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Dec 12

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Electric Bikes on Trails

Electric Bicycles on Trails

Are electric bicycles legal on trails? It’s a good question and one that varies greatly by country, state, & trail. Before we get into the electric bikes on trails debate, let’s start w/ an overview of the:

picture of electric bikes on trails

Electric Bike on Trail

Federal Electric Bicycle Regulations (not just for trails)

  • an electrically driven bicycle is considered a bicycle
  • electric cycle must have less than 750 watt motor
  • must have functional pedals
  • maximum speed of 20 mph
  • Federal Law shall supersede State Law
For a nice, one-page summary of the Federal Electric Bicycle Law, visit the Electric Vehicle Association USA Fed Regulations web page. As they suggest, I have printed the page and carry it with me on my electric scooter / bike. (However, I just keep it in a zipper bag instead of laminating it like they suggest.)

What About Electric Bikes on Trails?

But these regulations don’t really seem to address the issue of electric bikes on trails, especially since they specifically refer to operation  “on a paved level surface.” So what about a gravel trail that is not perfectly level?

And what about such vehicles as hybrid Trikkes? These are power-assisted, meet most of the requirements for power level & speed; but they don’t have pedals.

Thanks to Paul Wiegman for providing us with this American Trails link that provides Department of Justice requirements for the use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices or OPDMD on trails. The article gives a clear definition of OPDMDs and begins to clarify the rules regarding their use on trails. It is written with trail administrators in mind and provides information regarding how those trail administrators can prepare for compliance with ADA and Department of Justice guidelines, rules and regulations.

Comments about Electric Bikes, Pedal Assisted Bikes & Pon-e Trikkes

So what has been your experience? What do you think. Should electric bikes be allowed on trails? Would you like to use an electric bicycle, Trikke, recumbent, or scooter on some or all trails? Please leave a comment (no email por favor) below.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://trailsnet.com/2011/12/12/electric-bikes-on-trails/

107 comments

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  1. Ross-Barry Finlayson

    Somewhere, a line has to be drawn as to what/who can gain access to a trail. Where that line is, will create much debate.
    Some will say the line should be drawn at pedal-powered bikes. But does that include hybrids? Some will say draw the line at foot-traffic. I can imagine what response that will get.
    If someone wants to experience a trail on a bike,like the one in the photo,I feel they are not there for the right purpose. The outdoors is about being out there amongst the beauty and serenity.
    Sorry if my reply isn’t of much help Kevin.

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks to Barry’s suggestion, I have now changed the E-bike picture on this post to reflect a more typical looking electric bicycle. The old one definitely looked more like a scooter than an E-bike.

    2. trailsnet

      Look what you got started Barry!! (-:

  2. trailsnet

    I know what you mean, Barry.
    First, I have to admit that picture was a bad example. The vast majority of electric bikes look exactly like regular bikes. You’d have to look real carefully to even notice that they aren’t a regular bike. And they sound about the same as a regular bike, too.
    I must admit, I’m stuck right in the middle on this one. On the one hand, allowing electric bikes on trails would boost the numbers of people using trails; and I truly believe that the more people are exposed to trails, the more they will realize how valuable they are. Hopefully that would translate to more trails being built.
    On the other hand, more isn’t always better. And easier isn’t always better. Theoretically, the electric motor is just supposed to “assist” the user. But I can definitely see some people completely relying on the motor to power them along the trail; there goes the exercise out the window.
    Plus, I also see part of the trail experience being the exertion of getting from point A to point B. People appreciate both the journey and the destination more if they’ve worked for it.
    And finally, hiking and trail biking attract a certain type of people. I call them “trail folks,” and for the most part, they are wonderful people. It has something to do with being willing to sweat & toil as a form of recreation. I’ve noticed that people who ride ATVs, motorcycles, cars, & even road bikes have a completely different mentality. They are always in a hurry and seldom stop to smell the roses or converse with their fellow travelers.
    Some trails are just not conducive to motorized vehicles. narrow dirt paths are a good example. However, wide trails such as some of the urban trails & rail-trails seem to offer a better chance for inclusion of alternative trail vehicles. The trails I’m talking about are over ten feet wide and are often cement, asphalt, or packed gravel.
    I hope I hear from other trail users about this issue. I’m curious how other trail-users feel about allowing electric or pedal-assisted vehicles on trails.
    Thanks for your input.

    1. Andrea

      So, electric bikes should not be allowed on trails designed for ‘trail folk’, those who are willing to put in the ‘exertion’ of getting from point A to point B.

      You have a very narrow view of what an e bike is for. There are many, many people who would not be able to enjoy cycling at all without the assistance of the electric motor. It is not a way to get out of exercise, but a way to get into it. Do you think it is better for all these people with mobility issues to just be locked away in their homes – out of site, out of mind? You prefer they not be seen? Or, should they use the resources that are available and live their lives to the fullest for as long as humanly possible?

      By this same thought process, please put your computer away and go back to only paper and pencil, a word processor does not provide the same exertion as a pencil does.

      All those folks out there seeking to avoid exercise by using canes to walk should quit fooling themselves. Just because they are up and moving they can’t keep up with the ‘walking folks’ so they should just give it up now and go crawl into a hole.

      You see, by your line of thought, if one needs to use an assisting device to fully participate, then they aren’t really participating – they are cheating. So, please, put away your car, phone, your computer, washer, dryer… all your modern conveniences – none of those devices jibe with your ‘exertion of getting from point A to point B’ philosophy.

      1. trailsnet

        Welcome to the conversation Andrea.

        I’m not sure if you read my comments carefully or if the terminology was confusing. I’m a big fan of allowing electric bikes on most trails. In fact my comments above and throughout this thread reflect that. You may be confusing the term motorized vehicle with electric vehicle. When I refer to motorized vehicles, I’m talking about internal combustion (gas) vehicles; and I am not in favor of those on trails.

        I suggest you read both the main blog post above and the thread of comments below, and you’ll realize we’re on the same side on this issue. I totally agree that ebikes allow people to enjoy trails when they might not otherwise be able to. They are quiet and environmentally friendly while still allowing people to get exercise and fresh air. From my experience, electric bike riders do not go any faster than many other bicyclists and, in many cases, they actually ride at a more reasonable pace than most bicyclists.

  3. Ross-Barry Finlayson

    Yes Kevin. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  4. Bob Thomas

    When I was a younger man, and my knees were better, and my legs were stronger, I probably would have come down on the side of restricting path access to human power. Fortunately with age, comes experience and hopefully the ability to draw good comparisons. I don’t think ANY bike should travel on a designated bike/pedestrian path at speeds greater than 10 mph if there are walkers/joggers present. It really shouldn’t matter if the bike is electric assisted or human powered, when coming up behind a couple of people walking on a path, excessive speed is just dangerous. So I would recommend bike path rules to be similar to marine “Rules of the Road”. E-bikes (when under power) yield to bikes, and all yield to pedestrians, much like sailboats under power, yield to sailboats, and all yield to human powered boats.
    The rules don’t have to be complicated, they just have to make sense, and be easily applied.

    1. trailsnet

      Bob,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you across the board, on both the electric vehicles on trails and an the importance of keeping trail speeds low. I especially liked your idea of utilizing some of the marine rules to the trail. That actually makes lots of sense. I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’m going to quote your idea in today’s Trailsnet post.

    2. Cheryl

      I agree with Bob Thomas completely! Having reached AARP age, I found that my body doesn’t quite keep up with my mind like it used to. An electric bike has made it possible for me to commute 13 miles each way to work, where a standard bike was prohibitively difficult. I ride the trail because my electric bike is not fast enough to be safe on roads with cars, and I do not use the motor around other trail users.

      I have been stopped by the park ranger twice (my electric bike is about as highly visible as humanly possible) although I am legally allowed to ride it – for now. They are reviewing the law to see if they can change it to exclude electric bikes from the trail. This is a paved, 10 foot wide rail trail. I have sent this reference which indicates that 2/3 of electric bicyclists are using them (successfully) to get out of cars – largely commuters and older folks who have health conditions that don’t qualify as disabilities but are still enough to keep them off of standard bikes: http://docs.trb.org/prp/14-4885.pdf

      1. trailsnet

        Hi Cheryl –

        Thanks for your input and special thanks for the pdf file showing e-bike research regarding usage of electric bicycles. It’s one of the more comprehensive studies I’ve seen. For those of you who read it, you’ll find it quite informative, but keep the following caveats in mind before making any conclusive judgements: 1. It was revised/published in 2013 & presented in early 2014. That makes it fairly up-to-date, but things have changed somewhat since then. (i.e. conversion kits for bikes are much less common now and factory-built e-bikes are more the norm. Also, pedelec/pedal assist is much more common and throttle-assist has nearly fallen off the chart for most e-bikes used on trails.).

        Also keep in mind that the study is for electric bikes in general and not electric bikes on trails. I only mention this because I was a bit disappointed by how many respondents enjoyed electric bikes for added speed. I do NOT think this is the norm for those who ride electric bicycles on trails. That is more for people who ride them on roads.

        Otherwise, I think this study is very helpful for our discussion about e-bikes on trails, and I’m glad Cheryl shared it on this thread.

        1. Cheryl

          Yes, the study is not specific to electric bikes on trails. But I’m not convinced the speed issue is related to speed for the thrill of it – people are still better off in cars or on motorcycles for that. I’ll illustrate my read on the speed issue with my own example; if I commute 13 miles at my average speed on a standard bike, it takes me almost an hour and a half each way. On my electric bike, I can do it in an hour – still well within the trail speed limit, unlike the tour de France trainees who I don’t even try to pass. But it makes a significant difference for my commute.

          1. trailsnet

            I see what you mean Cheryl. Sometimes e-bikes may be used just for a little boost to shave time off of a commute. And that would be a legitimate use. My guess would be that most trail users would not abuse such a privilege.

    3. Marek

      Great rule, and that would make e-bikes with careful riders less dangerous than some young and strong bike riders without assist- they sometime let their energy out of control. I’m over 60, but would like to bike till I’m 90, with a little assist from electric power uphill.

      1. trailsnet

        So many people have problems w/ electric bikes on trails, but the majority (if not all) of those people have never tried an e-bike. They worry that electric bikes will go too fast & sometimes even compare them to motorcycles. So far from the truth in every way. Electric bikes aren’t about speed. In most instances, they’re about getting people outside and active. They are usually owned/operated by people who enjoy trails and/or active travel but might otherwise be less active and less mobile w/out the electric assist.

        It’s that endless circle of road bikers disparaging mountain bikers, mountain bikers disparaging electric bikers, electric bikers disparaging… It’s time to get along and work together to promote alternative and healthy transportation and how to do that safely. The problem isn’t the vehicle; it’s the person operating that vehicle. If everybody just rode safely, there would be no reason to worry about whether you were on an electric bike or a road bike or a cruiser. Rules & laws shouldn’t be passed based upon the reckless few thus penalizing those of us who just want to get out and enjoy the trails.

  5. Jonathan

    I’m in a carpool and brought my electric scooter to ride from NASA to the Googleplex in Mountain View. Rode my electric scooter on the trails and was stopped by the “Rangers” who said motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails. They let me go, but the bikers zoom past me at speeds I’d consider to be dangerous. What harm is my little electric scooter at 10-15mph when these bikers are riding at 25-30mph? At least I have a greater ability to stop.

    Thanks for this posting.

    1. trailsnet

      I hear what you’re saying Jonathan. It’s frustrating on both counts. They should develop some common sense rules regarding electric bikes on trails and enforce the rules against bike riders going too fast. (And make rules against pedestrians who are intent on taking up the entire trail, too.) I hope you’ll consider subscribing to Trailsnet.com and becoming part of the ongoing conversation regarding electric vehicle use on trails. We could use more input from trail commuters like you.
      Thanks for taking part in this discussion.

  6. Don

    The main point is allowing the people can use trails to commute help save energy and cleaner air.

  7. dawn

    I feel that if people use proper bike etiquette and respect others such as hikers and bikes and common sense then it should not be a problem. There are older people whom would love to experience these trails but do not have the endurance to do so without a little assist. I think it’s wonderful that the e bikes have been invented and should be allowed on trails. Young old who cares as long as they get out and experience thesel trails we are fortunate to have.

    1. trailsnet

      I agree Dawn. Electric bikes have somewhat of an equalizing effect. They don’t completely take away the exercise factor, but they do allow some people to get outdoors and enjoying trails that might not otherwise be able to.

  8. paul g wiegman

    An interesting discussion and one that needs to continue and be considered by the trail groups and agencies who oversee the growing number of bike trails.

    When the new ADA regulations were promulgated a couple years ago I worked with the various groups who over see the Great Allegheny Passage (151 miles Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD.). After considerable discussion new regulations were adopted allowing 250 watt pedal-assist bikes/trikes/quads. Additional weight, 100 pounds, and width, 36″, restrictions were included as well as the cycle must have operable pedals. These regulations are for disabled individuals. However, disability is not defined and once an individual states that they are disabled no additional verification is necessary. That ends up covering individuals who just simply can’t cover long distances on a standard bike be they elderly, have joint problems, or any other condition that limits their abilities.

    The GAP trail is mostly hard-packed fine crushed limestone. It’s 10 wide and the grade is never more than 2%. The majority is through remote landscapes along the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers in southwestern PA and western MD. However, the new segment opened this past June into Pittsburgh is paved and opens the potential for many people to use the trail to commute into the city and for many to use the route for shopping and access to recreational facilities. The question of ebikes on this section for individuals other than the disabled will become a question that needs to be addressed.

    1. trailsnet

      Paul – Thank you for that helpful and insightful information. I’m a huge fan of the GAP trail; I still consider it one of my favorites, and I’ve been on many trails over the years.

      You bring up some excellent points. I think it’s high time we start doing some long-term studies on the use of electric bikes on trails. I can see both sides of the argument when it comes to allowing them or not.

      Pros of allowing electric bikes on trails:

      -Electric bikes will get a lot more people out of cars
      – Pedal-assist bikes will get a lot more people outside and active.
      – Electric bikes will decrease pollution, traffic & obesity. (Maybe not by a lot, but every little bit helps.)
      – Electric bikes are much more affordable than cars, so allowing electric bikes on trails would provide added transportation for poor people.
      – Electric bikes on trails are much safer than electric bikes on roads. (For the bicyclists, anyway.)

      Cons of allowing electric bikes on trails:

      – Electric bikes have the potential of going faster, so increase the risk for other trail users.

      Okay, that’s all the cons I can think of, but I’m sure some of you may know of more reasons to avoid allowing electric bikes on trails. I’d love to hear them.

      1. paul g wiegman

        The potential for speed is often the concern that is voiced by many trail managers. However, a young, strong, in shape rider on a lightweight diamond frame, or better yet a recumbent, can easily reach speeds that are unsafe for heavily used trails. Alone in the middle of nowhere is one thing, but on sections where there are many users, as well as walkers, it makes no difference if it’s human powered or has some assist. Common sense is a far better regulator than any of the myriad of rules managers try to impose.

        The basis for the 250 watt limit on the GAP was that a human generally produces an about the same amount of energy so adding an electric motor is like people riding tandems. As far as the 100 pound weight limit that was considering a tandem trike with a trailer loaded with camping gear which is a common sight on the GAP. The width limit of 36″ was to avoid electric powered multi-seat quads. The requirement of “operable pedals” was to avoid allowing many of the toy like scooters, carts, and other kid toys that are on the market.

        I would suggest that the 250 watt limit might be too low and that could be raised to 350 or 500 watts.

        The ebike industry would be wise to begin to work with bike trail managers to build eBikes that would meet specifications agreeable to the trail managers and then begin a certification program. The certification would be that those particular eBikes could be used legally on long distance rail trails such as the GAP. One requirement for the certification would have to be that electric assist ends when the bike speed reaches a limit agree upon by the trail mangers. 15 MPH would be a starting point. The Bionx systems have the speed limitation.

        As a note for full disclosure, I have a Vision 40 recumbent with a 250 watt Bionx assist. I use it mostly for urban riding and usually remove the battery when I’m on the GAP. I’m not legally disabled, but at 70 years old beginning to find that 50 rides are getting harder and harder to do. I have a friend in Confluence, PA who rides the GAP regularly and has a trike with a Bionx 350 Watt. He has considerable difficulty riding and the electric assist has given him back his ability to ride with friends.

        paul g wiegman

        1. trailsnet

          I’m in full agreement w/ you Paul. Electric bikes are no more of a hazard than body-powered bicyclists who choose to ride too fast. For that matter, I have often found that pedestrians who walk three abreast, take up the entire trail even when they’re alone or walk their dogs w/ the leash extended across the trail are also major hazards. As you said, all rules should be based on common sense rather than on excluding one particular type of bicyclists. Can you imagine the fury if road bikes were banned from trails?

          Each group has its inherent problems and its inherent benefits. You bring up another good point about our population’s habit of aging. Let’s face it; we aren’t getting any younger. Do we want to discourage people from exercising as they age or do we want to encourage exercise. Pedelecs are a great way to assure that folks continue getting out on the trails as they age. I talked my 63 year old neighbor into getting an electric bike, and he is now commuting to work via bicycle for the first time in his life… and loving it.

          The nearby community of Boulder,CO is now debating the use of electric bikes on trails. It seems as if the powers-that-be are actually listening to both sides. Hopefully they’ll make a fair and equitable decision sometime soon.

  9. dawn

    I would have to say that there would be too much debate on a certification for those only on e bikes. What’s fair is fair is what people would say and expect both regular riders and e bikes to go thru the same certification process.

    1. trailsnet

      I’m not a big fan of certification or licensing for either regular or electric bikes. We need to make bikes of all kinds an attractive alternative to cars. One of the benefits of biking is less bureaucracy than cars with all the licensing, rules & regulations. Those are a necessary evil with cars but unnecessary for bikes and other personal transportation vehicles.

      1. dawn

        I agree with you.

        1. paul g wiegman

          Let me clarify what I mean by certification.

          I’m NOT suggesting registration or licensing of the bike by the owner. What I’m suggesting is that eBike manufacturers build a bike that trail managers would allow. For instance company would build a 250 – 500 watt, pedal assist that would ONLY operate when the pedals are being used, and there would be a limiter on the motor that the assist would diminish with increased speed and there would be NO assist beyond 15 MPH. There are systems that already meet these specifications.

          The manufacturer builds the bike and certifies that it meets those specifications. They affix some sort of plate or identification on the bike. The buyer would NOT have to register or license the eBike just like a non-eBike doesn’t have to be registered. It would be like buying a car seat or crib that meets specific safety standards.

          In my work in getting regulations for the Great Allegheny Passage I found that the biggest concern was the speed and having eBikes that moved without the pedals being operated. The specifications above overcome those fears and puts a cycle on the trail that fits with the existing human powered cycling community.

          An eBike with those specifications might be acceptable to most trail managers and they would promulgate regulations that allow eBikes that meet the specifications and have a plate to verify the certification. eBikes without such would be prohibited.

          pgw

          1. PTV Show

            That would definitely be a reasonable compromise. Not everyone wants electric bikes to be fast. And we want to keep the speed demons off the trails. Only allowing certain ebikes on the trails is a good suggestion and one that is reasonable. Hopefully the registration identification would be fairly recognizable so as not to be too difficult for officials to enforce.

          2. Allan Harmsworth

            So how do I get my specially built ebike to the trail? This would mean I would have to have one ebike to get to the trail, and another to ride the trail, or trailer my specially built trail ebike behind my SUV? The roads to the trail are not all 2% grade after all. You say you are against regulations but that is exactly what you are proposing, another layer of regulations. Besides it is not the power of the motor, nor indeed the weight of the ebike that is the danger, it is the speed. Speed is easily enforced with speed traps as it is on the road, and the trails should be posted with all the rules and rules of trail etiquette. Whether the pedals are moving up and down or not is not an issue (except for those who somehow think it is) since an ebike going 20 km/h wholly under throttle or being assisted with muscular power is still going 20 km/h. Most trails in Canada that do have a speed limit is 20 km/h which translates into 12.5 mph, quite adequate for recreational riding, and almost always broken by conventional cyclists. Indeed most cyclists have no idea how fast they are going and invaiably underestimate their speed.

            I would suggest using the existing Federal regulations and work with them, instead of making people buy special ebikes. Regulating speed is really all that matters, not all this other irrelevant “standards” that seem to come out of thin air and half baked theories more political than practical, not from scientific unbiased studies and statistics.

  10. paul g wiegman

    Allan,

    A certified ebike wouldn’t be a “specially built ebike”. It would be one, of which there are many now on the market, that would have particular specifications that would be acceptable to rail/trail managers. You would ride the bike on the streets/roads and when you get to a designated trail be able to continue riding which is not the case in many instances at present.

    An ebike with a 250/350/500 watt motor handles hills more than 2% very well.

    I’m not suggesting regulations, I’m suggesting specifications for a ebike that would be acceptable to trail managers who are now prohibiting all motorized bikes. The specifications I outlined, if accepted by trail managers, would diminish regulations. Here in western PA all of the trails & rail/trails prohibit motorized vehicles and to date the responsible agencies have said that the prohibition includes ebikes. The only exception is for disabled riders.

    I agree, speed is the problem. However, enforcement is next to impossible. Who would operate the speed trap? The trails in this area are owned and maintained by volunteer groups and they have no power to enforce. Their argument against allowing motorized ebikes on these trails is that it will give people even more opportunity and ability to speed. The only way to limit that potential is to limit the power of the ebike and assure that it has self-imposed speed limits such as my suggestion that pedal assist cease once the bike reaches 15 MPH (or whatever speed is agree on). The trails are adequately posted with the various rules and regulations and for the most part riders follow them. But again, enforcement is next to impossible. On the 150 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage much of the trail goes through rural areas where there isn’t even a local police force let alone police to patrol the trail. But those areas aren’t the problem. It’s the more urban segments, the GAP goes into central city Pittsburgh, where speed with a mix of cyclists and walkers is the problem.

    My suggestions are very close to the US Federal standards. The biggest difference is the wattage. I needs to be said that the US Federal standards are promulgated by the Consumer Products Protection Agency not a Federal Transportation agency. The standards define the line between a bicycle and a motorcycle and what needs to be incorporated into the cycle to meet US standards for safety.

    As to the specifications I’ve suggested, they are derived from the policies established by the Regional Trail Corporation in regards to the US ADA requirements. A synopsis of the rationale for those policies can be found at

    http://www.regionaltrailcorp.com/RTC_Mobility%20Device_Policy.pdf

    These were carefully researched and widely discussed and adjusted by the trail groups that are responsible for a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage. They haven’t been “come out of thin air”.

    pgw

  11. trailsnet

    A newer version of this thread is just getting started, and MB has brought up a new point of view on this follow-up electric bikes on trails post: http://trailsnet.com/2013/08/21/ebikes-on-trails-garners-lots-of-comments

  12. Joseph Peek

    Electric Bikes on trails (2/3/14)

    Since 7/29/2012, I have been riding my Ezip bike on three trials that are near my home in Orange City, Florida. I called BEFORE I purchased it and asked if they were permitted on the trails here in Florida. I was told I could use them on the trails if they met certain limited requirement; which my selection did (I can’t remember what those limits were). My bike can only reach 15 mph on the level ground and the very best speed (off the bike trail) that it reached was 24 mph on a very steep and long hill.
    Most people I speak with think an electric bike is easy and could not be anything but effortless biking. I am here to tell you that is not the case. It is what you make of it. Most people don’t know that the bike weighs 95 lbs and the batteries (I have two) weigh 16 lbs each. This is a total of 111 lbs plus extra equipment you have added to it. My bike is a 7 speed and I shut off the motor when I am peddling on flat ground or going down hill. I weigh 200 lbs and I am 68 years old. I put in close to 15 miles on the days I am out on it and I never come back with much of what I am wearing completely soaked in sweat.
    I also own a 21 speed peddle bike without a motor and I ride that same route. I can make it much harder with the electric bike, on myself, then the 21 speed will ever be. I can make it effortless with the electric bike if I need to (IE heart starts giving me trouble); but isn’t it nice to know I have that option if I need it ??
    I mostly ride the Blue Springs (Orange City) to Beresford (Deland) Florida trail. I love getting out in nature, seeing the animal life and enjoying all that biking has to offer. Proper etiquette and safety is essential in every part of living. It would make the experience so much sweeter if everyone would practice it !!!

    Happy Biking !!
    jpeek

  13. trailsnet

    Thanks to JPeek for sending me an email recently about electric bicycles on trails. JPeek pointed out, correctly, that electric bikes aren’t necessarily the easy way out. They can require as much or even more exercise than a non-electric bike.
    For those of us who believe that electric bikes allow even more people to get out and enjoy the trails and, therefore, should be allowed on trails, it is up to us to make a good impression. We need to ride safely and be considerate of our fellow trail users. Having said that, I have yet to meet one electric bike rider who doesn’t feel the same way and who doesn’t rides safely and at a reasonable pace. That could change as more and more people discover the joys and convenience of electric bikes. In the meantime, let’s all be good e-bike ambassadors and ride courteously & safely.
    BTW, I still don’t own an electric bike, but enjoy riding them as company demos, on rentals or with friends who own multiple electric bikes and allow me to borrow one for small group rides.

    1. paul g wiegman

      The question of electric bikes on the various trails that form The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) a couple of years ago. The GAP is 150 miles from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA.

      The discussion was stimulated because of the changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act changes a few years ago.

      The outcome of the discussions was a Mobility Device Policy promulgated by the Regional Trail Corporation, an owner and manager of a major portion of the GAP. That Policy can be found at

      http://www.regionaltrailcorp.com/RTC_Mobility%20Device_Policy.pdf

      This policy was adopted and applies to a portion of the GAP. Other trail groups considered the policy and it was also adopted by the Somerset County Park & Rec. Board. That group oversees the portion of the GAP from the Maryland-Pennsylvania border to Confluence, PA. The City of Pittsburgh also considered the policy and adopted most of the points but discarded the portion that requires “operating pedals”.

      Ohiopyle State Park and the section of the GAP in Maryland decided not to adopt the policy and those sections remain closed to any cycle with a motor. The Montour Trail, a trail linked to the GAP, also considered the policy and decided to reject it and restated that the Montour is a non-motorized trail.

      It needs to be recognized that the policy applies to persons with disabilities. However, under the ADA, disabilities are very broadly defined.

      Personally, I feel the policy above is a good foundation to allow electric bikes on public trails beyond just those with disabilities. It allows for a reasonably powered cycle which blends with the existing vehicles using the trails. The power of the cycle, 250, 500, 750 watts can be debated but top speed of the assist is critical. During the discussions, which began with considerable opposition, the top speed was a constantly recurring question. What was lost on many was that a strong cyclist on a non-motorized bike can easily reach 20-25 MPH on many sections of the trail.

      The key aspects of the policy were developed more to restrict electric powered vehicles unlike bicycles. The concern was that allowing motorized bikes would open the trail to the myriad of other electric powered vehicles all the way up to golf-carts. Thus the weight and width restrictions. The other key feature of the policy was that the cycle must have the ability to be ridden with just pedals. This was directly aimed at electric scooters.

      I’ve monitored the use of eBikes on the GAP and they are continue to be quite rare.

      paul g wiegman

      1. trailsnet

        Thanks for that information, Paul, and for the link to the Regional Trail Corp. page. A lot of thought was put into that policy. You bring up some valid points and the Regional Trail Corp policy does a good job of addressing those. I had already considered the importance of speed and watt restrictions, but it’s also a good idea to specify width of the vehicles. Some trails are already congested enough without adding golf-cart-type vehicles to them.

        One point that still concerns me is the pedal restriction. Some electric vehicles, like the electric Trikke, provide great exercise but do not have pedals. In some ways, the electric version of the Trikke is actually more trail-friendly than the body-powered, non-electric version. Both the electric and non-electric Trikke can be propelled using a side-to-side motion. This is fine when you’re the only one on the trail. But when the trail is getting heavy use, it can be a bit bothersome to other trail users who may be trying to pass you. With the electric version, you have the option to just use the motor to propel you in those instances, thus allowing the Trikke rider to go in a straight line rather than side-to-side. So the electric Trikke has all the benefits of an electric bike (exercise, alternative transportation, no pollution, etc.) without the pedals. Having said all that, Trikkes work much better on asphalt or cement trails, so they wouldn’t be all that good on the GAP anyway.

        Anyway, I recommend interested parties to visit the link that Paul provided in the comment above. The first part of the policy reads:

        “Regional Trail Corporation Mobility Device Policy

        In accordance with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
        revised regulations for Titles II and III, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design of 15
        November 2010, the RTC adopts the following policies concerning individuals with mobility
        impairments.

        To accommodate mobility disabled persons:

        1. Wheelchairs and similar devices built specifically for mobility disabilities are
        allowed.
        2. Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices OPDMDʼs, not specifically designed for
        disabilities may be used, provided;
        a. Motors on electric devices are 250 watts or less,
        b. devices weigh less than 100 lb. (43kg),
        c. devices are no more than 36” wide,
        e. devices have fully operating pedals.
        3. No internal combustion devices.”

        1. paul g wiegman

          Thanks for the positive comments.

          The pedal restriction is one that raises a lot of tough questions. Frankly it was included to overcome concerns about electric powered kick scooters on the GAP and was triggered some specific instances of these vehicles being used inappropriately on a few sections of the trail which passed through small towns.

          That point also raises the questions about a whole array of two, three, and 4 wheeled electric contrivances that are suitable for paved trails but not particularly suitable for unpaved.

          The GAP is paved from Mile 0 to around Mile 2 in Cumberland, MD and for 14 miles from McKeesport, PA into Pittsburgh. That last section is a dense urban area and the trail is as much a transportation route as it is a recreational trail. Those more urban sections require a whole different perspective on what vehicles should and should not be allowed. I suspect that that was the reason that the City of Pittsburgh adopted the RTC policy but deleted the “operating pedals” clause.

          I’m comfortable with the decision by the City of Pittsburgh and would be comfortable with a similar policy on the urban segments of the GAP where the trail is used for people commuting to work, shopping, or other non-recreational activities.

          By the way, I do own an electric bike. It’s a Vision SWB recumbent with a Bionx 250 watt conversion kit. It’s primary use is on city streets.

          paul g wiegman

          1. trailsnet

            I’ve tried lots of electric bikes, but not an electric recumbent, yet. It’s definitely on my to-do list. I enjoy renting recumbents on some of my trail trips. I did the Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga Trail (200 miles rt in Georgia/Alabama) on a recumbent and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I had more room in my garage, I’d keep it filled with electrics, recumbents, bikes, Trikkes, Elliptigos, etc. Those are my kind of toys. Anything I can ride on a trail.

          2. paul g wiegman

            This is an interesting discussion and one that should continue.

            A point that was discussed during the creation of the RTC Policy which is referenced was the need for “operating pedals”. The logic went that there should always be a human power factor involved in riding the bike. The fact that a motor was used to assist was compared to a tandem bike where one of the people on the bike might not be able to ride a bike alone.

            However, in thinking about the whole notion trails, especially urban trails, why are we thinking about pedal bikes only? How about kick scooters? They are a legitimate means of lightweight transportation and in their simplest form are lighter and take up less space than a bike, and are human powered.

            From there, what about electric powered skateboards? If the big concerns are speed, weight, and size (width especially), a skateboard is easily within the parameters on the RTC policy and instead of “operable pedals” continues to have “operable feet”.

            For an example see

            http://www.gizmag.com/yuneec-electric-longboard/30653/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=2d4435ec87-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-2d4435ec87-76705282

            My point is that we need to recognize that trails are not just recreational facilities but an integral part of the transportation infrastructure. Being that they need to be available to many sorts of reasonable vehicles.

            paul g wiegman

          3. trailsnet

            Excellent point, Paul, and it’s something I struggle with on a regular basis. When you mention the word trail, most people have a mindset about what that entails. Generally, they think in terms of recreation and often, at least when it comes to bikes, they think of mountain bike trails. (Maybe that’s just in this area where both mountain biking and road biking are very seriously pursued.) So when I start talking about trail travel, trail rules and trail vehicles, people are a bit puzzled. For example, when I talk about going on a trail trip/tour, that confuses people. Why would you plan a whole trip around a couple miles of trail? We have lots of long distance hiking trails around here (Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, Great Plains Trail) but not many rail-trails or other long distance bike trails.

            People often don’t realize that trails provide not only recreation, but also transportation for a small but growing segment of people.
            Unfortunately, a lot of policy is written to reflect only the recreational aspect of trails. Your examples of various electric personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) makes a good point. Those vehicles don’t cause pollution, aren’t noisy and leave a pretty small footprint. In addition, they allow for a much greater demographic usage of the trails, i.e. older & younger folks and people w/ disabilities.
            So speed & recklessness are the only possible reasons for the restrictions. And I think we agree that a.) electric vehicles don’t necessarily have any great propensity toward those characteristics than, say, road bikes and b.) speed can be regulated on electric vehicles w/ a pretty simple governor that is already in use on European trails.
            I would definitely be in favor of modifying the “pedal restriction” to something that encompasses all PTVs that can also be propelled w/ human-power. That would include the examples that you (push scooter) and I (Trikke) already mentioned.
            Having said all that, I do not have any problems at all with allowing some trails to disallow electric vehicles just like some trails currently disallow bikes, horses, etc. But the regulations can’t be solely left up to individual municipalities & jurisdictions. Then you end up w/ a hodgepodge of laws that have one portion of a trail allowing electric vehicles while just a few hundred yards away, on the same trail, people will get fined $1,000 for riding the same electric vehicle. (That is actually the case w/ at least one Colorado town/trail that I know of.)

  14. trailsnet

    Thanks for Joe from Florida for sending Trailsnet the following email about Electric Bikes on trails (2/3/14)

    Since 7/29/2012, I have been riding my Ezip bike on three trials that are near my home in Orange City, Florida. I called BEFORE I purchased it and asked if they were permitted on the trails here in Florida. I was told I could use them on the trails if they met certain limited requirement; which my selection did (I can’t remember what those limits were). My bike can only reach 15 mph on the level ground and the very best speed (off the bike trail) that it reached was 24 mph on a very steep and long hill.
    Most people I speak with think an electric bike is easy and could not be anything but effortless biking. I am here to tell you that is not the case. It is what you make of it. Most people don’t know that the bike weighs 95 lbs and the batteries (I have two) weigh 16 lbs each. This is a total of 111 lbs plus extra equipment you have added to it. My bike is a 7 speed and I shut off the motor when I am peddling on flat ground or going down hill. I weigh 200 lbs and I am 68 years old. I put in close to 15 miles on the days I am out on it and I never come back with much of what I am wearing completely soaked in sweat.
    I also own a 21 speed peddle bike without a motor and I ride that same route. I can make it much harder with the electric bike, on myself, then the 21 speed will ever be. I can make it effortless with the electric bike if I need to (IE heart starts giving me trouble); but isn’t it nice to know I have that option if I need it ??
    I mostly ride the Blue Springs (Orange City) to Beresford (Deland) Florida trail. I love getting out in nature, seeing the animal life and enjoying all that biking has to offer. Proper etiquette and safety is essential in every part of living. It would make the experience so much sweeter if everyone would practice it !!!

    Happy Biking !!

  15. trailsnet

    A quick editorial comment from Kevin @ Trailsnet:

    Take a look at all the comments regarding electric bikes on trails. I think this clearly shows how important this issue is.
    And guess what? It isn’t going away. We can either bury our head in the sand or deal with the issue. I think it would be best to be proactive and set up clear and precise NATIONAL laws regarding the use of electric bicycles on trails. These wouldn’t supersede local laws but guide them. We need to start with a clear vision of what is acceptable on a federal/national level. Then states can use the federal electric bike guidelines to help shape regional, local & municipal e-bike laws.
    That way, although the laws would vary from trail to trail, there would be common language, guidelines & enforcement.
    A good example would be a simple baseline definition of what types of electric vehicles are allowed on trails. Clear & specific factors such as maximum speed, pedal-assist guidelines, & wattage restrictions could be determined. This would be good for both the personal electric transportation vehicle proponents & distractors.
    This issue is far from closed. Thanks for all your comments and please keep them coming.

  16. John Emerick

    I just became an avid fan of the Great Allegheny Passage from the Cumberland, MD end last year after purchasing my first ebike. Although I only live a mile from the Passage I had never had the opportunity to enjoy it due to injuries from a motorcycle accident in 2007 and a near death rear end collision in 2008.(driver was texting) . In 2013 I was able to put over 650 miles on the bike with the majority of the miles ridden on the Passage from the Maryland end. I researched ebikes for approximately 3 years before making the purchase of a Prodeco Phantom X2. My first year’s ownership,riding experience, and research can alleviate most of the fears expressed in the comments contained here. The laws regarding ebike have been on the Federal books since 2002 when Federal Legislation HR 727 was signed into law with the simple requirements that set the standards for “low speed” electric bikes. The “low speed” description has been codified in at least 37 states. In PA it is slowly working its way through the legislature as PA SB 997 where it has passed the Senate. I personally pre-filed MD HB 205 for the MD 2014 Legislative Session and provided testimony before the MD House of Delegates for the measure in January. Additionally, the MD Senate has MD SB 378 working its way through the MD Senate. All of the legislation includes the same characteristics of the original Federal HR 727 which is simply this – ” an electric bike that is 750 watts or less, weighs less than 100 lbs., has working pedals, and can travel no more than 20 miles per hour under electric motor only, is considered a bicycle, and subject to the rights and responsibilities(laws) for riding a bicycle in the particular jurisdiction where it is being ridden. In essence an ebike with the qualifications applied under HR 727 is considered a “bicycle” under all aspects of the law. These “low speed” bicycles are able to maintain posted speeds on the Passage and are likely more safe because of their top of the line components than a standard pedal powered bike. My personal record under 1 battery charge is 38 miles in August when the temperature hovered in the mid 90s. My bike has range capability of 20 miles on 1 charge on near level road. I can attest to being passed many times on the downgrade east toward Cumberland by cyclists on standard trail bikes likely in excess of 25 miles per hour. I had passed these same cyclists on the western uphill portion of the Passage, since I am able to maintain the 15 mph posted speed uphill and down hill while still getting an excellent workout. I agree and recommend that ebikes that do not fit the “low speed” criteria should be banned from the public trails (since they don’t meet the Federal HR 727 criteria). Those bikes are listed for offroad use only, can have motors upwards to 5000 watts and speed capability of 50 mph or more, and weight over 100 lbs. In essence they are motorcycles with pedals and should be banned from the public trails. I will also share that all of the bills mentioned here support the Federal Electric Transportation Act of 2013 and is gaining local, state, and regional support from bicycle advocacy groups. As additional information and support for this legislation, there are 30 million ebikes produced in China. 29 million stay in China with 1 million exported to the rest of the planet. In Europe in 2012 over a million ebike were sold (approximately 900,000 new cars were sold in Europe). In 2012 60,000 ebikes were sold in the US along with 59,000 electric cars. It is easy to see why the US is so far behind the rest of the world in acceptance of ebikes, due to lack of knowledge about them and archaic motor vehicle laws that incorrectly relegate them to the same rules as gasoline powered scooters and mopeds. By simply accepting the Federal standards under HR 727 the states and municipalities can provide an immediate boost to the acceptance of the “low speed” ebike in the US and hopefully, make it a staple for transportation and recreation. For those who took the time to read this piece in its entirety and would like to sample the benefits of the ebike without buying another bike, check out the Copenhagen Wheel which goes on sale summer of 2014. You can become a member of the ebike movement and still use your existing bike. You will be amazed at this MIT engineered wonder! Hope to pass you on the “Passage” when the weather breaks.

    1. trailsnet

      Hi John,

      It’s always nice to see new fans of long-distance trails. Once people try them, they’re hooked.

      Thanks for joining the electric bikes on trails discussion. You are very knowledgeable about this topic, and I appreciate your insights. The statistics you provided were especially helpful to the discussion.

      You’ll notice that most of the people in this thread are in agreement; electric bikes should be allowed on trails, but they should have clear regulations. Without those regulations, I’m afraid they wouldn’t be welcome on the trails for very long.

      Another thing I’ve noticed about ebike proponents is that they are pretty level headed. They aren’t the speed-demon, take-no-prisoners type. I think we can all agree that whether we’re talking about electric or non-electric bicycles, they should not be going fast on trails. Next to pedestrians that insist on taking up the entire trail, speeding bicyclists are the biggest threat to trail safety and harmony.

      Please continue to update us on the progress of electric bike trail legislation and regulation, John. I can assure you that most members of the Trailsnet community appreciate and support your efforts.

      BTW, I hope to meet you on the Great Allegheny Passage sometime. I don’t make it there very often, but I look forward to my next journey to your neck of the woods.

      1. Paul g wiegman

        John,

        Good points. It should be noted that the Federal Standards mentioned were promulgated by/for Consumer Products and not by the Transportation Dept. However, they remain a good set of standards by which trail regulations could be fashioned.

        In your interest with promulgating reasonable eBike standards you might want to contact the Mountain Maryland Trail Group to discuss the future. As I pointed out, the group and the Allegeny County authorities were made aware of the Regional Trail Corp regulations that were adopted for the Somerset County, PA portion of the GAP and they chose not to adopt them.

        I live in Confluence, PA and ride the GAP regularly. Maybe we could get together, once the Big Savage Tunnel reopens, and talk more about eBikes on this important trail. The GAP is recognized as one of the premier trails in the US and setting reasonable standards would be a model for the country.

        Paul g wiegman

  17. John Emerick

    Paul, I will definitely take you up on the get together offer when the Big Savage Tunnel reopens this spring. Additionally I have also been talking to several members of the Allegheny Trail Alliance and members of the Wheelmen. They appear to be open to more dialogue and in some instances have requested to sample the ebikes for trail use. For the present, my primary goal is successful passage of HB205 Maryland during the 2014 legislative session and providing a helping hand to the PA legislation to make sure it gets passed, My ultimate goal is to establish recharging points (or battery swap out points) using the existing businesses, trail towns,and trail heads along both the C&O Trail and the Passage every 30-40 miles. This will allow ebiking the entire length, or individual sections as desired. I will be 61 years old in May and my goal is to ebike the full extent of the trail and back again by age 65 at least once. This coming summer I will begin the first phase with the Cumberland to Pittsburgh and back to Cumberland ebike goal.

    1. paul g wiegman

      John,

      Your goals are commendable and I hope you are able to achieve them in a timely manner.

      A couple of points to consider. The policy that was put in place by the Regional Trail Corporation (RTC), the group that oversees the GAP from Connellsville to Homestead, PA, was approved as a response to recent changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

      The policy is found here

      http://www.regionaltrailcorp.com/RTC_Mobility%20Device_Policy.pdf

      Approval by the RTC, Somerset County, PA, and the City of Pittsburgh, was for trail users with disabilities. It was not approved for eBikes in general. Getting approval for eBikes in general will need to be discussed with the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) and each of the member trail groups.

      The legislation pending in Pennsylvania will clear the air for eBike use on state highways but will not automatically allow eBikes of many trails since they are presently owned by local governments or private nonprofits. Each of the trail groups has the right to propose and establish their own regulations.

      The ATA can consider allowance of eBikes, and may even suggest approval, but in the end allowance will come down to each of the groups.

      Please don’t take my caution in the wrong way. I’m a proponent of eBikes but in my efforts to get the RTC policy passed I encountered considerable opposition and am realistic that there will continue to be such. By demonstrating eBikes to groups will go a long way to make people realize that these vehicles are safe and belong on recreational trail and transportation routes.

      An eBike has covered the GAP in the summer of 2012. Check the http://www.evelo.com site for details. In 2012 & 2013 a fellow rode an assisted trike the length of the GAP & the C&O. Check this site http://www.rideforrenewables.com/the-rocket-trike/

      I didn’t get to talk to either of these riders but I know that the couple on the Evelo bikes were charging at the lodging where they stayed.

      I ride the length of the GAP yearly and in the various B&B’s that I regularly use I ask about charging and have never been told no. I haven’t ridden by eBike on those annual rides but ask because of my interest.

      Again, we should get together.

      paul g wiegman

    2. trailsnet

      So we’ve been talking mostly about e-bikes on the GAP trail, but I just assumed they were not allowed on the C & O because it’s a national park trail. Do either of you (Paul or John) know what the rules are for electric bikes on the C & O Canal Towpath Trail?

      1. paul g wiegman

        My understanding is that electric bikes are not allowed on the C&O.

        Although there is a Federal Law defining eBikes with less than 750 watt motors, and some other factors, as “bicycles”, the law was promulgated to distinguish those vehicles from motorcycles and thus exempting them from having to have operating tail lights, headlights, and other features.

        If that law is posed to the parks people will say that yes, they are bicycles, but they still have a motors and are thus motorized vehicles and as such are not allowed on the C&O.

        paul g wiegman

  18. Jim Titus

    I just stumbled onto this issue after a different bill I was pushing ran out of gas. Here are a couple of concerns I have about HB205. Most important, it has been presented as if it is mainly an extension of HR727 (2001), which deals with manufacturing safety. That is reasonable enough.

    But there was no discussion in the House that the bill would also allow children to ride these vehicles on highways. It’s one thing to allow an adult to ride one on the streets, but a child is a different matter. If a kid can actually pedal 20mph, she probably has a lot of practice from when she could only pedal 15 mph and before that 10 mph and before that 7 mph.

    Similarly, whatever your views of ebikes on trails, it hasn’t really been discussed with the legislature. The presentation just sounds like definitions for manufacturing and safety standards,. rather than a balancing of the weight of vehicles that will be put on trails.

    So there is a bit of left-not-knowing-what-the-right-is-doing when the feds define a 1-horsepower 20 mph cutoff for purposes of safety inspections, and then people assume that therefore, this must be the appropriate cutoff for what a kid can drive on a highway or trail. After a more deliberate process of weighing all the factors, the Europeans drew the line at only 1/3 horsepower and 15 mph.

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks for the information, Jim. I know a lot of folks in this country don’t like borrowing ideas from the fine folks over in Europe; but they’ve been looking at this whole issue of electric bikes a lot more seriously (and for longer) than we have been in the U.S. I think it would be a good idea to take a look at what’s working over there and think about implementing it in the states.

      One thing is for sure. We need some federal guidelines and a more united front. We’ve got an incredibly vast network of trails out there, but it is vastly under-utilized because a lack of unification. It seems like an awful waste to me.

    2. Cheryl

      Jim,
      I found this thread from your article on The Wash Cycle (http://www.thewashcycle.com/electric-bikes/). You expressed disdain at what you called “electric mopeds on crowded trails”. Do you still feel that way after reading the comments on this thread? I may not be a child, but I feel no safer riding a bike, electric or not, on the roads with cars traveling many times faster by impatient and inattentive drivers. Last year my car was totaled by a driver who didn’t see me – the driver’s door was mangled so badly that I couldn’t open it and had to climb out the passenger side. You wouldn’t know it from the inside of the door – the frame of the car saved my life. Period. Neither a helmet nor a 20 mph limited motor would serve that purpose. This is where the federal consumer safety law and the state law defining an ebike intersect.

  19. Barbara

    I am a 59 year old grandmother with severe arthritis and disabled. I want to use the bike trails along with my 62 year old husband, for much needed exercise, but I need a pedal assist bike to help me through the trails, not to speed past other riders, but to assist me when I am in need of help. Am I not permitted to use the trails with my electric pedal assist bike?

    1. trailsnet

      I wish I had a short answer for you, Barbara. It depends on the section of the trail within the town within the county within the state within the country.

      That’s the problem!!

      The rules are so convoluted and regionalized/localized that it is an unknown.
      You might be just fine riding your electric bike on any given trail… or you might get fined $1,000 for doing it.

      To find out the answer to your question, here’s where you look…

      … Oops, that’s the next problem. There isn’t even any central place you can look to find out what is legal on any given trail. Are electrics bikes legal? Are dogs okay? Can they be off-leash? Are non-electric bikes even allowed?

      In fact, with this week’s Supreme Court ruling, there are now certain sections of many trails where it may be illegal for anyone (other than the property owner) to be on the trail under any circumstances.

      That was the original intent behind Trailsnet.com. I wanted one website where people could access information about literally any trail, starting in the United States, then worldwide. Of course, in addition to a central website, it would also be helpful if we had a little more clearcut rules/guidance on such issues as electric vehicles on trails.

      If you were expecting a yes or no answer, I bet you were very disappointed by this reply. (-: Sorry about that.

  20. Jim Titus

    @Barbara: Can you say where you live and which trail you want to use? Aside from the jurisdiction, it also depends on the rules of a given park.

    Fortunately, you can ride on the road or shoulder in most places. Most people don’t have a nearby trail, or it does not take them where they need to go, so that is what they have to do anyway. If you live right on a trail, consider yourself very fortunate.

  21. Barbara

    I apologize for not stating a general location. We are very near to The Niles Greenway (in Trumbull county, Ohio) which connects with the MetroParks Bikeway (In Mahoning county). We have walked the trails, but recently purchased Pedal Assist Bikes and are looking forward to many miles on the trails (with assistance when needed). We also would like to load them in the truck and explore other Ohio Bike Trails.My understanding is, these are considered Bicycles by law.

    1. trailsnet

      Other people in this particular blog-post thread are more knowledgeable than me, but it is my understanding that electric bikes are NOT considered bicycles by law and have completely different rules and regulations. And those rules and regulations vary greatly depending on the trail, municipality, county and state.

      In some (many?) countries, pedal-assist bikes are considered bicycles and are not only allowed on the trails but are sometimes encouraged with such amenities as bicycle exchange stations and regularly spaced rental facilities.

      1. paul g wiegman

        It depends on the regulations for the particular trail you intend to use. Check with the group/agency that administers the trail. Be sure and ask them what the rules are for disabled riders under the Americans with Disabilities Act and if they updated their regulations in accordance with the ADA amendments in 2008/2009. The ADA act isn’t just for people with disabilities that confine them to a wheelchair, but also individuals with heart disease, arthritis, age, and other infirmities which lead to a diminished ability.

        I know many of us, I’m 71, don’t like to think that we are disabled, but let’s face it we can’t recreate like we did when we were 30.

        That said, two points come into play as far as using an electric bike on a public trail. One, if the trail owner/maintainer when through the process under the 2008 amendments they should have defined what types of assistance vehicles are, and are not, allowed on the trail. Again, I point to the Regional Trail Corporation in western Pennsylvania who went through the process and developed the Mobility Device regulations presented here;

        http://www.youghrivertrail.org/RTC_Mobility%20Device_Policy.pdf

        Under the ADA to be able to use a device that meets these regulations you need only to state, if asked, that you are disabled. There is no need for a doctors letter, state issued PD sticker, or anything else. The person asking isn’t allowed to go further and ask what is the nature of the disability.

        Two, if the trail owner/maintainer hasn’t gone through the process of defining what types of assistance, Other Mobility Devices, are or are not allowed, then you can simply say you are disabled. If questioned I would get a lawyer and have them review the ADA Act and Amendments.

        http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm

        pgw

    2. paul g wiegman

      After reading through these recent posts I would like to add another comment.

      We need to remember to keep separate regulations that impact bikes/electric bike on highways and regulations that impact the same on trails.

      Regulations on highways are in the realm of the State Motor Vehicle code and indeed those regulations vary widely and often don’t even address electric bikes.

      Second, the oft cited Federal Law designating bikes 750 watts and less, with other stipulations, was promulgated for the Consumer Protection sphere and not highways. It was intended to prescribe that those bikes under 750 W need not have many of the safety requirements that say motorcycles must have to be imported and sold in the US.

      This discussion is generally about electric bikes on trails. Trails are not the domain of the state motor vehicle agency but are regulated by usually more local public and private groups or agencies. When there is a question about an ebike on a trail we need to go directly to the group/agency who is responsible for that trail.

      Umbrella legislation can clarify the questions about ebikes on highways but it will take lots or time and effort to work with each trail manager to get ebikes considered on local trails.

      pgw

  22. Barbsra

    At the very top of this page does it not state The Federal Electric Bicycle Regulations? I have a call in to local municipals pertaining to this issue as well as emails to several trail web pages. Thank you tor your opinion.

    1. trailsnet

      Yep. That’s the problem. The Federal regulations define an electric bicycle, but they don’t help at all with where an electric bicycle can be ridden. They’re a little more clear on the rules when it comes to the ADA, but that invites a whole new list of questions.

      Are bad backs, sore knees, arthritis, obesity, etc., etc. disabilities? They certainly keep a lot of people off the trails each year. But those same people might be able to get outside, get fresh air, get sunshine & get exercise if they could legally ride pedal-assist bikes on their local trails.
      I have seen numerous suggestions to “check with your local municipalities” to find out whether riding on the trails is legal. But that isn’t right.

      A. Believe me, that isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve made lots of calls. First, it takes forever to find the person who can answer that question, if anyone. Second, if there is someone who knows the answer, they may be at the local level, county level, state level, federal level, department of parks, department of motor vehicles, department of recreation, highway department, trail authority ….
      B. Imagine if every time you had to drive to school, work, the store, etc. you had to call around to see if your car was legal on a particular road. Instead, there are clearcut rules for the roads and whenever there’s a variance (One way streets, weight limits, height restrictions, etc.) they’re clearly marked. In other words, it is the governing authorities obligation to let you know the rules when they vary from the norm. It is not the road users task to thoroughly research each and every road before using.

      I guess the bottom line is that I’m a bit disillusioned that those of us who want to encourage, promote & utilize safe and healthy alternative transportation are discouraged from doing so while polluting, energy guzzling automobiles are subsidized and encouraged.

      That’s my rant for the day. (-:

    2. paul g wiegman

      Here are the oft cited Federal regulations.

      https://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/93295/low.pdf

      Note, these were promulgated for the CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION. Their intent was to define electric bikes and draw a line on what safety equipment would, or would not be necessary to import and sell the bikes in the US.

      These have little or nothing to do with highway or trail regulations.

      The ADA regulations are very broad and yes bad back, arthritic knees, obesity, etc can be disabilities. The amendments to the ADA outline what can be deemed a disability. The law also required that agencies and private groups overseeing trails look at their trails and establish what they believe to be appropriate regulations.

      Unfortunately, most trail administrators never did that so after the final rule making date almost anything, including ATV’s and motorcycles might be ridden by a disabled person. This was the reason that the Regional Trail Corporation in western PA took the steps to define “Other Mobility Devices”. Once they defined what was allowed they could prohibit a whole host of vehicles.

      We should be working with our local trails to make them aware of the ADA Law and establishing reasonable regulations to allow those with disabilities access to trails while maintaining a quality experience for others.

      pgw

      1. Barbara

        Thank you all for your comments, opinions, and input. As I originally stated, my sole purpose for purchasing a pedal assist bicycle, was to “assist” me when needed. I am physically disabled, but that doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy the outdoors or riding on the bike trails. It means I must get permission from the powers that be! My quest is to find those powers! I will take your information and move on. The ADA info was very helpful. Thank you very much. And “Happy Trails” to you all 🙂

        1. paul g wiegman

          Barbara,

          Let us know what you learn. If they do have a policy see if it is online.

          If they don’t have a policy, the short answer is that since there is no policy in response to the ADA Act, you are allowed to ride since you have stated you are disabled. They are NOT allowed to ask you for proof of your disability.

          Have a great ride.

          pgw

          1. Barbara

            Thank you Paul. I will post when I find the answers!

          2. Barbara

            I just spoke with The Managers of the bike trails in both Trumbull County and Mahoning County, Ohio. Both Managers assured me that Pedal Assist Bicycles ARE permitted on the trails for Disabled Riders! Yaaayyyy!!!! They did not specify any size, etc. Just that Disabled persons are permitted use of pedal assist bicycles on these trails!!!! Happy Trails y’all!

          3. trailsnet

            Thanks for keeping us posted, Barbara. Congrats on your trail access!!

      2. Charlie

        Hi Paul, I think the federal law’s intention is that electric bicycles that fit the specifications of low power and low speed should be regulated like bicycles, not like motor vehicles. The designation of 20mph on a paved, level surface with a 170 lb rider is there to give a clear metric about what ebikes meet the definition. If the ebike meets the definition, the intention is that state law should treat the ebike like a bicycle, wherever it is ridden.

        For a trail regulator, I don’t think second guessing the federal regulation about what is an acceptable ebike is likely to be productive. Manufacturers and consumers will purchase ebikes that fit that designation, and will expect them to be treated like bicycles, with some consistency of regulation guaranteed by the federal law.

        I think clarifying the courtesy and safety expectations is the way to go with regulation. Establish rules about maximum speed and appropriate etiquette especially around passing, crowded conditions, and dangerous trail sections, and you can enforce those against ebikes, reckless teens, and speeding road bikers.

  23. Jim Titus

    Alot of trail managers would say that they comply with ADA by allowing motorized wheel chairs and generally build new trails with slopes that are appropriate for wheelchairs. Accommodation generally does not mean that one can duplicate the precise experience an able-bodied person would have. But if it did, that would probably only mean allowing ebikes with 125-watt motors or so, that is, relying on ADA alone, someone on an e-bike pedaling as fast as they can should be going the speed of the average cyclist on that same hill. If that’s not fast enough, you are looking for more than an accommodation of your disability, you are looking for an accommodation of your preference for hills to not be so darn steep.

    1. paul g wiegman

      The ADA regulations differentiate between motorized wheel chairs, or other similar devices, that are designed specifically for disabled users. The regs further state that as long as the trail can accommodate such devices the trail can not prohibit such. Where eBikes come in is under Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMD’s). That portion of the law is where eBikes may be allowed.

      Prior the March 2011 public and private facilities were instructed to review their facilities and prepare a policy for OPDMD’s. As part of the review the power of the device was part of the consideration. Those electric OPDMD’s allowed in a given facility could be as little as 125 watts, but they could also be higher, much higher. In western PA on the Great Allegheny Passage 250 watts is allowed. Other trails might select 750 watts. Some might even allow internal combustion engines such as golf carts or even ATV’s. The ADA Act didn’t set any specific power, weight, width, number of wheels, length, or other factors. The Act left that up to the individual trail owner.

      For another view of a policy which is a result of the ADA changes in 2011, take a look at

      http://www.aspensnowmass.com/images/OPDMDS.pdf

      There is also a good overview of the ADA changes at:

      http://www.americantrails.org/resources/accessible/OPDMD-DOJ-requirement-basic.html

      The OPDMD policy for Palm Beach County, FL is here;

      http://www.co.palm-beach.fl.us/erm/natural/natural-areas/opdmd.htm

      Google “Other Power-Driven Mobility Device Policy” and you’ll find more.

      paul

      1. trailsnet

        Thanks Paul. That was very informative. I have just modified the original “Electric Bikes on Trails” post (and will continue to do so) and added the American Trails link that you provided above. I think that one was the most helpful for our purposes. It sounds like OPDMD is the buzz term/acronym that we need to focus on. I actually kind of like that because it allows us to include electric vehicles that don’t require pedals as part of their power source. (Some of the stand-up vehicles such as Trikke would be included in this category.)

  24. trailsnet

    There are a bunch of great trail websites out there, but none of them (that I know of) tell whether or not electric bikes are allowed on each trail. So I’m thinking of completely revamping the trail submission web page on trailsnet.com and adding a place to show whether or not electric bikes are legal on each particular trail. (Adding the electric bikes tick-box would be easy, but the process needs revamping anyway.)

    When I say, “I’m … revamping the trail … page” of course I mean I’m paying someone else who knows a lot more than me to revamp it. So do you think that would be worthwhile to have a trail website that includes information about whether electric bikes are legal or not on each trail? Of course that wouldn’t be the focus of the site, but that would be one of the characteristics that sets it apart.

  25. paul g wiegman

    Trailsnet

    I just did a quick Google search using “Other Power-Driven Mobility Device policies” and came across some rail trails that have indeed adopted a policy. Several here in western PA have modeled there policy after the RTC example.

    I like your idea of adding a checkbox indicating if there is a policy. It will take some work, but will be worth it for many people.

    pgw

    1. Jim Titus

      Any idea whether they are only accommodating people with mobility issues, can anyone ride the 250-watt ebikes?

      1. paul g wiegman

        What is posted are policies for riders with mobility issues. We are still a long way from having eBikes generally allowed.

    2. trailsnet

      Thanks for the feedback & further information, Paul!!

  26. paul g wiegman

    In reviewing some of the OPDMD Policies around the country I noticed that Lancaster County, PA has a note in their policy that;

    “Please note that electric bikes (ebikes) meeting the above criteria, and which allow the user to pedal or alternatively run on battery power, are permitted on all Lancaster County Park Trails approved for bicycle use. User discretion is advised as some approved bicycle trails may not be suitable for all types of bikes.”

    From:

    http://www.americantrails.org/resources/accessible/Lancaster-County-PA-policy-OPDMD.html

    This seems to mean that on these trails eBikes are allowed even for people without disabilities. Does anyone have more details?

    pgw

  27. Karl Dean

    “And what about such vehicles as hybrid Trikkes? These are power-assisted, meet most of the requirements for power level & speed; but they don’t have pedals”

    Well my 48v Trikke Pon-e certainly has pedals as defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary:
    1ped·al noun \ˈpe-dəl\
    : a flat piece of metal, rubber, etc., that you push with your foot to make a machine move, work, or stop

    I keep a copy with me at all times. In the event that I’m challenged by a Leo or Trail monitor I can remove my battery and demonstrate how I “pedal” my Trikke by alternately pushing down on each of the rubber covered flat pieces of metal over the rear wheels and make my machine move down the trail! If for any reason they want to continue questioning or lecturing me I’m also well prepared to go the OPDMD route.

  28. Anne Whitcombe

    Hi, we plan do do your Great Allegheny trail when we retire. We have many bike trails in New Zealand and we are working our way through those. Out of our group of friends who cycle together I am the only one with an E-bike. I ride at the same speed as the others but could not participate unless I had an e-bike. All our trails allow them. I have not heard of any problems, only greater access for those who would otherwise be left behind.

    1. paul g wiegman

      You’ll have no problem on the Great Allegheny Passage. There is a policy in place allowing them on most of the trail. In the sections that no official policy is established, they are simply overlooked. Under the US Americans with Disabilities Act if a trail hasn’t established a policy then they are allowed since the administrator of the facility took no action.

      The reality is that unless you have an outsized motor and the bike looks like a standard bike, not a scooter, nobody even gives a eBike a second look.

      1. trailsnet

        What about the C & O Canal Trail, Paul? It seems like I’ve read that electric bikes are illegal on that trail.

        1. paul g wiegman

          The use of motorized devices is a really a gray area. They do make a statement that “unauthorized motorized” vehicles are prohibited, but they don’t clarify what is authorized and what is unauthorized.

          Under changes that were made to the Americans with Disabilities Act a couple of years ago, there was a section that clearly defined “motorized wheelchair” and made them legal on any trail unless the governing body prohibited them. That made motorized wheelchairs legal on both the GAP and the C&O since neither specifically bans them. Along with the motorized wheelchair definition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) also put forth another category – Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMD’s). Those included just about anything with a gasoline or electric motor.

          The DOJ then gave those government and private groups responsible for trail management the right to prohibit motorized vehicles used by persons with disabilities. The groups needed to list the OPDMD’s prohibited and provide a reason for the prohibition. Some groups did this and others didn’t.

          One group that when through the process was the Regional Trail Corporation in western PA. This group is responsible for the GAP trail from McKeesport to Connellsville, PA. Their policy is at http://www.regionaltrailcorp.com/RTC_Mobility%20Device_Policy.pdf

          That same policy was adopted by a group who oversees the GAP from Confluence to the Maryland State Line. It was also adopted by the City of Pittsburgh.

          Ohiopyle State Park, the group in Maryland, and the C&O apparently didn’t take any action.

          Under the DOJ request, if a trail management group didn’t take an action then any OPDMD would be allowed.

          So, that leaves portions of the GAP under the RTC policy and other portions without a clear policy.

          You will notice that the RTC policy limits OPDMD’s to 250-watt motor. However, it’s impossible to check on this and unless someone is on a bike with a huge electric motor nobody is going to ask any questions

          That leaves a visitor with the question of “disability”. The DOJ was very broad with the definition and included everything from the obvious to a heart condition. Furthermore, a visitor, if asked about their use of an electric bike, OPDMD, need only say “I’m disabled” and no further questions can be asked and no physical or medical proof is necessary.

          That’s the long story. The short is that with an electric bike, one that fits the standards set by the RTC policy, no one is even going to take a second look. The GAP and the C&O are long trails; there is little oversight from trail managers, and even where there are trail monitors as long as it’s a bike they probably won’t even notice.

          I ride a recumbent with a Bionx drive on the GAP and have never been questioned. I have a friend with a recumbent trike with a similar drive, and he rides regularly and hasn’t been questioned. I’ve seen many electric bikes and have never heard of someone being stopped. I’m sure if someone rode with a scooter-like electric that you see regularly in Shanghai or Bejing they would be stopped and questioned. Officially if that type of vehicle was used on the RTC managed sections of the trail it would be illegal since it doesn’t have operable pedals and may be heavier than the 100-pound limit.

          Electric bikes aren’t nearly as popular here in the states as they are elsewhere. They are beginning to catch on, but it’s a slow process.

          I’m certain you won’t have a problem.

          1. trailsnet

            Thanks Paul. I always appreciate your insights & information about electric PTVs (Personal Transportation Vehicles) and about the GAP & C & O trails.

            I’m not quite sure why the U.S. is so slow in adopting clear guidelines regarding electric bikes on trails. We could easily just look at the statutes of other countries, make any necessary revisions and then pass some federal guidelines that can be used by individual states & municipalities.

    2. trailsnet

      Hi Anne –

      I’ve read many good things about the excellent bike trails in New Zealand. I’d love to get your opinion on the ones you consider to be the best New Zealand bike trails.

      I hope trail administrators in the United States read your comment. As you can probably tell by my blog posts & comments, I believe that electric bikes (all electric PTVs) should be allowed on most trails for the very reasons you mentioned in your comment. Electric bicycles allow greater access to trails for people who may not otherwise be able or inclined to join bike excursions on longer distance trails.

      Are the rules regarding electric bikes on trails pretty consistent in New Zealand? Are e-bikes generally allowed on trails there?

      Thanks for your comment, and I look forward to hearing more about your experiences with electric bicycles on trails in New Zealand and the U.S.

      1. Anne Stephens

        I have just completed the 150 km Otago Rail Trail in the South Island of New Zealand. I did this over four days on an e-bike along with three other women (in our 60’s) on ordinary bikes. It was a life time experience in terms of scenery, cycling and camaraderie. I could not have completed it without being on the electric bike and of course my legs still had to go round and round for the entire 150 km! E-bikes are legal on all trails here and there appears to be no problems associated with them. You can actually go faster on a modern mountain bike than you can on most of the heavier e-bikes anyway. I stuck with my group at a sedate average of 12 km an hour. We have many trails and this one is surely the most stunning.

        1. trailsnet

          Welcome back to the e-bikes on trails discussion Anne!

          The Otago Rail Trail has been on my bucket list for many years and, whether I do it by e-bike or regular bike, I definitely plan on riding it someday.

          As you mention, e-bikes are legal on trails in most other countries, and I can’t figure out why it’s taking so long in the U.S. Your experience is typical in that electric bikes don’t generally go any faster on the trails than most bikes and, in many instances, they go slower than many of the type-A personality riders.

          Thanks for chiming in!!

  29. Cheryl

    This thread is by far the most fair and detailed discussion of ebikes on trails I have found. Thank you!

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks again for your input Cheryl. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, Cheryl contributed an excellent research article regarding electric bikes, and a link to that article is found about halfway up the thread. The article contains useful information about e-bikes.

  30. KB Lewis

    i suspect that the origins of “no motorized vehicles allowed” originated with the concern for off-road motorcycles, scooters which reach similar speeds as such, and other small petroleum powered vehicles of similar nature. I highly doubt that the electric assist bicycles, trikes, and newer types of electric or electric assisted vehicles were in mind when these rules were formulated. I think the time is approaching where that “no motorized vehicles allowed” caveat needs to be re-thought. There is a significant portion of the population who wish to commute in ways that are healthier not only for themselves, but for the environment. And of them, there is a significant portion of the population who have aged or become injured in such a way as now they can no longer manage those commutes or cycling without some sort of electric assist. I also suspect they are going to be part of those who are more considerate of the other portions of the populations utilizing trails, greenway spaces, rail-trails, etc. It is no longer a concern of off-road motorcycles, dirt-bikes, and higher powered scooters using space that might endanger pedestrians, and slower cyclists. Frankly when I have been out riding my road bike on greenway spaces I’ve been overtaken and nearly run off the trails by speeding mountain bikers, usually younger by a significant age difference. There are spaces for people who wish to ride fast and recklessly, it should not be on trails. And ebikes, electric assisted trikes, whether they have pedal assist or not should be allowed. I for one would be quick to use one, especially for a situation where I would/could be commuting to work, running errands, shopping, etc. My knees can not handle the hills in my region, and thus I am far more limited in my modes of travel. In addition, due to vision issues I can not currently drive. And electric assist trike would resolve transportation issues for me (and others) and make me less dependent on a weak public transportation system, where the buses go in circular routes. If I want to run what would likely be a quick errand in an ebike, electric assist triek it could take an hour or two on the so called public trnsportation system (PTS), and often involves a lengthy walk on far less than pedestrian friendly much less pedestrian safe areas to get to the PTS stops. The greenways and trails system in my region is being grown and expanding such that the plans are to have literally 100’s in not 1000’s of miles of trails and greenway space. Allowing an electric assisted vehicle would mean I could get from town to town, city to city without ever once getting on a busy, and dangerous road and have to keep up with traffic (which I could not do)…..

    So clearly the idea of banning ALL motorized vehicles needs to be re-visited. And I see this not as a local issue, but a nationwide issue.

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks for yet another viewpoint regarding e-bikes on trails. I’m particularly glad that you brought up electric trikes as well. I recently added a link to this “Electric Bikes on Trails” blog-post on the Trailsnet Facebook page and got a couple interesting replies, one in favor & one opposed to electric vehicles. If you get a chance, you may want to have a look @ that Facebook discussion (just search Trailsnet on Facebook) and add your input.

      I noticed (KB) that throughout your comment (above) you refer to “electric assisted” bikes & trikes. But in one particular area, you say, “ebikes, electric assisted trikes, whether they have pedal assist or not should be allowed.” I want to point out that under current ADA rules, anybody w/ a handicapping condition is already allowed to ride/operate such vehicles on most trails.

      One of the big arguments against allowing electric vehicles on trails is the “slippery slope” gang. They argue that once you allow electric vehicles (including pedal assisted) it will just be a matter of time before motorcycles, ATVs, etc are going to be allowed. Having said that, I’m curious if you think even non-handicapped individuals should be allowed to operate electric vehicles that are not pedal-assisted? Do you think that throttle controlled electric vehicles should be allowed on trails for the general public?

      The reason I ask this is because that seems to be the beginning of the slippery slope that people are worried about.

      1. Cheryl

        I would argue against distinguishing between pedal assist vs throttle, and go instead with the federal (and in some cases state) definition of electrical bicycle based on fully operable pedals, max speed, and max power. You have said that most ebikes are pedelecs by now, but that’s not been my (albeit limited) experience.

        1. trailsnet

          I am also a fan of the max speed & max power regulations, Cheryl; but I have two problems w/ using fully operable pedals as a strict guideline.

          1. Just having fully operable pedals is not the same as pedal-assist and alleviates one of the major benefits of trails. In addition to all the other great assets of trails, one of their biggest selling points is that they provide exercise in a world that is becoming increasingly obese and out of shape. Pedal assist allows people who may not be in tip-top shape to enjoy all the benefits of trails (safety, exercise, outdoors, social, etc.) while providing them w/ a little assistance with hills, headwinds, etc. I’m afraid that having fully operating pedals that are an option rather than a requirement might completely take exercise out of the picture for some/many people. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about people who may have handicapping conditions. That’s not part of this debate since ADA already covers that issue and is pretty clearcut.

          2. What about Personal Transportation Vehicles (PTVs) such as the Trikke? These are body powered PTVs that do not have pedals but are still human powered. The electric/hybrid Trikkes can be either body-powered or electric powered. The “fully operable pedals” rule would exclude them from trails. (If you are unfamiliar w/ Trikkes, check out comments from Doug on the recent e-bikes on trails discussion on the Trailsnet Facebook page. Or, type Trikke into the Trailsnet search function above and you’ll see some blog posts, descriptions and discussions about them right here on Trailsnet.com.)

          I’m glad we’re having this discussion. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I am in favor of getting more people on trails. The big question is, “Where do we draw the line?” My opinion is constantly evolving. For example, when I first rode some rail trails in New Hampshire, I was appalled to learn that snowmobiles were allowed on them. Then, when I discovered that a.) They are only on the trails when hikers & bikers aren’t on the trails and b.) The snowmobilers do the lion’s share of trail maintenance, I had to concede that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea ON THOSE PARTICULAR TRAILS.

          Not being argumentative… just food for thought.

          1. Cheryl

            A lot of ebike manufacturers are using federal and/or state laws as product guidelines, including the manufacturer of my ebike. I’m currently legal on the trail, but I won’t be if you succeed in changing the law to pedelecs only. If that happens I’ll be back in my car (and very unhappy and unhealthy). I will not ride my ebike on the road for the reason I wrote about the other day. Do you see a lot of people forsaking the pedals for the throttle on trails?

            I am not familiar with the Trikke. I took a quick look, it looks like it may be good for recreation and exercise. Unless it’s electric, I don’t think the definition of an ebike is relevant.

  31. trailsnet

    So far, Trailsnet isn’t proposing or supporting any specific legislation regarding electric bikes. Just seeking input from trail users and enjoying the discussion. Lots of great points and plenty of enthusiasm.

  32. Cheryl

    Yesterday I rode a pedelec for the first time. I have to say I felt a loss of control. There were 4 power settings, anything beyond the first would be for hills only. Even the first power setting seemed a bit too speedy for some circumstances – I don’t use the motor to pass pedestrians or standard bikes as a rule. I would not have that option with a pedelec, unless I turned it off. But turning it off is a positive action – not at all as straightforward as just letting go of the throttle. Fantastic on hill though, for sure!

    1. trailsnet

      Hi Cheryl –

      What kind/brand of pedelec did you get? The one that I’m testing now has two easy ways of turning off the power. Both of them are done w/ the left thumb, just inches from the handlebar grip. The one that I’m reviewing has five different power settings as well as an off setting. So the highest mode is turbo (a bit of hyperbole) and the lowest setting (besides off) is eco. Once I get down to eco, it’s simple to just push the button one more time to turn the power off. Then it’s equally simple to turn it back on again with another push of the same button. Of course I can also reach a tiny bit further and turn it completely off, but that’s not really necessary.

      I’ve found that when the terrain is flat or downhill or I’m in a crowded area, it’s best to just ride on my own power.
      However, when I’m in eco mode, it really doesn’t provide the type of power that would make me the least bit worried about going too fast or out of control.

      My guess is that you’ll get used to the controls and the feel of your new pedelec bike and start feeling comfortable with it before too long. After riding numerous pedal-assist bikes, I’d never even consider going back to a throttle.

      1. Cheryl

        Oh, I didn’t get one (yet), just tested it. It was an iZip Vibe+. The power settings start at 0, then go up to 1, 2, 3, 4, but on the way down they only go 4, 3, 2, 1 (which is called eco) – not to 0. I had to hit the power off button to get back to 0. I had the buttons at a bad angle which made them harder to push, the sales rep showed me when I mentioned it that I can change the angle of the buttons to match my hands better. But off is still a different button, and I’m used to the simplicity of just letting go when I want to stop the power. That said, I am impressed and may buy one soon.

        FYI – the company that makes the iZip has a WONDERFUL pamphlet on trail etiquette for ebikes. Mostly common sense, but it demonstrates to people who think ebikes are just mopeds with pedals that we care about trail safety.

        http://www.currietech.com/dealers/wiki/images/b/b1/EBike_etiquette_brochure_lowres.pdf

  33. BARBARA BREEDLOVE

    This is the 3rd year I have been riding my E-Zip, Pedal Assist bike on and off our local trails. I contact the local Parks & Recreation office in each county for approval to ride. I might add, I am disabled, and riding my bike is a wonderful form of exercise for me. I only use my pedal assist when needed on hills. Last June, I participated in The Great Cycle Challenge, and logged over 500 miles for the month on my Pedal Assist Bike to raise money for research in children’s cancer. I would be lost without the freedom I now have with my bike.

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks for sharing your story Barbara. Electric bikes allow trail accessibility to so many people who wouldn’t otherwise be able (or inclined) to enjoy the beauty & serenity of our amazing trails network. I’m still befuddled why some people would want to deny such access. I hope you continue enjoying your e-bike on trails for many years to come.

  34. peter

    I’ve been commuting from Vienna to DC on the bike trails for over 20 years. In the last 2-3 years, the number of ebikes I see on the trail has increased substantially. Especially within the last year. I can understand if someone is elderly or has a disability needing one of these things. But the people I get passed by, and they all pass me, look perfectly able to ride a regular bicycle. I used to tell them to “get a real bike”, but I decided to stop doing that.

    Last year, I’d see one or two a week. This year, it’s two or three a day. In five years, what will it be? Right now they’re fairly harmless. Some of them buzz by going pretty fast — especially up hills. And the people riding them often aren’t good bike riders, which is a little scary given that these things travel 20-25 mph. What will riding on the trail be like when half the bikes on the trail are ebikes whizzing around the rest of us non-motorized slugs? And what will they evolve into? They’ll undoubtedly get faster, cheaper, and have longer range. I read somewhere that ebikes are the biggest growth item in the bicycle industry.

    These things out to be banned on the local trails before it gets out of hand.

    1. trailsnet

      Hi Peter and welcome to the conversation about electric bikes on trails.

      I totally understand and empathize w/ everything you’re saying. As with everything, there is the possibility that some ebike users will be inconsiderate and ruin it for everyone. And we need to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen. Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not own an electric bike nor have I ever owned one. I have, however, tested numerous models of ebikes over the years.

      I’d like to start by sharing some important points about ebikes in general and ebikes on trails particularly:
      – There are almost no national rules regarding ebikes on trails and very few helpful guidelines.
      – Regarding your comments about the speed of ebikes, that is one of the reasons we need rules. Technically, ebikes on trails should be pedal-assist, not throttle. And as such, they should have some type of governor that cuts out at a certain speed. Typically that speed is 20 mph or less. This means the motor would no longer provide drive power beyond that speed. So you may be correct about the cheaper and longer range point you made above, but the electric bikes probably won’t get faster and definitely wouldn’t get faster if we had standardized rules throughout the country.
      – It is important to note that I also get passed like I’m standing still, but never by electric bikes. When it happens, it is often road bicyclists who carry the “need for speed” onto the trail. In most cases, I don’t mind being passed, as long as they are courteous, and many of them are courteous. I don’t expect everyone to ride my speed. However, it sounds to me that the problem you bring up is not so much an electric bike problem as a speed/careless bicycling problem. Although I see very little of that on the trails that I frequent, it is somewhat of an issue everywhere. Of course the busier the trails, the more you will see the problem. And, also of course, this isn’t a problem that is unique to trails. I’ve seen it to a similar extent on sidewalks and to a much greater extent on roads. (by both drivers and bicyclists)
      – As far as banning ebikes on local trails, that is also a good point. Just like horses and bikes are banned on some trails, it is certainly reasonable to expect that some trails might be off-limits to electric bikes.This would especially be true on crowded local trails where it may be safer to restrict the trail use to some extent. If you read the history of bicycles, there have always been groups that want to ban ALL bicycles. From the early days of bicycling to modern days when certain towns (Black Hawk, CO) have tried (sometimes successfully) to ban bikes. It is easy to try and restrict those “other people” from pursuing their passions. It’s a slippery slope and should be either avoided or approached with great caution and forethought.

      Having said all that, I really do appreciate your comments and totally understand where you’re coming from. As trail users, we need to be respectful of one another work to make the trail experience safe and enjoyable for everyone.

  35. will

    Thanks for all the info. I am just thinking about buying an E-bike turning 68 and have had a Quad-bypass. We are getting a RV and seeing the country.

    1. trailsnet

      That sounds like a great plan Will. There are many wonderful electric bikes out there including some folding ones. Good luck and let us know if you find any good bike trails along the way.

  36. frank reynolds

    I have biked the same paths/trails on a ROAD bike, MOUNTAIN bike and E-Bike at the same avg speed of 15 mph. Aging lessens the distances and the avg speed on a regular bike. An E-bike provides the option of turning back the hands of time and compensating for declining vigor. I could do 25 mile outings at age 50 on a regular bike and the E-bike provides the same option at 65.

    1. trailsnet

      Thanks for sharing that Frank. People need to read more comments like yours. The vast majority of people who ride electric bikes (possibly near 100%) are not doing it to go fast or be lazy. E-bikes allow people to get out on the trail for fresh air and exercise when they may not have done so without the electric assist. You are the perfect example of this. Electric bicycles are just one more way of allowing more people to get out and enjoy our great bike paths. Keep on bicycling and enjoying our greenways and bicycle trails!!

  37. Janet

    Love my e bike but when others are present common sense prevails. I pedal. When I feel the need for speed, I jump on the dirt bike.

  38. trailsnet

    Hi Janet,

    Welcome to the Electric Bikes on Trails discussion. Your comment about ebikes on trails is in line with most electric bicycle riders. You ride your e-bicycle safely & follow the trail rules. Unfortunately, many people have misperceptions about the “dangers of electric bikes on trails” that are simply based on ebike myths & urban legends.

    I hope you continue enjoying your electric powered bike and the joys of trail riding on e-bikes.

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