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Thread: NOVA Parks Hearing in e-bikes

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    We've gone over why speed is better set at 20mph (to keep up with traffic for the inevitable times when ebikes are on roads; also, it's super easy for an adult to clear 20mph even on a CaBi on a downhill). But why not treat class 2s like class 1s? They have the same speed limitations as class 1, the only difference is the throttle. Throttles are super important for those carrying heavy loads (aka parents) and people with disabilities (who can't always pedal or have a hard time balancing to start). I don't know of anywhere in the U.S. that treats class 1s differently than class 2s.
    This whole policy discussion is about e-bikes going on trails, and 20mph is too high safety wise. For riding ebikes on the street, you can make them as fast as you want, though I'd highly recommend motorcycle safety courses at that point.

    Class 2's on trails basically means the trail is a commuter highway and not a recreational trail. It's a slippery slope that turns the MUPs into roads that become about how fast one can go safely and not about enjoying the park. My advocacy on the W&OD is not for high speed commuters, but for people walking, running, or out with small children. Class 2+ ebikes that are basically small motorcycles don't fit in with a recreational park.

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  3. #42
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    Regardless of whether the cyclist on the trail has the assistance of an electric motor, the limits of safety primarily come down to the skill of the rider, the traffic congestion on the trail at any given juncture, the condition of the trail (and weather-related trailway conditions), the severity of a curve, limited sight lines (caused by curves, darkness of night, and hill crests), and vehicle speed, given those factors. I still think trails should have a speed limit, and certain sections should have lower limits ("safe speeds") posted. This does not mean that that speed is safe when there are adverse conditions or there is heavy traffic on the trail, or when overtaking a pedestrian.

    As for the earlier observation that e-bikers are undeterred by hills or head winds, I don't see why the fact that an ebike can (and probably will) overtake a conventional bicycle on an incline is a problem, if done safely. As I noted earlier, with an e-bike I no longer seek to build speed downhill to "make" the next hill; I just coast. I happily slow to a crawl when passing (unpredictable) pedestrians, particularly pedestrians with meandering dogs, because It takes so little effort to get back up to speed with an e-bike. I'm not scrubbing off hard-earned momentum. Obviously for some time there has been issues with bikes on the trail in general, particularly in recent years; but I don't think that the emergence of e-bikes are at the root of it.

    I used to bike to work every day on those selfsame trails in the late 1980s, but have been flying wild on motorcycles for the last 35 years. Re-introduced to bike commuting more often via an e-bike build, for me it's merely a once-a-week venture, but the trails are more crowded in general. Not that anyone would miss me, but I wouldn't do it anymore on a regular bike. West Falls Church to the Capitol is an exhilarating 25 minutes on my motorcycle, a pleasant and invigorating one hour on my e-bike... but on a regular bike it wrecks me, I can't do it two days in a row. And it takes longer, because of the hill crawls. I don't go breakneck speeds, I don't think that I scare/anger anyone on the trails, ... unless it hurts the pride of high-tier bicyclists if they get passed on those infernal Arlington hill climbs on the Custis/W&OD. I don't know why it should; a one horsepower electric motor does not lessen their accomplishment any more than my hundred-horse Suzuki does when I catch a glimpse om 'em on the path, while I'm flying up Route 66.

    In the 80s I biked every day, thousands of commutes, five days a week. I had legs like steel bands. Over the last 30+ years of motorcycle commuting, I still managed to knock out a bicycle commute once a month, and on Bike-to-Work Day when it came into being. So, in later years, that's maybe 300 conventional bicycle commute round trips, 9,000 miles. In these recent years I've seen "elite" cyclists blasting past pedestrians, "shooting the gap" when passing a pedestrian with a bike oncoming, seen all kinds of reckless behavior. Countless cyclists executed passes of my bike no matter how hard I was pushing it, not that I minded. So, high performers of the trail, don't bemoan the fact that today you get passed by some e-bike on steep climbs simply because the technology is there, as long as the pass is not reckless. Besides, the thousand (or two thousand) dollar conventional bike is similarly high-tech, perhaps more exotic than the e-bike.
    Last edited by phog; 02-13-2019 at 02:11 PM.

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  5. #43
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    May I suggest that posts specific to the NOVA Parks hearing be posted here while more general posts on the e-bike topic be posted in the e-bike thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zsionakides View Post
    This whole policy discussion is about e-bikes going on trails, and 20mph is too high safety wise. For riding ebikes on the street, you can make them as fast as you want, though I'd highly recommend motorcycle safety courses at that point.

    Class 2's on trails basically means the trail is a commuter highway and not a recreational trail. It's a slippery slope that turns the MUPs into roads that become about how fast one can go safely and not about enjoying the park. My advocacy on the W&OD is not for high speed commuters, but for people walking, running, or out with small children. Class 2+ ebikes that are basically small motorcycles don't fit in with a recreational park.
    I try hard to keep out of these controversial threads. However, I would like to point out that 20 mph is not that fast in context with many sections of the W&OD. I wish folks would remember that the trail is 45-ish miles long and many parts of the trail are very flat and very sparsely populated. On Sunday, I went out for a "recreational" ride (i.e. not exactly commuting) on my gravel bike (i.e. not an e-bike, but definitely not a road bike) and hit 20 mph easily in many sections and it was perfectly safe. I ended up passing a few folks on e-bikes as well. No big deal.

    The W&OD has many purposes. For me, it is a safe and easy way to get places (whether it be to work, to a brewery, or out to LoCo gravel). I never use the W&OD to "enjoy the park". The W&OD is not a nature trail. It is a multi-use trail that is used for recreation, commuting, and exercise. While on the trail, I have had bad experiences with pretty much every mode of user, including pedestrians, clueless dog owners, runners, cyclists, and e-cyclists. Banning e-bikes is not going to make the jerks go away.

    So, instead of banning e-bikes or putting in useless speed limits (seriously, who is going to enforce ANY of this?), I think we should just put big signs up about Casey's Rule #1: DO NOT BE AN ASSHOLE. (If you have ever been on a group ride led by me, you know the drill!)

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    What’s Casey’s second rule?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunyata View Post
    I try hard to keep out of these controversial threads. However, I would like to point out that 20 mph is not that fast in context with many sections of the W&OD. I wish folks would remember that the trail is 45-ish miles long and many parts of the trail are very flat and very sparsely populated. On Sunday, I went out for a "recreational" ride (i.e. not exactly commuting) on my gravel bike (i.e. not an e-bike, but definitely not a road bike) and hit 20 mph easily in many sections and it was perfectly safe. I ended up passing a few folks on e-bikes as well. No big deal.

    The W&OD has many purposes. For me, it is a safe and easy way to get places (whether it be to work, to a brewery, or out to LoCo gravel). I never use the W&OD to "enjoy the park". The W&OD is not a nature trail. It is a multi-use trail that is used for recreation, commuting, and exercise. While on the trail, I have had bad experiences with pretty much every mode of user, including pedestrians, clueless dog owners, runners, cyclists, and e-cyclists. Banning e-bikes is not going to make the jerks go away.

    So, instead of banning e-bikes or putting in useless speed limits (seriously, who is going to enforce ANY of this?), I think we should just put big signs up about Casey's Rule #1: DO NOT BE AN ASSHOLE. (If you have ever been on a group ride led by me, you know the drill!)
    I agree that 20mph is not fast in certain sections, but the policy discussion is about making a uniform speed limit on the trail. If NOVA Parks isn't going to sectionalize the speed limits, then the overall speed limit should be 15mph.

    The speed limit is not going to be enforced, however the speed limits and vehicle regulations do matter in cases where an accident occurs and someone is injured. The regulations helps in determining liability, particularly against those who are violating various regulations. Those regulations are one of the reasons I personally recommend to people I know against using an e-bike anywhere they are not authorized by law and regulation. You open yourself up to liability if you hit someone, and you won't have a strong defense if you are knowingly riding the e-bike somewhere illegally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zsionakides View Post
    I agree that 20mph is not fast in certain sections, but the policy discussion is about making a uniform speed limit on the trail. If NOVA Parks isn't going to sectionalize the speed limits, then the overall speed limit should be 15mph.
    The policy discussion is about whether to allow ebikes on the trail, and if so, what the assist should be limited to. Bikes can go as fast as the user gets them going.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zsionakides View Post
    This whole policy discussion is about e-bikes going on trails, and 20mph is too high safety wise. For riding ebikes on the street, you can make them as fast as you want, though I'd highly recommend motorcycle safety courses at that point.

    Class 2's on trails basically means the trail is a commuter highway and not a recreational trail. It's a slippery slope that turns the MUPs into roads that become about how fast one can go safely and not about enjoying the park. My advocacy on the W&OD is not for high speed commuters, but for people walking, running, or out with small children. Class 2+ ebikes that are basically small motorcycles don't fit in with a recreational park.
    I have to point out that most advocates (myself included) have emphasized that the the MUTs ARE commuter routes. That is one justification for getting more MUT's and widening those that exist. It's a reason that some localities have agreed to remove snow from them in winter. In many cases (like the W&OD) there aren't any other relatively low stress routes.

    I certainly want more low stress routes that are not MUTs for a variety of reasons. I would like to see options for faster riders, whether recreational or commuters, around the parts of MUTs with lots of peds and slow riders (I personally like to use Eads to avoid the crowded part of the MVT between 4MRT and the 14th street bridge, though I am not a particularly fast rider)

    But a big help in getting more in street bike routes (whether PBLs, conventional bike lanes, or slower streets) would be more people who ride, period. Including more ebikers, who may need trail access to decide to start riding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    The policy discussion is about whether to allow ebikes on the trail, and if so, what the assist should be limited to. Bikes can go as fast as the user gets them going.
    As someone here already mentioned, speed is a relative thing. There's sections of the trail where I can hit 35 mph. I could probably get going that fast down the Rosslyn hill, except that there's pedestrians walking on it, cars crossing, and other bikes going a variety of speeds, so I don't. Is 20 mph "fast"? I'd say yes when I'm climbing up the Rosslyn hill and someone on an ebike passes we doing 20 mph. It happens all the time. And when half the bikes on the trail are ebikes, my slow ass is going to be a problem for them. I'm sure, like most people in this area, they'll be polite and slow down until we get to a place where its safe to pass.

    I like what someone said about banning them -- it won't be enforced, but if someone on an ebike causes and accident there will be consequences.

    There is very spotty enforcement on our bike paths:

    1. The Falls Church police post an officer (looks like a very junior officer) near a stop sign close to Route 7. He hides behind the bushes. When someone runs the stop sign, he stops them and gives them a warning. I find that motorists and cyclists in that area have a pretty good system. I approach the sign, slow down, the car on the street stops, I make eye contact, I cross the street. There's really no need to come to a complete stop, but try explaining that to a cop. Stop means stop. They do this once or twice a year in the Spring.
    2. Near East Falls Church there's a section of the trail that goes through a neighborhood. . Halfway down the hill, there's a stop sign. If there's no cars coming the other way, everyone pretty much blows through it. A couple days each Spring, Arlington county cops in an unmarked car flag down offenders and give them a warning. I know one guy who actually got a ticket. I got warned once and to this day, I at least slow down going through that stop sign.
    3. Several years ago, Arlington County posted a cop at the Rosslyn intersection who stopped every cyclist wearing headphones and told them that doing so is illegal in Arlington County.
    4. I hear that cops set up a speed trap on the Capitol Crescent trail every year and actually use a radar gun to catch people exceeding the 15 mph speed limit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    I have to point out that most advocates (myself included) have emphasized that the the MUTs ARE commuter routes. That is one justification for getting more MUT's and widening those that exist. It's a reason that some localities have agreed to remove snow from them in winter. In many cases (like the W&OD) there aren't any other relatively low stress routes.

    I certainly want more low stress routes that are not MUTs for a variety of reasons. I would like to see options for faster riders, whether recreational or commuters, around the parts of MUTs with lots of peds and slow riders (I personally like to use Eads to avoid the crowded part of the MVT between 4MRT and the 14th street bridge, though I am not a particularly fast rider)

    But a big help in getting more in street bike routes (whether PBLs, conventional bike lanes, or slower streets) would be more people who ride, period. Including more ebikers, who may need trail access to decide to start riding.
    I'd agree that MUTS are commuter routes during certain parts of the day (I wish Fairfax Country would do snow removal like Arlington does). I've been a bike commuter in DC (VA into DC) for 26 years. Back when I started doing it in the early 1990's, bike commuting was relatively unheard of. The paths were empty in the winter. The explosion of ebikes on the W&OD coincided with the Metro surge the summer before last. We've got a really nice resource in the bike paths we have around here, but I agree that we may be outgrowing what we have. And it is more than just a commuter path. Ride through Falls Church, Vienna or Reston on a weekday afternoon and the path is full of runners, dog walkers, kids, etc. We don't own it.

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