CARLSBAD — Citing a 233% increase in collisions involving bikes and e-bikes since 2019, the city of Carlsbad declared a local state of emergency Aug 23. This state of emergency action will immediately increase attention and resources on a range of solutions including infrastructure, safety, enforcement and a focus on safe driving behavior education.
City Manager Scott Chadwick has redeployed resources from the city’s police, fire, transportation and community education departments to develop immediate state of emergency actions presented to the City Council Aug. 30, followed by a comprehensive plan on Sept. 27.
“The exponential increase in ridership, especially among young people, has significantly changed how people are using Carlsbad’s roads,” said Chadwick. “In addition to adding miles of new bike lanes, we’ve passed new laws, promoted awareness and ramped up enforcement. Despite these efforts, we continue to see collisions, including two tragic fatalities within the past 17 days.”
Collisions reported in Carlsbad involving bikes or e-bikes have increased significantly.
According to estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. roadway deaths rose 10.5% in 2021 and an additional 7% during the first three months in 2022, the highest number for the first quarter in two decades. Further, the increase in deaths is due to speeding, impaired or distracted driving and other reckless behavior. E-bikes are faster and heavier than traditional bicycles and e-bike injuries are more likely to be more severe and require hospitalization than traditional bicycle injuries.
Emergency declarations allow cities to reallocate resources, expedite certain actions and temporarily bypass lengthy processes to address an existing or imminent threat. Carlsbad’s declaration covers the safety of bicycles, e-bikes and other motorized devices, which could include electric scooters and motorized skateboards.
“This is an issue that affects every single member of our community, and it will take all of us working together to make our streets safer,” said Chadwick.
The city of Carlsbad first started to see an increase in bike and e-bike riders during the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, the council approved an overarching plan to add and expand sidewalks and bike lanes while slowing down cars on streets throughout Carlsbad. The city’s traffic engineers have completed several projects and have more in the planning stages. In June 2022, the City Council directed staff to further expedite streets projects in the current fiscal year’s budget. However, with hundreds of miles of city roads, the plan will still take many years to complete.
In April 2022, the council approved new, stricter, Carlsbad-specific rules for e-bike riders, which provide Carlsbad police officers with more enforcement options. The new rules include a diversion program where minors have the option to complete an e-bike safety course after their first offense.
The California Emergency Services Act allows cities to declare a local state of emergency when needed to protect public safety in extreme circumstances. Carlsbad’s emergency declaration goes into effect immediately and will be in place until the Aug. 30 council meeting, when the council will consider whether or not to ratify it. If ratified, the emergency declaration would then need to be reviewed by the council every 60 days until the it votes to end the local state of emergency.