The recently released Order #3376 by the Department of the Interior to allow e-bike use on all trails under their jurisdiction that are open to ‘traditional’ bikes came out of the blue for me.
I’ve witnessed the growth of e-bikes since about 2010 and have seen the advances. However, I expected that the first e-bikes to be allowed on dirt trails, including narrow singletrack, would be the Class 1 e-bikes that provide motor-assist up to 20 mph. These bikes are typically only a little faster in terms of average speed over a normal pedal bike over the course of a 2 hour ride. Thus, many have argued that their impact on other trail users isn’t much different from existing pedal MTB’s.
My worry was always the slippery slope concern. I wondered what would happen when other motorized vehicle users demanded access. Once you allowed motorized vehicles on trails that previously were exclusively for human power, where would it end?
Well, the DOI opened the barn door and now all 3 recognized classes of e-bikes will be allowed on trails where pedal bikes are allowed. This means that bikes that have a throttle and don’t require pedaling (Class 2) and bikes that provide motor assist up to 28 mph (Class 3) may be on the trail with hikers, equestrians, and human-powered bikes.
Most concerning under this ruling is that if e-bikes are prevented from using a particular trail, then pedal bikes would be banned from that trail as well. Thus a MTB rider who might average 10 mph (fairly fast for a fit rider) might be kicked off the trail due to concern over an e-bike that could average twice that speed. And it wouldn’t matter that she had ridden that trail for 10 years, but under the new rule this non-motorized bike rider would be kicked off if the land manager didn’t allow ALL e-bikes on that trail. The land manager isn’t allowed to treat the three classes differently EVEN THOUGH THAT IS WHY THE CLASSES WERE CREATED.
No doubt, human-powered bikes will be affected by this change. We will lose access in some areas because land managers will determine that some trails aren’t suitable for much faster Class 2 and 3 bikes, thus no bikes can use the trail.
Ironically, this ‘win’ for e-bikes isn’t the win that many of their advocates think it is. Most of the arguments for Class 1 e-bikes have been about letting slower riders keep up with their friends and family who ride traditional pedal bikes. When faster Class 2 and 3 e-bikes are equated with Class 1 bikes, this argument and the sympathy and understanding many people have will evaporate.
Clearly the argument for Class 2 and 3 bikes is that users want to go faster – significantly faster – than their human-powered brethren. Mountain bikes have been (mostly) accommodated on multi-use trails because the safety record is pretty good and most hikers, runners, and equestrians don’t consider them a hazard. Now, mix in e-bikes that can go significantly faster and I believe you may see more pushback than even in the early years of MTB use.
So I think there is a likelihood that e-bike users on Class 1 bikes will have LESS access BECAUSE of Class 2 & 3 bikes than if the trails were only opened up to Class 1 e-bikes.
It’s always possible that the Administration is playing ‘3 dimensional chess’ and this rule was written to create uproar and have the ‘compromise’ be that they only allow Class 1 e-bikes on singletrack. Some might argue that this was the plan from the start. My guess is that this is unlikely and the DOI’s incompetence and lack of interest in the user experience is more likely.
In the scheme of terrible and incompetent things that the current Administration has done, this is one of the lesser evils but it illustrates their lack of interest in good governance. Only a political appointee with no interest in understanding the difference between 3 classes of e-bikes would rule that henceforth pedal bikes and bikes with electric motors are the same. Either the authors of this new rule don’t ride bikes, don’t talk to people who do, don’t think it matters, or, possibly, all 3.
So, to summarize, I expect that riders of traditional pedal bikes will see trails closed to them that they are used to riding and the e-bike advocates will not get what they wanted either. The classic lose-lose that doesn’t feel like ‘Winning’ for anyone.
What do you think? Will this order change Mountain Biking? Is it ultimately good or bad for e-bikes? Please leave a comment.
I guess we’re all annoying in our own special ways. As a friend once said, ‘If you can’t tell who the ass is in your group, it’s probably you’.
But here are some of the characters I’ve ridden with over the years – I’m sure you’ve encountered some of these types; some are bothersome and some just make me laugh:
The Short Hammer
You setup a ride with a compatible group. Semi-epic, 80 miles of dirt and pavement with 5000 feet of climbing. The Short Hammer shows up and sets a blistering pace from the start. I think ‘Joe is feeling good today – I’ll try to keep up’ Then at mile 20 he bails for home. ‘That was fun, but I’ve got the kids today’. So, he just about killed us all with his personal TT and now I’m struggling to finish the ride. Next time tell us at the start Joe, so we don’t ride your ride.
The Can’t Ride That Bike Dude
Tom needs to borrow a bike, so I accommodate him with my old hardtail mountain bike. It works fine but it’s a few years older than the bike he just left in the shop. The entire ride he tells me how much faster he would be on his bike. The seat hurts, he hasn’t ridden flat pedals since he was a kid. ‘What? it’s not tubeless? So much less efficient’. ‘It’s heavy, it has old school geometry, narrow bars – how do you ride this thing?’
Billy likes his music, especially from a narrow window of time when he went to high school in the 80’s. Thanks to Bluetooth speakers he can listen to the same tracks every single ride and share them with everyone around. Can I listen to my favorite nature tracks instead?
The Head-Down Racer
Louis sees every ride as a race. No looking at the view, no chats, no re-groups. It’s all business. Does he stop for hikers? No, that might affect his Strava time. Does he stop for uphill riders? No, he’ll just swerve off the trail and ride around them.
The Faffer is the rider who is constantly adjusting and fixing his bike, clothes, helmet, phone, etc. before, during, and after the ride. You might ride by his place at the agreed time and find out he’s working on a ‘minor fix’ like a Bottom Bracket replacement and will be ready to go in ‘a couple minutes’. You wait a half hour and are on the road – but wait – ‘I forgot to put fresh Stan’s in that front tire, and it’s bone dry’. You head back and he has to search for the tire levers, sealant, and valve core removal tool. 15 minutes later you’re about to head off, but ‘I’m going to grab a quick bite – do you want anything’. After a few pancakes (excellent of course) and a latte, you would be ready to finally head out to the trails if only it wasn’t getting dark.
The Trail Worker
I love people who build and maintain the trails. But, if we’re going on a ride together let me know ahead of time that you’re planning to stop to dig out drains, clear downed trees, put up trail signs, and re-route that ‘short’ 100-yard section that floods once a year.
The Dog Trainer
I love dogs! But if your dog isn’t trail-worthy and is going to weave in and out of my wheels, please leave Spot at home or we will both end up at the Vet.
Magellan shows up at the trailhead with paper maps, the Gaia GPS app, a Garmin, and the will to check all 3 at every intersection. ‘Dude’, I say, ‘We’ve ridden this area for 5 years, there are no new trails, there’s only 15 miles of them, and we’ve never gotten lost – what’s up?’ ‘Well I’m trying to update my database so we can create better loops’.
Steve shows up at that epic ride I mentioned at the top with his buddy from high school. ‘Super-good athlete but he hasn’t ridden a bike in ages – I’m sure he’ll be OK.’ Well, I’m not so sure. I haven’t played basketball since middle school and I don’t show up at your pickup game – don’t show up at my ride with an unknown quantity.
Josh is a great rider and environmentalist. He rides hard and does almost all his trips by bike. I try to shop and run errands by bike, too, so we’re pretty lined up. But seriously, Josh, please don’t shop during that epic ride, and ‘No, I won’t watch your bike for 10 minutes while you try on some shirts’.
Steve work a lot. He’s on a flexible schedule which means he’s always on call. Since he’s in Sales and dependent on commissions, he always answers the phone. ‘Man – just send it to voicemail’, I say. ‘Can’t – this is the big Acme deal – I have to take it – it will just be a minute’. 30 minutes later and I’m expecting a piece of the commission, but if I’m lucky he might buy me a beer.
I have to ‘fess up. I think I’ve been guilty of just about all this behavior at one time (well you’ll never find me with Bluetooth speakers), so you may not want to include me on your next ride.
Listing – you just put your ad up on the site with great pictures, an enticing description, and a fair price. You’re already thinking about what you’ll do with the money.
Anger – What? Nobody has come to buy it! The one guy who texted offered 1/2 my asking price and hasn’t even seen it. I hate those bottom-feeders! Craigslist is the worst!
Bargaining – OK – next person who calls – I’ll tell them if they come now I’ll give them 20% off – no 25%. I just want that thing gone.
Depression – Damn – it’s never going to sell. Why did I buy it in the first place? I must be the only chump who can’t sell on Craigslist.
Acceptance – My listing is 10 days old and out of the blue I have a buyer. She bargained me down a bit but I have cash in my pocket. I love Craigslist!
With apologies to Kubler-Ross
Well, we lost. I knew it was a long shot but with all the enthusiasm for Jamie I thought we had a chance. Jamie got almost 40% of the vote and Walden got 57%. Better than any recent run against Walden but it’s hard to see how a Democrat wins this district without turning out non-affiliated voters in a big way and I don’t think we generated enough enthusiasm to do that.
I canvassed, called, texted, and helped organize events in Deschutes County. I was excited to see the volunteer support for Jamie’s message and the desire for change. There were some volunteer heroes who consistently put in 20, 30 and even more hours every week. These people give me hope. Some of these folks had jobs, families, and a lot of reasons NOT to be involved. For some, all those things WERE the reasons to be involved. They inspired me to do more.
I like to remember all the positive interactions, but realize we need to deal with the following if we want to become a better Republic:
‘I hate Trump so I’m not going to vote’
‘I hate both parties’
‘I’m working 2 jobs plus raising kids so don’t have time to read about the candidates’
The above are quotes (or the best that I can remember) from citizens who don’t think they have enough of a stake to mark a ballot and mail it in. Oregon makes it so easy to vote and still many don’t. Imagine the barriers in states where citizens are actively dissuaded from voting.
In this Oregon midterm, 68% of those eligible sent in ballots. So, 1 person in 3 didn’t care or felt it was too much trouble. Nationwide, we are told to celebrate the fact that 47% of those eligible voted. If we were a new democracy (or Republic in our case), one would be dismayed by such a low participation rate.
How do we fix this? How do we get more people to vote? Nationwide, participation by youth (18-29 years old) was said to be just 31%. So, the group with the longest time remaining on this planet hardly participated and we (progressive) oldsters are wishing they had.
It’s easy to say that Trump’s base doesn’t support democracy as this text exchange suggests (to be fair it might be just an auto-correct issue) but clearly we have the fight of our lives ahead of us if we want to avoid sliding further into authoritarianism.
What do you think? How do we get more people involved and interested in the issues, not just slogans and propaganda?
I spent 5 days in Seattle staying close to the U of W and the Burke-Gilman bike trail. Lime bikes are everywhere with what looks like an even mix of traditional pedal bikes and ebikes.
- Super-convenient. I never had more than a few minute walk to find a bike. Even when I was at the West Point Lighthouse, I found the one bike that was there (but wonder if I stranded the person who rode it). I had done a fairly long walk to the lighthouse and was really happy to rest my feet on the return trip.
- The bikes take a beating. Handlebars often are not aligned with the wheel and there are a lot of squeaks, rattles, and brake noise. Not surprising since many of the bikes are dumped on their side. I encountered one bike with a bent crank and one with a broken front basket. Out of 10 bikes I rode, 5 had an annoying issue but still could be ridden. 2 could not be ridden. The app has a tool to report issues but I have no idea how fast Lime responds.
- Easy to sign up and use the app!
- It’s expensive! $3-$4 for a 15 minute Ebike ride. Less for a pedal bike. I guess the cost reflects the convenience of finding a bike nearly anywhere and the (likely) high cost of maintenance.
- The Lime ebikes work well. Zippy on the flats and helpful on the hills. They seem to be speed-limited as I couldn’t get going very fast on the downhills. I know class 1 ebikes are limited to 15 mph with assist but assume they can go faster with pedaling. Not sure if this was a regenerative braking effect or whether the speed was intentionally limited.
- Like pedal sharebikes everywhere, they are heavy and slow. Not a problem on a short, flat commute but I had a long hill to climb from the lighthouse and I think I was slower on the bike than walking.
- I’ve always ridden with a helmet. Didn’t have one and was surprised how little I thought about it since I was mostly on some excellent separated bike paths. When I was mixing with traffic (especially bike lanes in the door zone) I was very vigilant watching drivers.
As a tourist I am very happy to see this option. Every day in Seattle, I mixed public transit, walking, and biking, choosing the best mode at the time. And I never missed not having a car. Certainly a boon for travelers like me.
Nice to see such a strong turnout at the March for Science event in Bend today with so many passionate, creative people attending.
Following are some of the signs:
Well not THAT narrow at 660mm, but 800’s wouldn’t fit!