News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Share the trails

Mr. Branham’s arguments to not expand e-bike access to trails (letter to the editor in the April 20 edition of The Nugget) ignores multiple factors that should be considered in deciding what to do about the growing popularity of e-bikes and trail access:

1.?Not all e-bikes are the same: Pedal-assist e-bikes are a different animal compared to throttle-assist e-bikes that can be propelled without pedaling, just like a motorcycle. Pedal-assist e-bikes do not move unless pedaled (no throttle), and just like traditional bikes, the rider (and gravity) provides the power to get and keep the bike moving. To say the pedal-assist e-bikes are motorized in the same way that a throttle-assist e-bike or motorcycle is, is just not true. Therefore, I argue that they should be

treated differently with regard to trail access.

2.?Not all e-bike riders are the same: Mr. Branham characterizes e-bike riders as lazy and inexperienced bike riders. In my experience, this also is untrue. The vast majority of pedal-assist e-bikers that I know and have met are vastly experienced on mountain bikes and are using them simply because their age or health prevent them from enjoying biking like they once did. I, for example, am a 61-year-old cancer survivor. I started riding mountain bikes in the 1980s and have probably logged more miles on a mountain bike than I have on my two feet. Biking has always been a central part of my life, bringing me more joy than just about any other activity.

To say that if you can’t handle the physical demands of biking without assist, then you don’t belong on singletrack trails reeks of arrogance and lacks compassion for those that may need a little help to continue to participate in an activity that they love.

Mr. Branham, you are right, that view is harsh.

3.?Biking in designated wilderness areas is not allowed in any form: I, like most mountain bikers, am in favor of the restrictions that are already in place to protect our wilderness areas and the wilderness experience. There is a prohibition on all mechanized transport in designated wildness areas. If people are not wanting to share the trails with bikers, then they have access to millions of miles of trails in the wilderness areas where bikes are not allowed. I find it odd that mountain bikers could support a prohibition of pedal-assist e-bikes on singletrack trails given all that we mountain bikers had to go through to share trails with hikers; what’s up with that?

4.?E-bikes are noisy: Poppycock! Perhaps when you are right next to an e-bike you can hear the low hum of the motor, but again, the noise made by an e-bike is not at all like the noise produced by a motorcycle, snowmobile, or ATV — not even in the same universe.

Public lands belong to everyone. Like it or not, e-bikes are here to stay. We need to find a way to provide all people with access to trails; old/young, fit/unfit, or healthy/health-compromised, we all need to have the ability to be outdoors on trails. I know my health and well-being depend upon it.

 

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