Coastal communities disturbed by teens on e-bikes – NBC Los Angeles

Teenagers riding e-bikes are causing problems in beach communities across Southern California, but police say many are on illegal electric motorcycles and are hard to catch. 

“I was walking my dog … and I saw a guy on an e-bike and a swarm of kids all around him with weapons in their hands like rocks and different things, trying to throw things at him, trying to swerve in front of him, to knock him off his route,” said Redondo Beach resident Tracy Robinson.

She’s one of dozens of residents in the South Bay who have captured groups of teens riding e-bikes as they speed down the strand at the beach, curse at people, and even throw fireworks.

“Opened my door, could see the remnants falling on the house,” one Hermosa Beach resident told NBC4 as she explained how a group of boys threw an M-80 toward her home. “As I was opening the door, they screamed, ‘It’s us. We did it.’”

In the last month, El Segundo police took three felony reports involving teens on e-bikes throwing fireworks at a service dog, a car and starting a brush fire on Pacific Coast Highway.

Manhattan Beach Police told NBC4 officers have given out more than 115 e-bike-related citations to teens and adults so far this year. This is even after the city council approved stricter enforcement and raising fines in September. 

Some incidents out of Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach include physical assaults.

I was scraped up on my face and bruised ribs and I had a concussion– they kicked me in the head,” said Redondo Beach resident Randy.

He and his girlfriend, Jen, asked they only be referenced by their first names for safety reasons. The two were leaving the Beach Life Festival near the Redondo Pier on May 3 when a group of teens on e-bikes came speeding through.

I told them to slow down, and they basically told me to F off and then the last person in the gang hit Jen in the back and knocked her down,” Randy said.

He went to grab one of them that hit me,” Jen added, “And two other guys punched him in the head and picked him up and threw him down and three guys were attacking him.”

When police arrived, they arrested Randy and cited him for public intoxication.

“The kids left and he went to jail,” Jen said.

A spokesperson for the Redondo Beach Police tells NBC4 that the incident is still under investigation, but confirmed Randy is facing a possible misdemeanor charge. They could not comment on any of the teenagers involved.

Randy said police told him that the parents weren’t going to press charges, something an 83-year-old Hermosa Beach man said he was also told by police after he sprayed bear spray in the air to keep the e-bikers away from him on the strand.

Hermosa Beach Police Chief Paul LeBaron explained that they respond when they’re called, but catching the teens has been one of their biggest challenges.

“We know that they used those bikes to get away quickly once they commit a crime,” LeBaron said.

In one incident in May, a teen left his bike trying to get away.

“Within 20 minutes, we received three calls of kids behaving badly on bikes and creating a danger to the public. We responded. The kids scattered and as they scattered, one of them left their electric motorcycle behind,” LeBaron said.

The “electric motorcycle” was a Sur-Ron, which is not manufactured with pedals and can go up to 68 miles per hour. They are not street-legal. 

The California vehicle code defines e-bikes as a “bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” 

The ones that are using the electric motorcycle … they’re very, very dangerous. They are disobeying traffic laws and they’re using those bikes to commit other crimes,” LeBaron said.

Chief LeBaron said police began to impound the bike when the boy returned with his father to retrieve it. A video posted on the Citizen app showed the boy’s father asking each officer their badge number.

“The father of the juvenile who had the bicycle responded, was upset with us and was criticizing our officers. Our officers did their job and they did it well,” LeBaron said, adding that three days later, his investigators arrested the same boy for an alleged assault that took place on April 28.

In that case, a video circulated social media of a group of teens beating up another boy. One of them was holding a can of alcohol before pouring drops on a boy and slapping him. 

LeBaron said the actions of the teens and the illegal bikes have to be investigated as two separate incidents.

In the last few months, Hermosa Beach impounded more than a dozen illegal electric motorcycles. In order to get them back, people have to provide DMV registration and pay a fee. 

As for citations, police departments said they range from traffic violations to more than one rider, and driving without a license. The fines can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000.

Hermosa Beach City Council passed an emergency ordinance this week, following Manhattan and Huntington Beach last year, allowing officers to more easily enforce e-bikes rules, increase fines, and impound bikes. For example, e-bikes are only allowed on the Hermosa Beach strand and pier if the motor is off, but officers say it can be hard to determine if electric power is in use.

The emergency ordinance allows officers to make more judgment calls such as riding in an “unsafe manner.” It also bans motorized bikes from the city’s Green Belt and requires rental businesses to geofence e-bikes to prevent them from working in prohibited areas.

California has three classifications for legal e-bikes. In most cases, they cannot go faster than 20 miles per hour. A rider must be 16 or older to ride an e-bike that goes a max speed of 28 miles per hour. They must also wear a helmet.

Read more about California e-bike regulations here. 


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