Electric Bike Open Space Access
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Bay Area Open Space Electric Bicycle Access
An open letter to our community leaders and outdoor enthusiasts:
The Bay Area is home to some of the best trails for riders of all ages and experience levels. Trail access has always been a hot point with various advocacy groups muscling for equal access.
Sales of Electric Mountain Bike, or E-MTB are growing exponentially in the Bay Area as all major manufacturers are releasing their own models. Nobody wants to buy a new bike only to find that their favorite trails are now illegal to ride.
E-MTBs are human powered and should be categorized as such. There is no throttle and the rider has to be pedaling for the bike to work. This must be the biggest distinction from motorized vehicles and mopeds. The human is doing the work to make the vehicle move.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is categorization. We don’t want to upset non-electric advocacy groups that are fighting for access to trails that are currently illegal to bicycles of any type. They are fighting the same fight in a different light. We only want access to trails that are currently legal to ride bicycles.
E-MTBs are slower uphill than expert and professional riders on a traditional non-electric race bike. Electric bikes generally have governors that prevent the bike from exceeding 28 mph assisted although most E-MTBs have a max motor assist speed of 20 mph due to the tuning of the motor. All bicycles are limited to 15 mph on most trails in our trail systems. All bicycles will follow the same speed limit laws. Generally, E-MTBs also have much superior braking systems that produce better stopping power and allow greater control especially going downhill.
A traditional mountain bike will cause more soil erosion than an E-MTB due to the higher tire pressure, narrower tire profile and lower coefficient of traction. E-MTBs run a wider tire at a much lower pressure that forms around terrain rather than plowing through it. This better traction translates to less skidding, better cornering with less wash out and ultimately less soil movement. In short, E-MTBs cause significantly less trail damage and erosion than any traditional bicycle.
As far as nuisance complaints go, E-MTB motors are silent and the bikes make as much sound as a normal bicycle. Also, riders are people, and as such there is always a spectrum of respect for other people and the trails. There are disrespectful runners, horse back riders and bicyclists alike. These laws should accommodate law abiding respectful people not their disrespectful counter parts.
What is arguably the biggest reason to open trails to E-MTBs would be to allow access to people who could not otherwise enjoy or even reach our beautiful spaces. We have seen dozens of people that can’t ride a traditional mountain bike anymore, either due to injury, illness, physical limitation or disability. They want to be outside. Families will be able to carry their small children and gear. Older people will be able to keep up with family and friends. They want to explore the same pristine wilderness that we all enjoy. We have seen men and women that are riding trails they haven't been able to ride for decades back on their favorite trails they used to ride. This would not have been possible for them without electric assist.
Can we as community members band together to end the vitriol and realize we all have the same desire to go out and enjoy nature? Can we share our Open Spaces so everyone can enjoy them? Open Space is something to be proud of and something to be fully supportive of as a community of outdoor-oriented people. As more people can get out to enjoy and appreciate nature more people will vote to protect it.
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