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Thread: e-Bikes - Let's talk

  1. #11
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    I'm not so sure there's a clear prohibition against e-bikes on trails. There's no local law governing it (to the best of my knowledge), and I'm not entirely sure how state law might be construed against them on trails. They're not motor vehicles (in fact, VA's code already provides a definition of e-bikes: Va Code 46.2-100 - "Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. For the purposes of Chapter 8 of this title, an electric power-assisted bicycle shall be a vehicle when operated on a highway."). Maybe there's a NVPRA regulation against them on the WOD, but that wouldn't cover the Custis or lots of other local trails.

    Putting that issue aside, I've eased away from my scoffing at e-bikes.* They're not for me, but they could be for a *lot* of people. First group - older riders. We age, we lose strength and stamina. E-bikes can provide a level of backup/assurance that can be the difference between someone being willing to get on a bike or not. Similarly, there are a whole lot of potential riders out there that simply don't - for one reason or another - have the physical ability to comfortably get up something like the Rosslyn hill. Since the Rosslyn hill isn't going anywhere, maybe we should be a little more open to means of getting people up and over it that don't involve cars? Finally, there's no denying (I think) that the reduced physical demands of an e-bike make it an attractive commuting option for those who aren't keen on changing/getting showers after they get to work. Especially in DC.

    Finally, I think it might be helpful to differentiate between the various kinds of bikes we might be talking about:

    - The (mostly) cobbled-together bikes with tiny combustion motors - I don't think we're in danger of getting overrun by those anytime soon (and lord knows we'll get plenty of notice if they're headed our way.
    - Full electric bikes - you twist the handle and go, pedaling having very little to do with it. These generally top out at 15mph (and since the electric motor does all the work, don't get very far).
    - Electric-assist bikes - you're still in charge of most of the effort (i.e., pedaling), but there's an extra boost (that generally drops down, the faster you go). I think these are probably the most common in the US, so far.






    *Unless you're my friend M. I will continue to mock him and his 9000lb e-bike in the interests of preserving a tradition.

  2. #12
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    I see three dudes with eBikes on the W&OD on a regular basis. These things are fast.... REALLY fast. I've talked to one of the guys and asked if he minds me riding with him when I'm doing a spirited ride home. He didn't have any problem with that. When I'm rested and riding my fastest road bike (sub 15-pound carbon fiber wonder-bike) I'm able to keep up with him if I'm absolutely at the limit. I can pull away from him on the super steep hills. He can pull away from me anywhere else if I slip out of his draft. If there's any kind of traffic around, pedestrian or bicycles, I don't even attempt this because it is very easy to get north of 40kph (25mph).

    On this guy's eBike, the concept of pedal assist is purely a concept. This guy would need a 55 tooth chain ring for his pedals to do any assisting.

    That said, when there's no-one around, it is a BLAST to ride with the guy. It is exactly like motorpacing workouts that I did in the 80s and early 90s.

  3. #13
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    If these things start getting marketed as rad new scooter-like toys for kids, to be used like the scooters that infest the U of MD campus, then I'm all for banning them on trails. On the other hand, if they're marketed (and engineered) to help older or less strong riders commute by bike or utility bike by helping them on the hills, then I'd be much more tolerant.

  4. #14
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    I'm all for them, so long as people riding them are good neighbors. And that's the same thing I say about pedestrians, joggers, cars, f'ing Segways, and everyone else sharing the roads and trails.

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  6. #15
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    Well, we're probably going to get a bit of both, no? I think there's something of a defense against the first, though - the cost of an e-bike. Even as they drop (somewhat) in price, they're still quite expensive.

  7. #16
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    Freaky coincidence!

    I was passed by a woman on an ebike on the Custis Trail this morning. She passed me right after the S Curve of Death, and I did later catch up with her at the light by the Key Bridge Marriott, but I would have had to shoal a whole bunch of people to get a closer look at the bike or ask her about it.

    I see Mark's point -- but as Greenbelt points out, in the wrong hands, this could go very wrong. I'll hope for the best.

    Liz

  8. #17
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    I'm okay with someone like Dirt cruising along the trail at 20+ mph because he's competent. You generally don't have the ability to hit and hold higher speeds unless you've spent a good bit of time in the saddle and have, consequently, developed a skill level commensurate with your strength and endurance. I think it's also fairly safe to assume a certain level of commitment to cycling and good cycling practices/manners when you are spending that kind of time on it.

    That's simply not the case with e-bikes.

  9. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by OneEighth View Post
    I think it's also fairly safe to assume a certain level of commitment to cycling and good cycling practices/manners when you are spending that kind of time on it.
    Welcome to Arlington's trails, where you'll *never* find any tri boys & girls all hunched over on their bars and drilling it without regard to the rest of the population

    ~

    I'm less interested in being an active proponent of e-bikes (I'll leave that to others) than in encouraging a cautious approach to calling for bans of anything on trails. We just might unexpectedly end up on the wrong end of that stick. ("Stop, the bike you save may be your own . . ." )

  10. #19
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    As I said in my first post, it's already dangerous enough out there with folks who have achieved the cycling equivalent of being promoted to their level of incompetence.
    And, yes, I see your point about being careful what you wish for. That crossed my mind right from the start. But how many pedestrians are going to distinguish between e-bikes and regular bikes when they feel threatened by dangerous riding on the trail?
    Anything that adds to the perception that cyclists and other trail users cannot share the trail hurts us.
    So, the question really is, how do you safely integrate e-bikes into the current trail users?

  11. #20
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    As I think about this more and combine things with my own experience with cycling, I have a certain amount of concern with eBikes and their ability to stop. It is all well and good to go fast on something like an eBike. Those things are pretty heavy. Having spent 5000+ miles riding a cargo bike that weighs close to 80 pounds, I can tell you that even with disc brakes with 200mm rotors, it doesn't exactly stop on a dime. I have no direct evidence of the stopping power of eBikes, but I do know that while motorpacing with Mr. eBike, I on my road bike required significantly less distance to stop when compared to Mr. eBike dude.

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