Friday, December 8, 2023

The Buzz on Electric Bikes

While bicycles are everywhere in Coronado, electric bikes (e-bikes) have become increasingly popular with local riders of all ages. By law, electric bicycles have fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts which means they can travel at speeds up to 28 miles per hour. A typical human-powered bike travels between 6 to 12 miles per hour making e-bikes a faster, easier mode of transportation that does not require a driver’s license or vehicle registration.

Logan Berk and Liam Knapp take a ride on Liam’s e-bike.

Federal and state regulations require e-bikes to be labeled as one of three classes based on the level of motor assistance that determines where they can ride:

  • Class 1: Pedal assist; the rider pedals normally while the motor provides a boost up to 20 miles per hour. Can ride on any paved surface where regular bikes are allowed.
  • Class 2: Throttle; the rider does not need to peddle and can rely completely on the bike’s electric motor to travel up to 20 miles an hour. The rider can increase speed by also pedaling. Can ride on any paved surface where regular bikes are allowed.
  • Class 3: Faster pedal assist;  the motor boosts pedaling riders to speeds up to 28 mph. Can only ride on roads including bike lanes that are marked as part of the road. Riders must be over age 16 and wear a helmet
California’s e-bike policy according to the California Bicycle Coalition.

Most e-bikes around Coronado are Class 1 or Class 2 – meaning all ages can legally ride them on the bike paths and roads in town including under the Coronado bridge and along the Bayshore Bikeway parallel to the Silver Strand Highway. Similar to a traditional bicycle, e-bike riders must follow the same road rules as vehicle drivers including observing stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits, and yielding to pedestrians. 

E-bikes are typically more expensive than a traditional bicycle with prices ranging from under $500 to over $15,000. E-bikes for sale at Holland’s Bicycles in Coronado range from $1,600 to $12,000 with the lower priced models selling very well. Price differences are usually based on the number of watts, expected battery life, weight of the frame, and accessories such as racks and fenders. The proposed Build Back Better bill would offer up to $900 in credits per person for purchasing an e-bike which would make them accessible to more people. 

Electric bikes are powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that charges at a traditional 120-volt wall outlet. A full charge can take between two and six hours to provide between 25 and 50 miles of riding and costs between 4 and 12 cents per charge. The electricity to power e-bikes generates a small amount of emissions which makes e-bikes more environmentally friendly than a gas-powered car.

Coronado High School and Coronado Middle School (CMS) students are some of the newest e-bike riders as they appreciate the motor-powered boost up hills and across town. Students living in the Coronado Cays find e-bikes a convenient alternative to driving or the public bus for getting to and from the schools in the village. Local CMS student Liam Knapp enjoys riding his family’s e-bike, “It’s so fun to ride. You feel the wind as you pass everyone else and it makes it easier to ride up the hills to school.” Like many Coronado kids, Liam has a new e-bike at the top of his Christmas present list. 

A representative from the Coronado Police Department shared that speeding e-bikes have become an issue — especially in alleys and on the Bayshore Bikeway which both have a speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Coronado police have pulled over speeding e-bike riders and issued warnings, and they will ticket e-bike riders in the future. The police also expressed concern about the dangers of children e-bike riders neglecting to wear helmets and not observing stop and yield signs. 

Over half a million electric bikes were sold in the U.S. in 2020, and sales are expected to reach 130 million e-bikes by 2023, outselling even the most popular electric vehicles. Holland’s Bikes and Beyond at the Ferry Landing has over 30 e-bikes available for rent for those curious about the e-bike experience. As e-bikes continue to appeal to new riders, Coronado will likely see more e-bikes buzzing around town.


Chloe Berk
Chloe Berk
Chloe has called Coronado home since she could walk or talk and considers herself a true Islander. She is currently a student at Coronado High School and a writer for the Islander Times. After studying and writing articles, she enjoys volleyball, the beach, and her newly-adopted dogs from PAWS. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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