Posted by: grambo
Sadly it seems these damn things are gaining traction here. I have seen a few at Fromme. I think land managers, BC Trails and Rec and trail associations need to take a clear stance on these, update signage etc. Taking a wait and see approach is no bueno. Shops are starting to put them on their sales floors (Dunbar at least) because they seem to sense the demand is outweighing downside risk of alienating customers who hate them. I'm sure Rocky will start marketing their ebikes here soon.
The problem is when you try to discuss this stuff, the pro ebike people use BS arguments about old/disabled/health issue riders (fine) or claim you are "gate keeping" the sport (from fat lazy dudes? Of which I am one). My issues:
1) Trail/land access - if land managers equate motor = motorbike, access could be threatened. Also any increase in user conflicts from ebikes with other trail users like hikers/runners = higher risk of access being threatened.
2) User conflict, especially climbing. Mountain bikers don't typically climb much faster than a hiker/trail runner, so there's lots of time for a friendly "Hi, mind if I pass". Already from this thread and others we have stories of ebikers coming up hard on other mountain bikers, imagine how hikers feel when they hear a whirring engine and someone is right on them out of nowhere? Also idiot ebikers climbing descent trails, yes it might technically be allowed but there are multiple stories of ebikers climbing Half Nelson and Meadow of the Grizzly in Squamish. Imagine someone climbing Bobsled on a busy weekend while there are kids descending.
3) Ebikers being new to the sport and not understanding etiquette. #2 above is the risk that drives this. Clued in mountain bikers aren't going to do stupid stuff like climb popular descent trails during busy times. Clueless newbies which seems to be the predominate market for ebikes are.
4) Ability of ebikes to put riders farther out without the adequate skill/knowledge to get back. Prime example is Lord of the Squirrels in Whistler. I will not be surprised it there are SAR call-outs for tourists who have depleted the battery (using boost mode) to get up to the Sproatt alpine and are stuck trying to descend with a 45lbs ebike way out of their element. The 5th Horseman story from dDean above is another example. SAR call-outs and people get injured on serious trails which are often built farther out from start zones to filter newbie riders.
I'm not an elitist concerned about the purity of the sport. I ride the bike park often and do shuttle from time to time, but the majority of my riding is pedaling on the Shore and Squamish. I'm a Mon-Fri office guy with a kid on the way, I have mediocre fitness now and it will get worse so I would benefit from an ebike but for the reasons above I am against them on non-motorized mountain bike trails.
Other than shuttle trails, I'm hoping to see signs around the Sea to Sky like they have in Pisgah:
Not a bad post, but it's not without it's fallibilities.
For starters I see BS arguments on both sides. I agree that using the health issue argument is not a strong one, but it is a valid one for some people. To address your other points...
1. The loss of access is one that gets used a lot and I think it's a poor argument. The reason being is that I believe the land managers are smart enough to recognize the difference between ebikes and pedal bikes and will ban ebikes if there are significant issues and not ban all bikes in an unwarranted knee -jerk reaction.
2. User conflict is a more valid argument but it gets used on the assumption that all ebikers will cause issues and no mtb'ers cause issues. We know this isn't true and I think some of the worries are more of an etiquette issue that needs to be learned. Re your climbing example example, it's important to remember that pretty much every trail is multi-use and two way, so when you're descending you need to be aware of people coming up the trail - whether on foot or bike. Unless a trail is specifically signed as no climbing or descending only, then it's fair game for two way traffic. If this sis seen as a problem then the trail associations and land managers need to do their part when it comes to trail signage so people are aware. This includes trail maps and signage at parking areas so people know the deal before they head out.
3. Whether it's new e-bikers or mtb'ers, they are going to need to learn the etiquette of the sport. That's where community comes in, to help educate people on how things are supposed to work. I wasn't aware thought that clueless newbies were the predominant market for ebikes, is there some poll or research somewhere to back that up?
4. This is probably the most valid concern out of all that I have seen so far and one that is worth considering. However, it speaks to the core argument of yay/nay for ebikes. At some point, all of these issues come down to personal responsibility for how people conduct themselves.
I see the hate against e-bikes being predicated primarily on fear (trail destruction, unsafe passing) or ego (getting passed at all) but also think there are some validity to those concerns. What we have is a question of one group's right to alleviate their perceived concerns vs another groups right to recreate in the manner they would like to. If that sounds like a familiar battle then it should be. If people are using ebikes in a respectful and responsible manner then there really is no argument against them. If they're not then doe the fault lie with the bike itself or the user? Again if that sounds like a familiar battle then it should be.
IMO there shouldn't be a question of ban or not, it should be a discussion about where/how they will be permitted. Unfortunately not a lot of people, on either side, are interested in having that discussion. I think it would be worthwhile as it could lead to improvements for all riders, not just the ones on ebikes.