bike paths and routes, though it’s essential to know the local regulations. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are generally permitted on bike lanes, multi-use paths, equestrian trails, and recreational trails.

Class 3 electric bicycles are not permitted on any bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, hiking or recreational trail, or bikeway unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway. The other exception is if the local authority with jurisdiction over the path or trail permits e-bikes by ordinance.


Electric Bicycle Safety Tips

  1. Check your e-bike each time before you ride
  2. Wear a helmet
  3. Install both a bell and a horn on your bike
  4. Take an e-bike safety course
  5. Wear appropriate safety gear and protective clothing
  6. Use reflective gear while cycling to increase your visibility
  7. Add a mirror to your e-bike to enhance rear visibility
  8. Follow traffic laws and speed limits


Contact a Santa Ana E-Bike Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in an e-bike accident caused by another person’s negligence, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced Santa Ana electric bike accident lawyer. At Riverview Accident Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping personal injury victims recover full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses.

We maintain a 99% success rate and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Our bicycle accident attorney can help you pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. Call Riverview Accident Lawyers to schedule a free case evaluation today.