October 8, 2019
Marin County supervisors have approved a new regulation that allows riders to use electric-assisted bicycles on the county’s multi-use paths, including the popular Mill Valley/Sausalito path, the Corte Madera Creek path and the Pacheco path. It also allows e-bikes on paved roads and parking lots in county parks. The use of e-bikes is still banned on Marin County Open Space District land and on unpaved trails in county parks.
All bicycles, including e-bikes, must abide by a 15 MPH speed limit on County-maintained pathways, except for the Bayfront Park section of the Mill Valley/Sausalito path, where the speed limit for all bikes and e-bikes is 10 MPH. Infractions can lead to citations and penalties for both bicyclists and e-bicyclists.
The potential benefits of this new policy are that it may reduce traffic congestion by providing an alternative transportation option and also provides people with limited mobility another option to get around. The potential risks of e-bikes on multi-use pathways is that they can travel at higher speeds beyond the speed limit, potentially putting pedestrians, other bicyclists, seniors and children at risk.
The State of California defines an e-bike as a fully operational pedal bicycle with an electric motor of less than 750 watts. The law still allows for local authorities and public agencies to regulate e-bike use within their jurisdictions. A Class 1 e-bike has a pedal-assisted motor providing power only when pedaling and turning it off when the bike hits 20 MPH. A Class 2 e-bike provides a boost up to 20 MPH even when a rider is not pedaling. A Class 3 e-bike assists up to 28 MPH.
Marin’s updated ordinance allows Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on public roads and parking lots within Marin County Parks facilities, and on County paved bicycle and multi-use pathways. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are also allowed in other areas when specifically signed to permit them. Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited within Parks facilities except upon public roadways and parking lots or when specifically signed to permit them.
Bicycle Safety on the Mill Valley/Sausalito Multi-use path
Recent accidents and near misses involving even regular bicyclists on the Mill Valley/Sausalito Multi-use path highlight the need to remind all cyclists of the safety rules along the path and enhanced and sustained enforcement to ensure that these rules are effective. Bike safety is not a new topic for our community – and it is important that we pay regular attention to safety on the path with frequent communications and reminders. The multi-use path is under the jurisdiction of Marin County Parks, which maintains the path and much of the Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve. The City is working collaboratively with Marin County Parks and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office on outreach, education and enforcement.
One of the key issues on the path is its diverse range of users, from cyclists who prefer faster speeds, to cyclists and pedestrians of all ages and ability levels who appreciate a slower pace on the path. Working with citizen advisory groups such as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and community organizations such as Safe Routes to Schools, the City has identified several infrastructure projects designed to divert the faster cyclists off the path and onto local roads. These projects include: the Sycamore Avenue “sharrows,” the development of a roundabout at the intersection of the path and Sycamore Avenue; the recently completed Miller Avenue Streetscape Project; and the Camino Alto South End Bike Lanes Project.
Earlier this spring, Mill Valley Police and Central Marin Police motorcycle officers were stationed on the Mill Valley/Sausalito multi-use path to provide education with emphasis on warnings for speed and unsafe passing. In addition, the Community Engagement Team and Marin County Parks personnel co-hosted a Tent Event and distributed information to cyclists and pedestrians regarding awareness and safety on the path. Following these educational events and warning periods, Mill Valley Police and Community Service Officers have and will continue with routine patrols, schedule enforcement operations, and issue citations for unsafe bicycle operations.
The health and safety of the Mill Valley community is one of the Core Values of the Mill Valley City Council, and Council members and staff are committed to taking quick action to address the safety issues presented by this popular and very active path frequented by our children, seniors, and families. We ask that all users of the path show respect and consideration for the diverse users of the path – our seniors, visitors, and families.
The information below is part of the coordinated “Share the Path” outreach campaign:
How Can You Stay Safe on the Mill Valley/Sausalito Multi-Use Path?
If you are a cyclist remember the speed limit is 15 MPH, except for the Bayfront Park section of the Multi-Use Path and where otherwise marked in Mill Valley where you must slow to 10 MPH.
We encourage all cyclists who are riding in a group or riding for time to exit the path at Almonte or E. Blithedale. Depending on your direction, it would be best to utilize the streets of Miller Avenue and Camino Alto. This way you can use the Miller Avenue bicycle lane and keep up your speed to get the most out of your ride.