May 18

Electric Vehicles on Trails – Revisited

Electric Personal Transportation Vehicles

Are Trikke electric vehicles and other electric transportation vehicles such as electric bikes legal to ride on trails. As most of you already know, the short answer is, “It depends on the trail and/or the vehicle.” However, in a recent email to Fred Welch of the Trikke Corporation, I gave a much lengthier answer. So here’s the long answer to the question, “Is it legal to ride electric Trikkes or any other electric or hybrid personal transportation vehicles on the trails?”

Can Hybrid PTVs Such as Electric Trikkes Ride on Trails?

Trikke electric carving vehicles

Trikke electric carving vehicles

In around 2007/2008, due to some high-profile lawsuits, many of the governing bodies for trails started cracking down on all mechanized vehicles on trails including electrical vehicles. Then, due to some federal rulings in 2009/2010, trail entities made a complete turnaround and started allowing most electrical vehicles due to concerns about violating Americans w/ Disabilities regulations.

Presently, there’s good news & bad news when it comes to Trikke EVs. The good news is that, even though there’s a confusing hodge-podge of rules regarding electrical vehicles on the state, county and city level, the Federal laws trump all of these (“The Federal law shall supersede any State law or requirement…”) and the Federal laws are often more lenient and common-sense than some of the local laws. Any trail that was built w/ Federal $ (even partially funded) is under even more obligation to follow the Federal laws/rules.
The most prominent of the Federal laws is Federal Electric Bicycle Law HR 727. Some of the major electric bicycle distributors that I’ve spoken with recommend that all electric bike riders carry around a laminated copy of this law in case stopped by local officials. It doesn’t necessarily allow for unfettered electric vehicle use, but it is just vague enough to convince local authorities to back down.
The bad news for Trikke is that HR 727 very clearly states, “…the term ‘low-speed electric bicycle’ means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts…”
Drats, if it wasn’t for the phrase “fully operable pedals,” Trikke would meet the criteria. Now since some of my research dates back as far as 2007 and these rules seem to change on a daily basis, I’m not sure which rules are still in effect. In speaking with local authorities there is still a lot of ambiguity, but some trends seem to be emerging.
  1. Of course, safety is the major concern that drives the decision of whether to allow electric vehicles.
  2. Trail damage is the second concern and this comes out of experience with vehicles such as ATVs and snowmobiles but translates to a much lesser degree to electric vehicles.
  3. Paved/concrete trails are much more likely to allow electric vehicles.
  4. The wider the trail, the more likely they are to allow electric vehicles.
  5. Local advocacies groups make a big difference. If there is a vocal group that advocates for certain trail access policy, then that group often sways trail policy in that area.
I recently (a few months ago) contacted Jay Henke, of Denver Parks & Recreation about the use of electrical/hybrid Trikkes and electric bikes on the Platte River Trail, Colorado’s most heavily used trail and soon to be part of the statewide Colorado Front Range Trail. According to Jay, “Currently the use of any non-motorized vehicle is allowed on trails operated by Denver Parks and Recreation, unless otherwise posted.  Section 39-19 of Denver’s Revised Municipal Code outlines this specific use regulation.
The current guideline as it relates specifically to electric-assist/hybrid  vehicles has not been discussed to date.”

I have had similar results in conversations with the Roaring Forks Transportation District. The Glenwood Springs area has two major trails. One is the Glenwood Canyon Trail and the other is the Rio Grande Trail. They are both administered by the same intergovernmental agency, but the Glenwood Canyon Trail (at least as of last year) seems to have a much more lenient attitude about electric vehicles on the trail. We were allowed to take Segways on the Glenwood Canyon Trail. (In fact, I was in Glenwood Springs last weekend leading a trail tour and was pleasantly surprised to find out that on page 23 of their Glenwood Adventure Guide, there’s a picture of Madi, me, and some family friends riding Segways on the Glenwood Canyon Trail.) However, according to the owner of Pete’s bikes, a chain of electric bike sales and rentals based out of Boulder, they are incredibly strict about not allowing any electric vehicles on the Rio Grande Trail.

So that’s my long-winded answer to the question about allowing EV Trikkes and other electric personal transportation vehicles or hybrid personal transportation vehicles on trails. As I stated, some of my information is at least a couple years old. So if anyone has more updated information or information about the legality of electric vehicles on specific trails, please share your observations and comments below. I’d also like to hear how electric bikes, pedal-assisted bikes, and other hybrid vehicles are perceived and regulated in other countries.

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May 16

Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) in Keystone, Colorado

 Trailsnet and ActiveTravelTours Will Be At TBEX 2012

logo for TBEX in Keystone Colorado

Sure is all about trails, but it’s also considered to be a travel blog, too. So I am looking forward to attending TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Keystone, Colorado this summer. It will be a great time to connect with fellow bloggers, learn new trends in the blogging industry, and enjoy some time up in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. If you are a fellow blogger, I look forward to meeting you. For those of you who follow trailsnet, hopefully TBEX 2012 will help me improve trailsnet so it is a useful resource for trail lovers and trail travelers.

I will also be representing at TBEX, so I look forward to meeting travel writers and continuing to make trailsnet and ActiveTravelTours the best active travel blogs on either side of the Mississippi.


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May 14

Rail Trails: United States Bad News, Australia Good News

Trail Searches Going Down on the Internet

Is the golden age of rail trails already behind us in the United States? If you look at Google Insights statistics, it looks that way. It looks as if fewer people are searching for rail trails and trails in general, while far fewer people are looking for bike trails. At the bottom of this post is one of the many Google Insights reports I viewed when looking at trail trends worldwide. Rather than just looking at my results, I highly recommend you do some trail research on your own. I don’t claim to be an expert on Google Analytics or Google Insights. However, it seemed pretty clear to me that interest in trails in general and rail trails in particular is on the downswing in the United States and some other major countries. We could blame it on many factors: economic downturn, competing forms of recreation and transportation, lack of funding, etc. But, of course, those are just excuses. With their many benefits for health, the environment, and recreation, trail use and interest should be on the rise rather than in decline. But enough bad trail news, lets look at some good trail news.

Trail Interest on the Rise in Australia, New Zealand & Canada

Fortunately there is some good news about trails. While internet trail searches are down in the United States and some European countries, searches are up in Australia and New Zealand. I’m not sure about Australia, but I know that New Zealand in particular has recently made a concerted effort not only to build new trails but (and this is important) also to connect their trails and to publicize trails. I can’t emphasize that last point enough. It doesn’t matter how much money, time and work goes into building trails; if they are just a hodgepodge of unconnected lines on a map that nobody knows about, things will start to disappear. Interest will disappear, funding will disappear, internet searches will disappear, trail users will disappear… I don’t believe we have even gotten out of the starting blocks unless we have:

To end this on a positive note, one trail statistic is going up worldwide. People are showing a continually increased interest in hiking trails. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts on that, too. But now it’s time to give you a break from my preaching and show you a graphic representation. This is just to pique your interest. Hopefully, you’ll do some searching on your own and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

trail information on Google Insights

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May 06

3G Stepper is a Great Personal Transportation Vehicle for Trails

New Personal Transportation Vehicle for Upright Riding

Trail running is great exercise, but a little hard on the feet, knees and back. Bike riding on trails is lots of fun, but sometimes a trailsnet lead writer tries out a 3G Stepper personal transportation vehicle on California's Huntington Beach Trail. pain in the neck, literally. It would be perfect to combine the two. The upright position of running combined with the smooth, rolling cadence of bicycling would make the ideal trail ride. Too bad there’s not a personal transportation vehicle for that. Or is there?

3G Stepper Combines Best of Trail Running and Bike Riding

For those with plantar fasciitis, bad knees or a sore back, trail running can be a real pain. For some bicycle riders, daily bike trips can cause pain in the lower back or neck. But we all love the trail and have a burning need to burn some calories. Fortunately, there’s a wide selection of personal transportation vehicles out there that are much easier on the body than some of the traditional trail transportation vehicles. One such vehicle is the 3G Stepper. Founded by Gary Silva, the 3G Stepper is a fun alternative to biking or trail running. It allows the rider to stand upright while pedaling the vehicle a bit like a bicycle.

Best on Paved Trails or Cement Trails

Although the 3G Stepper personal transportation vehicle can probably be ridden on packed gravel trails or even the road, it works best on asphalt trails or cement paths. I tried a 3G Stepper on the Huntington Beach Trail in Southern California, and it was love at first pedal. I hope to get the chance to demo the 3G Stepper in Colorado where it would be a big hit on such trails as Glenwood Canyon Trail or Platte River Trail near Denver. If any of you have had experience with personal transportation vehicles such as the 3G Stepper or any other stand up pedal vehicles, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


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May 03

Trail of the Couer d’ alenes rail-trail in Idaho »

Idaho Rail-Trails

trail bridge over lake coeur d' alene in northern idaho

trail bridge over lake

If there’s a rail-trail heaven, then it may be located in northern Idaho. Two of the greatest rail-trails on the planet are located there. One of them is the Route of the Hiawatha and the other is the Trail of the Couer d’ Alenes. These trails are very different from one another:

  • One is a paved trail and the other is a gravel trail.
  • One of them travels through tunnels and over trestles, while the other wanders a long a river and around and over a giant lake.
  • One of them is totally out in the boondocks while the other goes through small & large towns.
  • One of them is a fairly long trail and the other is an extremely long trail.

All differences aside, you really should do both of these trails… if possible in the same trip. Either one is worth a trip to Idaho. Put them both together and they’re possibly the greatest trail tandem in the world. Feel free to visit the Route of the Hiawatha page on trailsnet. Below you will find an excerpt from the Trail of the Coeur d’ alenes web page:

river trail in idaho

trail follows river

This perfectly paved piece of peaceful paradise is a powerful path to plenty.

Let’s list its assets: It’s long, smooth, scenic, uncrowded, plenty wide, accessible by numerous forms of human-powered transportation, set amidst forests, rivers, and a huge lake, and is planned to connect with numerous other incredible trails including the amazingRoute of the Hiawatha.

Eventually, energetic travelers will be able to pedal from near Missoula, Montana all the way to the Pacific Ocean via a network of trails that are already well on their way to completion. It will be trail nirvana.

via Trail of the Couer d’ alenes rail-trail in Idaho »

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May 01

Rails to Trails Conservancy Timeline

Sorry if this takes a long time to load. But it’s a nice timeline of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy history.  You can also view it in flipbook, list, or maps format. For more information about Rails to Trails Conservancy, see the description below this timeline. Thanks to Jenifer G for creating and sharing this timeline.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on Dipity.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Timeline.

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