Letter: Sharing Sidewalks with Youth on Motorized Bikes

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When I was eleven, I always wanted to ride my Honda Z50 down to the local 7-Eleven for a Mellow Yellow and some Sweet Tarts. Or, ride it to school instead of my bicycle. That Honda could do about 28 mph (what an E-bike is governed to for sale in the U.S.), could have saved my mom from taking me places, kept me outdoors instead of indoors playing Atari, and would have saved me the trouble of physical exertion. But, I wasn’t old enough to have a license or instruction to ride on a public roadway, or registration, or insurance.

I could ride it up at the “Honda Hills”, what now is the Alta Laguna Park.  But you were always looking over your shoulder because you weren’t legally allowed to ride a motorized vehicle there.

If only my Honda didn’t have that 50cc internal combustion engine (and resembled a bicycle), I could have made those trips to the store, and school, and not be wary of riding on any trails.

Back then, the bike racks at school were all full of bikes. Then, they all disappeared. I just chalked it up to parents being wary of predators in this current world. But now that the bike racks are all full again, with E-bikes, I’m not so sure.

E-bikes are a wonderful advent for parents and kids alike.

For pedestrians walking downtown however, not so much. They’re now sharing the sidewalks with youth on motorized vehicles. And likely, those youth are not interested in (or even able without a speedometer) to address 28 mph in a downtown 20 mph zone.
Some models don’t even have pedals, it’s quite literally a motorized dirt bike on public roads piloted by an eleven year old.

And now that those “Honda Hills” are part of the South Coast Wilderness Area, motorized vehicles are back there too. Although, not technically allowed since it’s a motorized vehicle, that’s not mentioned in the ad I see for local E-bike rental that touts “Laguna’s world-renowned spectacular trails”.

All things considered, they’re quiet and less polluting (not zero, fossil fuels are still used to create that energy), and are a wonderful tool.  Making it much easier to gloss over that part about having an electric motor, in places that don’t allow motorized vehicles.

Duane Allee, Laguna Beach

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  1. How times have changed access to Laguna’s streets

    In 1964 an eleven year old had access to the Honda Hills, it was legal to ride anything there you could throw a leg over: bicycles, a Sears 50, a Taco mini-bike or the occasional pony from Laguna Canyon. The Honda Hills were a terrific school for learning bike or MC riding skills and your friends were there doing the same thing without the safety hazard from cars.

    In 2022 the Honda Hills remain closed to eBikes, it is illegal to ride eBikes or any motorized vehicle there. The eleven year-old can walk the family dog or hike but your friends are Downtown with their eBikes.

    In 1964 an eleven year-old had no access to our neighborhood streets. The school bus your skateboard or riding with Dad was the standard ride to school, hitchhiking was the cool ride home and quicker than queueing for the bus. How we kids wished for more car traffic to make rides more frequent!

    In 2022 an eleven year-old has complete eBike access to any neighborhood street even Downtown, young riders have complete independence from Mom to drive the family mobile unit. Today the eleven year-old rides congested city streets with more traffic in ’22 than ’64 but with no riding skills or drivers training.

    The rules have changed and technology changed from 1964 but one thing has not changed: our city streets remain exactly the same in ’22 as ’64, our streets make provisions for motorists but nobody else. eBikes are here to stay so why don’t our streets accommodate eBike riders and the rest of us? From my example of history the people who make the rules have them exactly bassackwards.

    COMPLETE STREETS POLICY are new rules to give all street users equal access and safety provisions for our streets even eBike riders. Write a letter to your city councilperson to adopt this policy for Laguna Beach. [email protected]

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