Hermosa police find it difficult to balance enforcement of e-bikes

by Kevin Cody

On July 4, Hermosa Beach police staged an undercover operation on the Hermosa Beach Strand. Their targets were e-bike riders using pedal assist to break The Strand’s eight-mile-per-hour speed limit.

Officers on either side of the pier radioed descriptions of e-cyclists speeding to officers at the pier, where a flashing red light signals cyclists to walk.

“Some people stood in front of us, demanding to know if we had better things to do. Some people cheered,” Police Chief Paul LeBaron said in an interview last week.

Hermosa Beach Police Officer G. Rodriquez cites an electric cyclist during a police crackdown on the Hermosa Strand on July 4. Photo courtesy of HBPD/FB

Electric bikes have become an increasingly polarizing issue in beach towns, especially on the Hermosa Strand. Letters to editors demand more citations be issued for speeding and using stop signs. E-bike proponents, whose numbers have grown to compete with pedal-powered cyclists, cite the health, environmental and convenience benefits of e-bikes. No more driving around the block looking for a parking space. More parking tickets.

In the first quarter of 2021, coinciding with the first anniversary of the pandemic, e-bike sales were up 162% from the year-ago quarter, according to the NPD Group (New Product Development Group).

Across the country, police are caught in the middle of the e-bike debate. Locally, the debate centers around kids on e-bikes and e-bikes on The Strand. Nationally, it’s over for e-bikes on hiking trails, where use has increased 50% during the pandemic, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

During a presentation to city council on Tuesday, Aug. 9, Hermosa Beach Police Chief Paul LeBaron characterized his department’s response to e-bikes as emphasizing education rather than training. application.

Educational strategies he mentioned include electronic warning signs, contacting parents of minors who violate traffic laws, working with the school district at bike rodeos, and telling bike shop owners to warn customers that electric assistance on The Strand is illegal.

Cris Bennett, owner of the newly renovated Good Stuff on The Strand, offers plenty of parking for e-bike customers. Photo by Kevin Cody

At the same council meeting, school board chair Stephen McCall told the council about a cycling education program developed by students at Valley School.

“We knew if the adults developed the program, the kids would ignore it,” McCall said.

The students produced two videos on bicycle safety and came up with the acronym SMART (Snap helmet. MBe sure to look both ways. AAlways follow the rules. Rdon’t forget to stop. Jtake your time).

During last week’s interview, following the August 9 council meeting, Chief LeBaron emphasized his department’s focus on education rather than law enforcement.

“When we see a child leaving school with a helmet, we give them five to give them positive reinforcement. If there is a helmet on the bike that is not being worn, we will encourage them to put it on. If there is no helmet, or if a child is blatant, we will contact their parents.

Some parents are grateful. Some parents get angry and challenge the legality of the arrest, he says.

The chief said he was not aware of any serious accidents involving e-bikes at Hermosa Beach, but added that he

think e-bikes are more dangerous than pedal bikes due to their weight and speed. But he declined to suggest at what age children should be allowed to ride e-bikes.

“I saw adults and children driving recklessly. The X factor is the driver,” he said.

His department does not have statistics on the number of e-bike traffic citations issued, he said.

“Vehicle violation statistics are based on vehicle code. They don’t break out if the citations are for bicycles, cars, motorcycles, skateboards or scooters,” he said.

In January of this year, former Hermosa Beach council member Jim Rosenberger submitted a public record request to the City Clerk’s office, asking, “How many tickets in the Downtown Strand have been issued for e-bikes at the past six months?”

The City Clerk’s Office responded with a letter stating: “Enclosed is a copy of the single citation that has been issued to an e-bike in downtown Strand for the past six months.”

Redondo Beach police, when asked about the e-bike enforcement, also did not provide numbers for the citations issued. But in May, the department began tracking e-bike crashes. According to Redondo Police Detective Scot Martin, Redondo Police responded to three traffic collisions with e-bikes in May, two in June, none in July, and one in August (as of August 16).

Detective Martin said one of the e-bike accidents was with a pedal cyclist. He said car drivers were responsible for most other e-bike crashes.

Like the Hermosa police, the Redondo police make students aware of the importance of respecting the highway code. During the first two days of the current school year, Detective Martin said, Redondo police spoke to students and issued violation warnings as well as educational flyers. Following the education effort, the department will begin issuing e-bike citations for traffic violations, Detective Martin said.

Redondo e-bike programs respond to resident complaints about e-bikes.

“We gave these kids rockets,” Detective Martin said.

“It’s a complex question,” said chef Hermosa LeBaron. “If we’re out there in uniform, e-bike riders are obeying the law.” But it’s hard to measure how many e-bikers are complying with the law because of the department’s education efforts, he added.

An HBPD electric motorcycle patrolling the Hermosa Strand on July 4. Photo courtesy of HBPD/FB

Trick Electric Bikes in downtown Hermosa Beach is one of the electric bike shops working with the Hermosa Police. Owner Cliff Hough opened the story in January and struggled to keep up with demand for sales and rentals. Last Sunday, at 4 p.m., his 20 electric bike rentals were over.

Hough recently held a bike registration day at his store.

“The police set up a tent and entered the registration numbers of the bicycles into their system. So if a stolen bike is recovered, the police can find the owner,” he said.

Hough said he warns his customers that they will get a ticket if they use the electric assist on The Strand. His suggestion for solving the problem of e-bike speeders on The Strand is to put the police on The Strand, on e-bikes.

“I was on The Strand last night. Kids were screaming at 20 miles an hour. I would do what the police do to stop drunk driving. Set up checkpoints for e-bikes,” a he declared. Emergency room

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