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E-Bikes Allowed on All Marin County Pathways

The Marin County Board of Supervisors approved a number of amendments to the Marin County Code that includes allowing e-bikes on all of the county’s multi-use paved pathways. The vote was taken after a September 24, 2019, hearing on the amendments which were recommended by the Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission.

The commission concluded that the changes would help alleviate road congestion, help reduce greenhouse emissions and promote alternative transportation.

Previous objections to allowing e-bikes focused on the safety of pedal cyclists and pedestrians. E-bikes were relatively unknown and some of the concerns were the number of e-bikes that would be added to the pathways and how fast these bikes would go. Today, more is known about how e-bikes operate, and in 2016, the state legislature updated its vehicle code to include a definition of an e-bike.

Three Classes of E-Bikes

Per the new legislative definition, e-bikes in California are now separated into three classifications based on the mode of operation and the top speed of the bike:

  • Class 1 E-Bike: Has a pedal-assisted motor that provides power only when pedaling and quits assisting when the bike reaches 20 mph.
  • Class 2 E-Bike: Produces a boost up to 20 mph even if the rider is not pedaling.
  • Class 3 E-Bike: Has a pedal-assisted boost up to 28 mph before it stops assisting.

New Rules

Under the new rules, class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed on all paved multi-use pathways in the county. All e-bikes are prohibited on dirt and other non-paved pathways. The speed limit on all county paved pathways is 15 mph except Bayfront Park section of the Mill Valley/Sausalito Path, where the speed limit is 10 mph.

Class 3 e-bikes are only allowed on public roadways and parking lots or where signs explicitly allow them.

Commission members cited the need to move forward with the county’s alternative transportation planning even though the technology of e-bikes allows for speeds greater than the speed limits of the pathways. Also, e-bikes open up avenues for alternative transportation that weren’t available to some and to some who might test out bicycle commuting with the pedal-assist technology.

The hope is that behavior will overcome technology and users will adapt to Share the Path rules that are already in place.