E-bikes?

shade

Well-known member
I’m curious about the rationale behind assuming E-Bikes should be allowed wherever bicycles are allowed.

Is it because they have the potential of being partially powered by the rider? If that is the case, should a traditional moped with an internal combustion engine be allowed in the same places?

Is it because they are electrically powered and thus quiet? If that is the case, should electric motorcycles be allowed in the same places?

Is it some combination of factors - they are electrically powered (quiet) and have the potential of being partially powered by the rider? Thus excluding electric motorcycles (no power from the rider) and traditional mopeds (not quiet)?

I don’t mean to start an argument - I’m just honestly curious about the proposal!

Thanks, Howard
All valid questions. It's not a clear cut issue.

As we discussed in the other thread I linked, use studies of affected trails would probably answer many questions better than anything else. I'd also rather local management makes the final decision, since they're in the best position to see how e-bikes are working on their trails.
 

Graton

Member
I’m curious about the rationale behind assuming E-Bikes should be allowed wherever bicycles are allowed.

Is it because they have the potential of being partially powered by the rider? If that is the case, should a traditional moped with an internal combustion engine be allowed in the same places?

Is it because they are electrically powered and thus quiet? If that is the case, should electric motorcycles be allowed in the same places?

Is it some combination of factors - they are electrically powered (quiet) and have the potential of being partially powered by the rider? Thus excluding electric motorcycles (no power from the rider) and traditional mopeds (not quiet)?

I don’t mean to start an argument - I’m just honestly curious about the proposal!

Thanks, Howard
I think you answered your own question in the fourth paragraph. If you drew a Venn diagram with bicycle, e-bike, moped, and motorcycle the greatest overlap would be with the bicycle and e-bike and critical attributes that differentiate mopeds and motorcycles from bicycles would be speed, noise, and pollution - all good reasons to keep them off the bicycle trails. This applies to class 1 e-bikes - no throttle, pedal assist only, and assist speed limited to 20 mph. Class 2 and 3 start to blur the lines and many places that allow class 1 do not allow 2 and 3. One can argue over the semantics and details, but the mopeds and electric motorcycles are most dissimilar to bicycles compared to e-bikes.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
I think you answered your own question in the fourth paragraph. If you drew a Venn diagram with bicycle, e-bike, moped, and motorcycle the greatest overlap would be with the bicycle and e-bike and critical attributes that differentiate mopeds and motorcycles from bicycles would be speed, noise, and pollution - all good reasons to keep them off the bicycle trails. This applies to class 1 e-bikes - no throttle, pedal assist only, and assist speed limited to 20 mph. Class 2 and 3 start to blur the lines and many places that allow class 1 do not allow 2 and 3. One can argue over the semantics and details, but the mopeds and electric motorcycles are most dissimilar to bicycles compared to e-bikes.
The problem is that criteria are subjective. What is too loud or too fast? To hikers every bicycle has these characteristics. As a rigid single speed MTB'er I think most geared dual suspension bikes, electric or not, make annoying rattling sounds.

Venn diagrams can only really be useful if the objects can be logically binary such as "produces 70 dB SPL at 25 feet" or "has maximum speed of 20 MPH." Then what if it happens to be possible to produce a moped quiet enough or speed governed? Most bikes can exceed 20 MPH at some point especially downhill. Some real stallions can climb on their own as fast as this donkey might with electric assist even.

The determination of motorized is not subjective, either it does or does not.
 
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Graton

Member
The problem is that criteria are subjective. What is too loud or too fast? To hikers every bicycle has these characteristics. As a rigid single speed MTB'er I think most geared dual suspension bikes, electric or not, make annoying rattling sounds.

Venn diagrams can only really be useful if the objects can be logically binary such as "produces 70 dB SPL at 25 feet" or "has maximum speed of 20 MPH." Then what if it happens to be possible to produce a moped quiet enough or speed governed? Most bikes can exceed 20 MPH at some point especially downhill. Some real stallions can climb on their own as fast as this donkey might with electric assist even.

The determination of motorized is not subjective, either it does or does not.
No - the criteria is not subjective at all. Who said anything about too loud or too fast? Class 1 e-bikes are limited to 20 mph assist, downhill doesn't matter, assist stops at 20 mph - there is your binary option - "assist to 20 mph" vs. greater than 20 mph. Easy to set standards for decibel level - normal conversation is around 60 dB, set it at that, a moped with ICE is not going below that. Add zero emissions to the requirements and no moped with ICE will be allowed. So there are three objective measures that are just as valid as motorized vs. not motorized.

- Speed of assist limited to 20 mph
- Noise level measured at 5 feet limited to less than 60 dB
- Zero emissions (except for rider)

I don't own an e-bike but I know a number of older riders who own them and can go out on group rides with younger folk and still get a great workout. There is a lot to be worked out regarding sharing trails and roads - but a simple ban of motorized vs. non-motorized is not the way to go.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
No - the criteria is not subjective at all. Who said anything about too loud or too fast?
I did. Also the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, et al in 1984 when they got the USFS to put the blanket ban on bikes in Wilderness, twisting the legal definition in the 1964 Wilderness Act taking motorized to mechanized modes. I don't have a problem with e-bikes, great for commuting, utility, bike paths and motorized trails but they are not mountain bikes. The pedal assist is aside the point. They have motors. I know to most people it will be an arbitrary distinction and so that puts me in the minority. But a speed limit or hiker/biker speed differential is the issue. It seems to me not differentiating motorized and human-powered risks increasing the trails we'll be banned from when we're already losing backcountry trails. Pretty soon mountain biking will be like golf, only done in manicured and manufactured parks.
 
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shade

Well-known member
Until there is some sort of regulation of cyclist training/licensing/enforcement/etc., it's THAT simple for me. I've had too many close calls with non-cyclists who can't control a fast, powerful machine.
That's part of my concern. Another problem could be people e-biking too far down a trail, and not having enough power to return.

As long as local managers are given the ability to regulate use, it may not be so bad, but whether they'd have the will to exercise that oversight may be a bigger issue.
 

Howard70

Adventurer
In many areas riders of traditional, non-motorized bicycles struggle to exercise their legal right to travel safely upon public roadways along with motorized vehicles. Some of the fault is with riders who fail to follow the laws and regulations of all vehicular travel on such roadways and some of the fault is with drivers of motorized vehicles who fail to appreciate the rights and vulnerability of their slower and less protected roadway colleagues. One value I see to E-bikes is increasing the numbers and visibility of all bicycles on roadways - assuming their riders follow the vehicle laws at least as well (hopefully better) than the riders of traditional bicycles. More visible and well-behaved cyclists of all types of bicycles on public roadways could make riding safer for everyone.

I rode traditional road bikes for more than 45 years before switching nearly completely to gravel, mountain, and adventure bicycles because I don't feel safe on paved roads anymore. I sympathize with my colleagues who prefer E-bikes and don't feel safe on pavement either and thus want to ride where there are fewer automobiles and those drive more slowly and considerately towards their two-wheeled colleagues. I definitely think E-bikes should be encouraged anywhere other motorized vehicles are allowed - paved, dirt, or single-track. On tracks where motorized vehicles are prohibited I'm not convinced that motorized bicycles of any type deserve exceptional treatment just because they look like a non-motorized bicycle. There are literally thousands and thousands of miles of roadways, two-track and single track where motorized vehicles are allowed and traffic densities are low enough for enjoyable, safe cycling. The actual mileage of tracks where traditional bicycles are allowed but motorized bicycles excluded is miniscule in comparison. Could riders of E-bikes concede those tracks to their non-motorized colleagues out of courtesy - even though they might not understand or agree with the desires of some traditional cyclists to have some tracks limited completely to human power? In return riders of traditional bikes ought to welcome E-bikes to their roadway bike lanes, etc.

I think a key to a more enjoyable future for outdoor recreation as the total area available shrinks and the numbers of recreationists increases will be broadscale tolerance of divergent forms of recreation. Traditional rock climbers could concede some crags to sport climbers and their bolts and sport climbers could concede some crags to the "leave no trace" ethics of trad climbers. Folks who only hike could concede some areas to offroad vehicle travel and folks who prefer vehicular travel could concede some areas to just hikers and equestrians. In many cases the tolerance ought to be for shared areas - hikers and equestrians sharing trails with traditional bicycles, E-bikes and motorcycles - varying combinations in different areas or perhaps different times of the year. None of these are new ideas - formal and informal policies like these exist throughout public lands. But we seem to fight about them a lot and that confuses me. My confusion might come from my enjoyment of all the divergent forms of recreation (except sport climbing - an old curmudgeon has to retain some bias) so I don't mind giving up my bike to hike in a wilderness area, or leave my truck to bike some two-track that I used to drive when I was a kid.

Howard
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
In many areas riders of traditional, non-motorized bicycles struggle to exercise their legal right to travel safely upon public roadways along with motorized vehicles. Some of the fault is with riders who fail to follow the laws and regulations of all vehicular travel on such roadways and some of the fault is with drivers of motorized vehicles who fail to appreciate the rights and vulnerability of their slower and less protected roadway colleagues. One value I see to E-bikes is increasing the numbers and visibility of all bicycles on roadways - assuming their riders follow the vehicle laws at least as well (hopefully better) than the riders of traditional bicycles. More visible and well-behaved cyclists of all types of bicycles on public roadways could make riding safer for everyone.

I rode traditional road bikes for more than 45 years before switching nearly completely to gravel, mountain, and adventure bicycles because I don't feel safe on paved roads anymore. I sympathize with my colleagues who prefer E-bikes and don't feel safe on pavement either and thus want to ride where there are fewer automobiles and those drive more slowly and considerately towards their two-wheeled colleagues. I definitely think E-bikes should be encouraged anywhere other motorized vehicles are allowed - paved, dirt, or single-track. On tracks where motorized vehicles are prohibited I'm not convinced that motorized bicycles of any type deserve exceptional treatment just because they look like a non-motorized bicycle. There are literally thousands and thousands of miles of roadways, two-track and single track where motorized vehicles are allowed and traffic densities are low enough for enjoyable, safe cycling. The actual mileage of tracks where traditional bicycles are allowed but motorized bicycles excluded is miniscule in comparison. Could riders of E-bikes concede those tracks to their non-motorized colleagues out of courtesy - even though they might not understand or agree with the desires of some traditional cyclists to have some tracks limited completely to human power? In return riders of traditional bikes ought to welcome E-bikes to their roadway bike lanes, etc.

I think a key to a more enjoyable future for outdoor recreation as the total area available shrinks and the numbers of recreationists increases will be broadscale tolerance of divergent forms of recreation. Traditional rock climbers could concede some crags to sport climbers and their bolts and sport climbers could concede some crags to the "leave no trace" ethics of trad climbers. Folks who only hike could concede some areas to offroad vehicle travel and folks who prefer vehicular travel could concede some areas to just hikers and equestrians. In many cases the tolerance ought to be for shared areas - hikers and equestrians sharing trails with traditional bicycles, E-bikes and motorcycles - varying combinations in different areas or perhaps different times of the year. None of these are new ideas - formal and informal policies like these exist throughout public lands. But we seem to fight about them a lot and that confuses me. My confusion might come from my enjoyment of all the divergent forms of recreation (except sport climbing - an old curmudgeon has to retain some bias) so I don't mind giving up my bike to hike in a wilderness area, or leave my truck to bike some two-track that I used to drive when I was a kid.

Howard
Part of this is that we haven’t added trails in many yrs but we have more users.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Part of this is that we haven’t added trails in many yrs but we have more users.
We've significantly reduced the miles of available trails. It's particularly impacting forms of recreation growing the most (bikes, OHVs). In some cases they/we were the primary trail users and maintainers. In one case around 180 miles was closed to MTBs in the Bitterroot to Wilderness Study Areas a couple of years ago. Many of those trails I understand are now overgrown and being lost since it's not practical to walk the miles carrying tools to keep up with deadfall each spring.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
Well, fingers crossed but I ordered a pair of Lectric XP folding E-bikes. After what seemed like days and days of online "research" they seemed to be the best option for us and the best value for the money. They are a bit under $1000 each and have a 500w/48v motor, which I think will be sufficient for what we need (the Rad Minis have a 750w motor but also cost $500 more each.)

I'll post back up here when they arrive and give my impressions.

I haven't completely given up on the idea of building an E-bike, but it seems my current mountain bike is not a good build candidate for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the dropouts on the rear frame are not particularly stout. I'm still toying with the idea of buying a $25 el-cheapo bicycle off of Craigslist and converting that to an E-bike just for fun.
 

phsycle

Adventurer
... One value I see to E-bikes is increasing the numbers and visibility of all bicycles on roadways - assuming their riders follow the vehicle laws at least as well (hopefully better) than the riders of traditional bicycles. More visible and well-behaved cyclists of all types of bicycles on public roadways could make riding safer for everyone.
Call me a pessimist, but I really can't see that happening. As e-bikes get more affordable and build-friendly, there will be more and more non-cyclists buying in. Will they see themselves as cyclists on the road or motorized vehicles? My opinion? They will be free-roamers, diving in and out of traffic and the bike lanes. Whatever is more convenient. I noticed this over the past two summers riding my road bike. Some lady on a Specialized cruiser zooming past me in between two cars then merging back into the bike lane. Another guy passing me on the left side, "full throttle," while I was trying to make a left turn.......in my truck!!! As time goes on and the gap between a motorcycle and an e-bike continue to shrink, it will just continue to get worse.
The key component missing in the cycling world is education. Whether its doing more to make the public aware of cyclist bylaws/etiquette (for both motorists and cyclists), or forcing it on people by the way of licensing---or both. I would say 80% of the cyclists I know do not know proper hand signals. Who has the right of way. Simple bike laws. Of course, the non-cyclist friends couldn't care less except that bikes are annoying on the road. I've almost given up road biking, like @Howard70 except on the way to the trails, due to much negligence on the road. By both parties.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Id love to have an e-bike instead of a gas bike for the camper.
But range & recharge times pretty well put a damper on things.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Call me a pessimist, but I really can't see that happening. As e-bikes get more affordable and build-friendly, there will be more and more non-cyclists buying in. Will they see themselves as cyclists on the road or motorized vehicles? My opinion? They will be free-roamers, diving in and out of traffic and the bike lanes. Whatever is more convenient. I noticed this over the past two summers riding my road bike. Some lady on a Specialized cruiser zooming past me in between two cars then merging back into the bike lane. Another guy passing me on the left side, "full throttle," while I was trying to make a left turn.......in my truck!!! As time goes on and the gap between a motorcycle and an e-bike continue to shrink, it will just continue to get worse.
The key component missing in the cycling world is education. Whether its doing more to make the public aware of cyclist bylaws/etiquette (for both motorists and cyclists), or forcing it on people by the way of licensing---or both. I would say 80% of the cyclists I know do not know proper hand signals. Who has the right of way. Simple bike laws. Of course, the non-cyclist friends couldn't care less except that bikes are annoying on the road. I've almost given up road biking, like @Howard70 except on the way to the trails, due to much negligence on the road. By both parties.
Most places I've seen in the U.S. perceive cyclists as jerks and bikes as toys. When you commute or do errands on a bike you fight both motorists who don't want you in their way and other cyclists who blow stop signs and don't even give passing interest to traffic rules or laws. I'll freely admit to riding defensively in situations for self preservation, such as filtering to the front and right at a stop rather than sitting in the cue waiting to be a pancake between inattentive drivers. But people who are not 9 years old shouldn't be riding on sidewalks, for example. We want to be respected as a vehicle then we should act like a vehicle.
 
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