As Interest in E-bicycles Grows, Government Agencies Are Attempting to Establish Rules for Their Use
NEVADA – Lake Tahoe officials are still striving to establish the proper balance of e-bike rules for safe leisure.
In South Lake Tahoe, e-bikes on walking trails aren’t regulated because they’re not motorized vehicles. Because they’re not cars. Class-3 e-bikes may achieve 28 mph.
SLTPD Sgt. Doug Sentell: “Any conventional bicycle can go as fast or faster depending on the rider’s effort.” While e-bikes are limited in what they can do, they can move faster. Speed restriction signs can help people drive safely.
E-bike vs. e-bike or e-bike vs. pedestrian collisions aren’t reported by SLTPD because they’re not motor vehicles.
Incline Village homeowner Pamela Straley reported she was hit by an e-bike rider in September while traveling between Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City on a bike trail. She had 10 fractures, a shattered hip, and other injuries, including a neck brace.
“Catastrophic,” remarked Straley. “Caltrans didn’t reply. Placer County Sheriff didn’t answer. We have no incident report because no officer came.”
Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill rides e-bikes. She became a commissioner because of speeding on pedestrian and bike lanes.
“I’ve been aggressively pursuing e-bike safety issues since I was elected because I traveled to Incline a lot and was strolling on Lakeshore Boulevard with community members,” Hill said. “I was strolling with elders and thought, ‘Oh my god, we need to slow them down and separate them from pedestrians.'”
Washoe County’s Parks and Community Services departments produced the Trails Management Program.
Trails Program Coordinator Christina Thayer is auditing Incline Village trails to see if pedestrians and e-bikes can coexist or if they need to be separated. Washoe County can ban e-bikes on trails thanks to a new ordinance.
“I don’t want to ban them, but I want to cohabit,” Hill added.
New legislation empowers park rangers to cite cyclists who ride too fast or unsafely. Hill hopes the Placer County collision with Straley can be avoided in the future through law enforcement.
“If they’re not on the road, law enforcement doesn’t care,” Hill added. You don’t have an official government report or a mechanism to see whether there are e-bike incidents in your town or if you should remove them from certain paths for safety reasons.
Hill is working with the Washoe County Sheriff Office to draft a protocol for off-road e-bike collision reports, record statistics, and deploy county park rangers to enforce laws.
The classification is different from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, which ruled that motor aided bicycles through electric, gas, or diesel power constitute motorized vehicles. They’re allowed on motorized National Forest System roads and trails, as well as six kilometers of the Tahoe Rim Trail in the Spooner Backcountry. The Tahoe Rim Trail isn’t motorized.
LTBMU Public Affairs Specialist Lisa Herron said the Forest Service supports varied uses and access to public land. E-bikes let more people enjoy National Forests and meadows. The technology has the ability to engage older/disabled Americans and entice more varied uses to explore their public areas in a socially and ecologically acceptable way.”
LTBMU oversees 25 miles of Class 1 e-bike routes. Basin Wide Trails Analysis Project would identify 120 extra miles of route as powered, open to Class 1 e-bikes through existing trail reclassification and new trail development, Herron said.
This concept has no e-bike-designated TRT sections.
When e-bike situations occur, such as people riding in non-authorized places, education might help.
“In most cases, Forest Service law enforcement officers prefer to educate the public rather than issue tickets or fines,” stated Herron. “Sometimes a warning is given. We recognize the tough management issue this can use in locations of adjoining/shared boundaries. The Forest Service is devoted to listening to the public to better understand their requirements and offering seamless cross-boundary experiences when allowed by law.
TRTA Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Kate Gallaugher says e-bikes have created some safety concerns, but studies show no major adverse trail impacts as long as e-bikers stay on the trails. Gallaugher feels that e-bikes are creating a new world for folks who couldn’t bike before.
E-bikes boost trail accessibility, says Gallaugher. “Someone who can’t walk or ride that far might reach areas on the trail with an e-bike, retaining their connection to nature.” http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54566 has information on the LTBMU Basin Wide Trails Analysis Project.
Credits: Tahoe Daily Tribune
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