Surge in E-Bike Riders Has Some Educators Worried About Student Safety

NBC 7 Responds looks at the surge in e-bike usage among students and the efforts to keep them safe.

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Electric bicycles -- e-bikes -- seem to be everywhere these days, especially in North County, with teens and younger children early adopters of the ever-more popular devices.

"Back in April when kids came back to school, bike racks were flooded with bikes," said Miriam Kramer, the assistant principal at Diegueno Middle School, in Encinitas. "E-bikes weren't really a big thing up until this most recent school year."

Kramer said there haven't been any accidents at the school, but they're proactively working to keep students safe.

"They're fast and essentially [are] motorized vehicles," Kramer said. "12-, 13-, 14-year-olds aren't aware of the rules of the road."

The school has partnered with organizations like the San Diego Bike Coalition and the California Highway Patrol to teach students how to ride safely.

"It started as a means to get easily and quickly to the beach, and now it's an easy means to get to school," Kramer said. "Our goal is: Every student who rides a bike, e-bike, scooter to school, take these trainings."

Encinitas schools are offering classes to students, but some parents took it a step further.

"My parents said, if I want to e-bike, I'd have to take driver's ed," said Lachlan McDermott, a 10th-grader. "I just ride every day, and my parents don't need to drive me."

Kramer said so many students are riding the bikes to school that the spacious bike racks are now almost completely full. Students say they enjoy having the ability to go where they please.

"I've never gotten close to getting hit, but there's always the possibility," said Adam Cassar, a high school junior8. "With it comes a sense of freedom -- you get to go hang out with your buddies without your mom and dad dropping you off and picking you up."

Encinitas is one of the few school districts in the county with policies and training specific to the increase in e-bike usage.

"You're seeing lots more kids on e-bikes riding in groups, competing with cars," said Chuck Adams, assistant principal at Oak Crest Middle School. "Students need to be educated on what side of the street to ride on; to ride with traffic, not against it; helmets; and one rider per bike."

NBC 7 reached out to several school districts around the county to see if they had policies specific to e-bike usage.

  • Cajon Valley Union School District said they only had a small percentage of students who ride bicycles to school
  • Oceanside Unified School District said it was too early in the school year to comment on e-bikes, but existing bike safety tips are on its website
  • San Diego Unified School District has tips on bicycle safety and other ways to get to school here
  • South Bay Union School District pointed us to the existing pledge and safe route program for parents and students riding bicycles

"I think these came on pretty fast, and there's not really a lot of education or rules around them," said parent Triton Hurd. "Generally. I think it's safe, especially if you stay in the slower streets."

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