E-Bikes: balancing safety and sustainability


James Gregor

E-Bikes rest against bleachers near the baseball field.

While Marin residents express differences of opinion regarding Electric Biking (E-Bike) safety, the death of a local Sausalito resident rekindled these debates. While walking on the Mill Valley/Sausalito Multiuse Pathway, James Charles Gordan was struck and killed by an E-Bike on Aug 31, 2022. He was 63 years old.

E-Bikes initially gained popularity due to their environmental sustainability and convenience. According to CalBike, an informational website focusing on E-Bike safety, the average electrical bicycle releases 40-140 times fewer pounds of greenhouse gasses than a 30 mile per gallon car. Additionally, most E-Bike riders spend less than a penny per mile to charge their bikes.  

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC), in an effort to reduce E-Bike related injuries, promotes safe E-Biking practices. 

“The fact that people of all ages are foregoing cars for E-Bikes is a net good for our planet and our community, but let’s take this time to stop and consider our behavior,” MCBC said.

Junior Max Lefferts accelerates past pedestrians on his way home after school. (James Gregor)

Many high school-aged E-Bike riders decide not to wear helmets while riding their E-Bikes, while moving at speeds around 20-30 miles per hour. To address such issues, MCBC advocates for E-Bike riders to regularly wear helmets, and follow basic street rules such as stopping at stop signs and staying within the speed limit.

“Parents, please consider the power you are placing in your teen’s hands…just as drivers need to be courteous and safe while traveling around bicyclists and pedestrians, adult riders (especially those on E-Bikes) must set an example for how to safely ride around people walking,” the MCBC said.  

Liz F. uses Nextdoor to voice her concern regarding the dangerous use of E-Bikes around Marin.

“Multiple kids, as young as 11 or 12, are flying down the roads here in Fairfax at 20 miles per hour easily on E-Bikes – no helmets, no stopping at stop signs,” Liz said.

Kirstin A., another Nextdoor user, argues that since E-Bikes are motorized vehicles, riders should apply to receive a designated motorized bike license through the DMV.

In order to address E-Bike safety, MCBC, in partnership with Marin County’s Board of Supervisors, will initiate a new program called “E-Bike Smart Marin.” The program offers safety education for teens riding E-Bikes with the goal of creating a safe and positive biking environment. 

Marin residents, including teens, will continue to use E-Bikes due to their environmental sustainability and added transportation convenience. However, E-Biking safety still remains on the minds of concerned residents.