Dear Editor:

“This land is your land, and this land is my land, from California, to the New York island, from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters. This land was made for you and me.”(Woody Guthrie)

This sentiment was further reinforced by California voters when they voted for Proposition 20 which culminated in the Coastal Act of 1976. One result of this act is the California Coastal Trail, a $668 million project by the California Coastal Conservancy and is for the benefit of all Californians.  The trail is intended to be as contiguous as is possible and not broken down into different trails each with their own unique users and requirements.

The city’s act, as outlined in August Howell’s report “Council pulls plug for e-bikes on Coastal Trail,” is completely counter to this intent.  What the City Council did was completely disenfranchise a whole class, a class that has a legitimate right to use it — bike riders that have bicycles with electric assist.

The fact that some e-bikes can go over the speed limit, which is almost universally set at 15 mph for trails, is no more relevant to safety than the fact that almost every car on the road can exceed the speed limit. Both are unsafe if operated above the speed limit. Both are unsafe if operated in a reckless manner. On the trail a speeding or recklessly ridden bike or e-bike is a danger to people walking. A speeding car is equally, if not more, unsafe to a bicyclist traveling on a public road. We don't outlaw one and we shouldn't outlaw the other.

Safety is maintained by enforcement of rules and regulations. If you can’t enforce speed limits then that is what needs to be addressed, not banning legitimate activity under the guise that they should self-police and if they don’t they should be banned. We don’t take this approach with any other form of transportation and we should not do it in this example.  If I ride my bicycle with electric assist on the Golden Gate Bridge, the speed limit is 15 mph as it is on the Devil's Slide trail and most other trails I ride on. They don't differentiate between what type of bicycle I have. 

It is also very confusing and hard to understand.  Where I can ride my e-bike and where I can’t makes no sense. Can I ride it from Moss Beach all the way to Kelly Avenue legally? And then must I pull the plug from the battery if I am continuing to ride to Poplar Avenue where I can then plug it back in?

Regarding safety, there is plenty of blame to go around. Those walking their dogs without keeping them in control are a danger, as is a person walking erratically while talking on the phone, as is a bicyclist passing without giving notice, as are Segway scooters that leave almost no room for passing a pedestrian, as are riders with earbuds, which is also a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

The fact that the Trail is not being maintained properly is also a safety issue that needs much more than a spray-painted white circle around uneven spots to be safe. The staff got it right at proposing a simple 15 mph speed limit with a 5 mph limit for passing. Ultimately, the trail is a shared experience with simple courtesy and paying attention to your surroundings being all that is necessary. A well-executed campaign reinforcing those responsibilities is not a bad idea. As a side note, I am 72 years old and ride my bike, (which I recently electrified) daily and have ridden it in Germany, the Netherlands, NYC, Philadelphia, D.C., Charleston, Chicago, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, San Diego, L.A., S.F. and in numerous state and national parks.

Bill Huber

Half Moon Bay

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(12) comments


A ban is far, far more enforceable than are 5 and 15 mph speed limits. The City may want to consider asking the Sheriffs Department if they need any special equipment to deal with scofflaws.

John Charles Ullom

Bans are almost more easy than reasonable policy. I worry more about liquor scofflaws that kill Coastsiders every year. Ban booze? No way. Too much profit.


"The City may want to consider asking the Sheriffs Department if they need any special equipment to deal with scofflaws."

They should get them some new ebikes, I hear they really can move!


Actually, that's one good enforcement idea. I am sure there are more.


Unfortunately, this is just another law that will be almost entirely ignored because it is unenforceable. If you’re looking for a similar example, check out the city's plastic bottle ban.

Honestly, I could go either way on the e-bike ban. I have little kids, we walk the trail, people need to slow down. On the other hand, I ride an e-bike myself. The stretch of trail being closed is so short and unremarkable I just don’t really care.

The bummer of all of this is two fold. First, the city already lacks authority because it makes up so many rules that have little benefit and see virtually zero enforcement. Second, I read recently that CalFresh benefits are being reduced by up to 90% for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Mayor Penrose could have spent more time addressing this issue. People in our community - kids, seniors, and everyone in between - are increasingly likely to go to bed with an empty stomach.

Instead, we just have bickering and finger waging over bicycles. It’s like a doctor that ignores a bullet wound to treat a scraped knee.

This is not why I voted for you.

John Charles Ullom

Well Justin. You are going to love tonight’s agenda. They want to ban feeding Black Birds. I kid you not. Some little old lady is feeding birds and the City won’t have it!! They really spent money creating an ordinance!!! To ban feeding birds that are Black!!!

John Charles Ullom

Cars are banned from trails. So are motorcycles. Bicycles are banned from freeways and sidewalks. Also, plenty of hiking trails are banned for bicycles.

I agree that the e-bike ban is poorly thought out but so are some of the arguments put fort here.

What about a 200 pound e-bike with the ability to go 55 mph? They make ‘em.

Still an absolutist?

Jim Larimer

Ullom provides anothe version of the foolish policy of "just say no" to anything that presents a problem. The unsafe or irresponsible use of bicycles to any invention from drugs, guns, or the illegal use of the Internet will not be stopped by passing laws to make their use illegal under all circumstances. Enforcement of sensible rules does work, out right banding of any technology never solves the problematic use of any technology.

John Charles Ullom


Larimer provides another example of how people these days only read half of what was written.

I happen to agree that the CC banned too much. I would have gone with allowing class one and maybe class two.

Some would ban all. Larimer would ban none. I think the right policy is somewhere between all and none.

What I did point out is that absolutism is not the way to go. Banning class one e-bikes is no more logical than banning all bikes. Both present the same risks.

Unfortunately, Americans like Larimer will only bother to process one sentence sound bites. Any thing that requires thought flys right over their heads. Paragraphs just p!$$ ‘em off.

Jim, I agree with you but you prefer to take umbrage.

But I am for banning motorcycles, cars, atvs, and elephants from the trails in question. I just don’t think they need to be there. I guess that makes me a fool.

Jim Larimer

$20,000 electric bicycles that can go 70 mph are so rare that I would not be surprised to discover that few if anyone here on the Coastside has ever seen one or owns one. Arguments based on rare outliers, the extremes, should never be used to set policy as Ullom argues here in this comments above. Moderation in all things is generally good advice and is found in both philosophy and theology. What is lacking most is a willingness to do it. There are three classes of electric bicycles that are common place in the US and in most of the world today. Class 3 is the fastest with a top speed of 28 mph which is easily matched on a road bike by practiced rider. As someone who rides several thousand miles annually here on the coast side, speeds above 20 mph on flats are rare with even the most skilled cyclists. The City Council's rule prohibiting E-bikes is foolish policy at its best and pointless. In a strong wind an E-bike enables most people to easily commute to town for shopping and the Coast Trail is the safest place to cycle.

John Charles Ullom

JIm. I think you would rather take umbrage than notice that I agree with you on two out of three. That isn't enough. You are an absolutist when it comes to two wheeled vehicles. That's cool. There are absolutist gun owners. They would agree with your analysis when it comes to "outliers". There absolutist folks on the issue of drugs. They would ban nothing. There are absolutist people of faith. They would ban most everything. There absolutist on issues of sex, speach, gas appliances, and the 49's. Heck, I am absolutely opposed to absolutism. There all kinds of absolutists who agree that any ban on their thing is absolutely awful.

Me? I think the right policy is almost alway somewhere in between all and nothing.

And Jim. I ride a single speed 29" urbanized cyclocross All City with a 45 / 18 gearing. On flats, dead air, I routinely spin out at 90 rpm. Works out to just over 18 MPH per Garmin. I ride way too fast to be around pedestrians and casual bike riders. Even on my best day, I am routinely passed by other bicyclists. I hope to never need an e-bike but when that sad day comes, you won't find me on the trails. Simply not responsible per my experience.

John Charles Ullom

Here is an e-bike that goes 70mph. $4800 --

$4800 would barely pay for my wheels, frame, crankset, pedals, and bottom bracket. $4800 in the world of bicycles is not very much.

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