October 4, 2010
Last week, Frank M., our main man in Colorado, sent me a story from the Denver Post that raises some compelling questions. The piece focuses on a 62-year-old Boulder woman who is trying to do the right thing — the healthy, green thing — by getting to and from work on her bicycle, over trails designated for bicyclists and pedestrians. But not being an uber-athlete, she employs a little power backup to surmount some of the hills along her 7-mile commute.
“... she pushes a button on what she calls her ‘geezerina’ bike,” writes reporter Nancy Lofholm. “A small electric battery tucked in the bike’s frame kicks in, and suddenly it’s as if Lance Armstrong’s legs are doing the pedaling.”
The problem in many cases is that such trails are designated for non-motorized travel only. “Denver treats e-bikes like regular bikes, but Boulder and Fort Collins have banned them on city bike trails — if the bikes have the electrical assist switched on,” the story reports. Compounding the conundrum is that state and federal laws regulating electrical-assisted bikes often conflict with local laws.
As the newspaper piece points out, Segways also enter into the picture. They can be a viable form of transportation, although I don’t recommend following in the late company owner’s Segway tracks, an incident you may have already heard about.
It seems like we should do whatever we can to get people out of their gas-guzzling cars and onto bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise. Yet if we permit e-bikes onto the non-motorized pathways, suddenly it becomes much easier for almost anyone to ride a bike — and the congestion may soon make its way onto the bike paths.
Is there an easy answer? Is it simply a matter of enforcing speed limits and/or horsepower limits, or are we opening the Pandora’s Box of pedaling by allowing any kind of power-assisted two-wheeled machine onto our trails? What about you? Do you, or would you, mind sharing your local pathways with those aboard minimally power-assisted bicycles?
By the way, it’s happening on the roads, too, where it’s a less controversial topic. Check out this fascinating story about Australian cellist Kristin Rule, who’s on tour riding and toting a most unusual outfit.
The author yearns to take a turn down the trail on his DR Field and Brush Mower, which tops out at approximately 5 mph. Photo by Nancy McCoy.
BIKING WITHOUT BORDERS was posted by Michael McCoy, Adventure Cycling’s field editor, highlighting a little bit of this or a little bit of that — just about anything, as long as it related to traveling by bicycle. Mac also compiles the organization's twice-monthly e-newsletter Bike Bits, which goes free-of-charge to more than 50,000 readers worldwide.