Tiburon, California Rolls with the Times

January 12, 2017

Betsy Welch


Image: Michael Lessner

On November 2, 2016, the Tiburon, California Town Council voted to update the city's Municipal Code to allow low-speed pedal- and throttle-assist e-bikes to join pedestrians and other users on the town's popular waterfront path, the Old Rail Trail. In typical chilled-out California fashion, local officials don't see the change as much to fuss about.

"I’m not so sure that I would describe this so much as progressive thinking but more of adapting to changing technologies," said Tiburon Community Development Director Scott Anderson. "Old laws need to be appropriately updated every now and then to keep up with the changing times"

The interest in revising the code followed the approval for a local e-bike retailer, Pedego Tiburon, to rent e-bikes in the town's downtown area. Town staff realized that the current municipal code section governing use of the Old Rail Trail did not allow for non-pedal-powered bikes since it was likely written prior to the advent of e-bikes. When Pedego Tiburon received permission from the Tiburon Planning Commission to rent e-bikes as part of its sales and service operation, it became clear that the town needed to act fast. They chose collaboration instead of confrontation.

"Pedego's opening indicated that e-bikes were becoming more popular, and that not being able to legally use them on the Town’s Old Rail Trail because of the way the law was written many years ago begged for updating of the code," said Anderson. 

In California, e-bikes are regulated like bicycles, and the same rules of the road apply to both e-bikes and human-powered bicycles. California designates three classes of e-bikes, and distinguishes lower speed electric bicycles that reach motor-assisted speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, from higher "speed pedelecs" which have motors that provide assistance up to 28 miles per hour. Read more here.

See all Electric Bicycles blog entries

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