Friday, December 1, 2017

Invasion of the E-bikes

So... what's your feeling about electric-assist bicycles using dedicated bicycle facilities, and non-motorized pathways, etc.?

I've got mixed feelings.

One the one hand... if people are getting out of their single-occupant cars as a result of riding an E-bike, it's hard to find fault with that.  But on the other hand... if you have a motor pushing you along so you don't have to pedal, you're missing out on the health benefits that riding a bicycle can provide.  (I keep hearing that we have an obesity epidemic going on in this country.  Could it be that too many folks don't do anything more strenuous than pushing buttons or turning a steering wheel?)

The Boise City Council is planning on taking testimony on how to deal with the E-bike issue this next Tuesday, December 5th.  I hope I can attend the meeting and testify... but in the meantime I composed a message to various city leaders, part of which is below:

... I probably use the Greenbelt, bike lanes, bike routes, etc., as much as anybody in town... so, I'm quite interested in the news that the City will consider how to deal with "E-bikes" and bicycle-specific infrastructure. ...

Apparently there is a proposal to drop various types of E-bikes into classifications based on their performance - Class 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being the "high performance" E-bikes.  And then SOME E-bikes will be allowed and others won't.

To me, that sounds like a mass of confusion, and an enforcement nightmare.

I would strongly recommend an alternative...

If I understand correctly, in order to be an "E-bike," it has to be a bicycle that can be pedaled by the rider, in addition to a motor that can provide optional "pedal power."

Wouldn't it be much easier to just declare that "human pedal power" is the only acceptable energy, for bicycles of all stripes, when using bicycle and non-motorized facilities?  In other words, you need to keep your E-bike motor turned off, if you're using bike lanes, Greenbelt, etc.  (An exception could be made for people with a disability.  And "Pedaling is HARD!" should not be considered a disability!)

Based on my casual observation, I'd say it's fairly obvious if somebody is cruising down a bicycle facility at 15 or 20mph, and barely pedaling.  I'm already seeing it... and apparently I'm not the only one.  To me, it seems like it would be much more difficult to determine whether that cruising is being done on a "class 1, 2, or 3" E-bike.

As anybody who regularly uses the Greenbelt can attest to, the wide variety of users already poses challenges when you get the mix of pedestrians, cyclists, pedestrians with dogs on 20-foot leashes, skaters, cross-country-ski-rollers, smart-phone zombies, clumps of chatty Cathys, etc.  I see nothing but trouble if you have a new group of people zooming along nonchalantly on their MOTORIZED bicycles.

No matter what you decide, I hope you can also make a strong declaration, backed up with vigorous enforcement, that those stinky/raucous/annoying GAS-powered bicycles have no place on ANY bicycle infrastructure!  PLEASE!  (I've encountered people riding them on the Greenbelt... in bike lanes... on sidewalks!)

Thanks for your attention.

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