Half Moon Bay City Council Threads the Needle on E-bikes

The Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay. Photo credit: Runner1928, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Half Moon Bay City Council made a wise decision on April 4 to allow electric bicycles (e-bikes) on its two paved, multi-use trails along Highway One, while prohibiting them on the recreational Coastal Trail. Green Foothills had recommended this nuanced approach, noting that e-bikes and other e-devices (e-scooters and e-skateboards) are a motorized form of transportation and should be limited to trails where there are fewer potential impacts to other trail users, wildlife, and sensitive habitats.

As we noted in our letter to the Council, the Naomi Patridge and Eastside Parallel Trails are 12-foot wide, paved, multi-use trails adjacent to Highway One; are designed and built as multi-use transportation facilities; and can accommodate a wide variety of users traveling at different speeds.

In contrast to these transportation trails, the Coastal Trail is primarily a recreation and nature-oriented trail, has variable surfaces and widths, and is located adjacent to numerous sensitive habitats. As such, the Coastal Trail doesn’t have sufficient width and design to serve as a transportation trail. Allowing e-bikes could also create a serious safety issue for people with disabilities and for small children who are at greater risk of being injured by speeding cyclists; enforcement of speed limits is difficult at best. Many Coastal Trail users are also seeking the restorative benefits of connecting with nature and appreciating its scenic beauty, and would be disturbed by speeding e-bikes.

The City Council, citing speed and safety concerns, unanimously rejected the staff recommendation that would have allowed all classes of e-bikes on all trails in the city, and instead directed staff to come back with an ordinance allowing them on the two commuter trails along Highway One. Some electric vehicles, including Segways and motorized wheelchairs, which the State classifies as “electric personal assistive mobility devices,” will continue to be allowed on all trails.

This decision is consistent with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s decision in June 2022, where we also advocated for limiting e-bikes to the District’s paved and improved trails at Ravenswood and San Antonio Open Space Preserves.

We will continue to be involved in supporting the City Council’s decision, as well as appropriate uses and locations for e-bikes and e-devices within nearby jurisdictions, including State and County Parks.

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