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Deadly e-bike crashes lead to a push for safer roads, better bike education

The Carlsbad community is mourning the loss of a mother who died after being hit by a car as she was riding her ebike with her toddler. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne says the family, advocates, and officials are calling for more safety on our roads and education on bike riding.

A makeshift memorial for Christine Hawk Embree has been set up on the corner of Basswood Avenue and Valley Street in Carlsbad.

It’s where the Carlsbad mom was hit by an SUV on Aug. 7 while she was riding her e-bike with her 16-month-old daughter, Delilah. Embree died of her injuries, but her daughter was not hurt.

On Tuesday night, Embree’s husband, Bob, asked the Carlsbad City Council for safer roads.

It wasn’t his first appearance at a council meeting.

“I came here a month ago to discuss two topics: public safety and the speeds at which people travel through neighborhoods,” he said.  

At the July 19 city council meeting, Embree asked for ways to slow traffic down in his Carlsbad neighborhood. “Never in a million years did I think three weeks later, my wife, would be hit by a 42 year old female who lived in the neighborhood traveling approximately 40 miles an hour and blew a stop sign" he told council members on Tuesday. "Thank God my daughter didn't die. But my wife wasn't so lucky.”

Members of the Embree family called on the council to act now to prevent future tragedies.

"Ceramic road reflectors, dips or divots in the road, those would be the easiest solutions. Curb extensions, speed bumps, roundabouts.” said Christine's mother-in-law, Gretchen Embree.

William Rhatigan with the San Diego County Bicycle coalition said Christine Embree's death is one of four that happened in an eight-day period in San Diego. But he said it's not because e-bikes are unsafe, saying, “This tragedy (is) a wake up call to how systemically unsafe our streets are.”

Rhatigan said the use of e-bikes has exploded, especially among younger riders. He said city governments need to invest in road safety interventions to prevent more crashes from happening.

"There's a lot that can be done to make a road safer. It's a systemic issue. You're not going to fix it by changing a few people's behavior. And I'm hopeful that this tragedy is going to show the city that these investments are worthwhile, even if they force people to drive a little bit slower," he said.

Rhatigan says education is another key component for anyone on the road.

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill for an e-bike safety and education training program.

“It creates the statewide standard of understanding how to use an e-bike, especially geared towards minors," said Encinitas assembly member, Tasha Boerner Horvath.

She presented the bill, AB 1946.

“It creates an e-bike safety training statewide so every single parent, every single school district, anybody who wants access on how to ride a bike safely can access it,” she said.

Boerner Horvath says the California Highway Patrol will be developing the statewide E-bike safety and education training program.

The California Highway Patrol has until September 2023 to initiate the program.

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Editor's Note: A previous headline on this story used the word "accident" instead of "crash," which led some readers to believe that the e-bike rider killed shared culpability.

Updated: Aug. 22, 2022

Corrected: August 18, 2022 at 10:47 AM PDT
This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the time period over which fatal e-bike accidents occurred in San Diego County this month.
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