An open letter from an industry insider regarding eMTB trail access

J.R.

Well-Known Member
A 30 year former Trek executive, and current Board President of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA), shares his thoughts on eMTB access to off road trails.

 

bikeman242

Active Member
eMTBs are widely accepted in Western Europe. I wonder what they do differently?

Or is it simply that Europeans are more respectful than Americans?
 

Art Deco

Well-Known Member
OK. His points are not new, but his perspective is. He is pointing out that this is a political process involving trust ... and there's not a lot of that available today. I'm glad I'm not involved with those discussions ... and you are @J.R. . 😄
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
I hope he got some cheese with that whine. Seriously everyone is entitled to their opinion and some just have a larger prospective audience but doesn't mean one has to agree. He certainly didn't change my mind or raise any issues that I think haven't been in the past.

As far as road use for eBikes I don't feel at all that the dust has settled in that arena either.
 

Art Deco

Well-Known Member
I hope he got some cheese with that whine. Seriously everyone is entitled to their opinion and some just have a larger prospective audience but doesn't mean one has to agree. He certainly didn't change my mind or raise any issues that I think haven't been in the past.

As far as road use for eBikes I don't feel at all that the dust has settled in that arena either.
I think that battle "for the road use" especially "bike lanes" is just beginning ... the joys of being an "early adopter" just keep coming.
 

Latitude

Well-Known Member
I read with interest the OP and comments on the article, with it and here on EBR. I live in an area in SW Ontario, Canada where regulations exist regarding class 1, 2 and 3 ebikes, and speeds are limited to 20 mph/32 km. In my area at least, arguments about ebike access to trails are hardly even at their infancy. So it’s helpful to me to see how these issues might evolve.
I live 5 miles/8 km from the entrance to a lovely multi-use Provincial Park, which is part of a unique Carolinian environment beside a Great Lake (Huron), and well managed for conservation. It is connected by a paved track parallel to the highway that was constructed over 20 years ago by our local Rotary Club. The park doesn’t charge an entry fee for anyone entering on a bicycle (or ebike) and as a result I often enter the park on single-track grassy trails within a couple of km from my door. Some of these trails are virtually deserted, others have pedestrians and cyclists. They and the paved/gravel routes within the park are a regular part of my daily 30-40 km ride, which I enjoy immensely.
I value this access privilege and will do my part if/when needed to help ensure responsible ebike use of the park. I already see evidence that an occasional dirt bike (not permitted) has accessed and damaged some of these trails. This area is pretty flat, and high powered ebikes are also just not needed.
Here, as everywhere else, biking and e-biking is exploding in popularity so I expect some of the issues described here will surface sooner rather than later.
 

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J.R.

Well-Known Member
When I was King of the mountain bike trails I was a fair and just King. I decreed there were no limits on watts and people were required to respect each other and the land, after all the land was mine. Maximum speed limit on single track was 15 mph and other trails determined by the terrain. I created MTB parks for youths under the age of 13 and designated learning tracks for the very young riders.

There were harsh penalties for outlaws. Since there were so many tracks and so few riders, there were few outlaws. This is one such outlaw; he was caught ripping up the trail at 23 mph with no regard for other peasants trying to enjoy a Saturday ride.

220px-Stocks_(PSF).png

You can't really tell by the picture, but these stocks are located at a trailhead and as riders rode by they would squirt him with water from their Camelback squeeze bottles.

😴😴😴

I'm awake now.

I hate the politics we have now. Mountain bike trail managers and the 'in' groups that are allowed to use the land have learned well from politicians and lobbyists. Fight, delay and fight some more. If that battle is lost, find the next delaying tactic to fight with. For as long as I can remember land managers need more studies and information. When one study is complete, they say one study isn't enough, more information is needed for change.

The industry and the land managers would prefer a national law that regulates ebikes. It's much easier to effect change when you only have one entity to lobby. That takes the power away from us and our community. I don't feel like I have any influence on some regulatory agency in Washington DC. I'm pleasantly surprised at the state and local level. That could change tomorrow. Today, where I live, we have it pretty good. The past 2 years public land has accepted Class 1 ebikes. In 2014 ebikes were legalized for road use.

Like it or hate it the points made in the open letter are the things being said by governing bodies and land managers. I've heard it at their meetings. These are the standard arguments being used. At the county level when we were trying to gain access to trails, one of the speakers brought in by government was the guy that wrote the state law in 2014. Yes, one guy wrote the law and he is not elected by the people. One might think he would be on the side of ebikes. No. Almost every point made in this open letter, he raised as a warning to local regulators. This is the standard template that's shared around the country. The more I learn, the more amazed I am that any ebike advocate has any success.

There's a lot of truths in the open letter. There are already answers to many of the questions, they just aren't the answers that they want. In my opinion the most difficult issue to confront is this:

6.) There is no guarantee that the cycling industry will not upgrade the eMTB’s available to class 2 or 3 or something beyond that. There is no way for the trail advocacy groups or the Land Managers to enforce the rules if one of those entities decided to limit the trails to something like class 1. In fact, I would challenge anyone outside of the industry to be able to tell the difference between any of these classes of bikes at a glance. Land managers see this as a potential they will not be able to control once they open the doors to eMTB (remember they have seen this movie with ATV’s and UTV’s that will go 100mph). As a trail advocacy group, there is nothing that we can say to change this fear, because their fears are probably real that without some sort of official regulation, they will probably become faster and more powerful in the future.

When asked 'how can I tell the difference between a class 1 and a class 3 ebike?' There's not really an answer to that yet.

The issue of money is always raised. Our little local group did discuss the idea of a bike permit fee for all bikes. We didn't propose it, just discussed it. With all the waste in government it's difficult to imagine there is a shortage of funds for trails. Some trails are public/private partnerships. Some are managed by conservancy groups and many are county parks. I've often encountered fundraising campaigns on trails in PA. Most ask for and need volunteers for cleanup days. If there was accountability to the public, I would be willing to pay a yearly $25 fee for maintenance and more miles of trails. I do not want the money to go to enforcement. Parks and museums get the last slice of the pie these days.

It doesn't feel like early days to me at this point. I guess ebikes aren't mainstream though. Land use is probably a never ending fight.
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
THIS is what mtb riders are afraid of on the trails. Essentially motorcycles with pedals!
 

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Art Deco

Well-Known Member
I don't know about the cities but something like that is probably as rare as flying saucers out here in the sticks. I don't think land managers will ever see one ... but they see lots of gas powered ATVs and dirt bikes.
 
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FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Wow. I am beginning to have some sympathy for land managers ... and the EMTs that have to sew him back together. So back on topic ... the bike companies might / will sell these as bycycles sounds like a valid point.
I also forgot to point out the lack of protective gear.

No helmet, jersey, shoes, or gloves... only sunglasses, pajamas, and sandals, brilliant! ;)
 
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Art Deco

Well-Known Member
IIRC, Pennsylvania has a weight limit as well as a power limit. But it probably won't be long before that doesn't matter either , as the high power bikes can get lighter (and more expensive) than a low powered steel cargo bike. So a few will probably get on the trails. If they ride like everyone else on trails, I don't think I'd care, but they probably won't ...
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
This should give perspective to MTB’ers who hate eMTB’ers. 27 years ago, they were the one’s fighting for access. I remember well having to worry about trails closing to us.

Good historical perspective. I remember when the first MTBs were raced in the Marin foothills.


1602865447702.png
 

Oberst

Well-Known Member
I remember taking a business trip to SF and looking to rent a bike to ride repack but did get some stuff at Sammy Hagars shop, Sausalito Cyclery, I think
 

Art Deco

Well-Known Member
When I was King of the mountain bike trails I was a fair and just King. I decreed there were no limits on watts and people were required to respect each other and the land, after all the land was mine. Maximum speed limit on single track was 15 mph and other trails determined by the terrain. I created MTB parks for youths under the age of 13 and designated learning tracks for the very young riders.

There were harsh penalties for outlaws. Since there were so many tracks and so few riders, there were few outlaws. This is one such outlaw; he was caught ripping up the trail at 23 mph with no regard for other peasants trying to enjoy a Saturday ride.

View attachment 68700
You can't really tell by the picture, but these stocks are located at a trailhead and as riders rode by they would squirt him with water from their Camelback squeeze bottles.

😴😴😴

I'm awake now.

I hate the politics we have now. Mountain bike trail managers and the 'in' groups that are allowed to use the land have learned well from politicians and lobbyists. Fight, delay and fight some more. If that battle is lost, find the next delaying tactic to fight with. For as long as I can remember land managers need more studies and information. When one study is complete, they say one study isn't enough, more information is needed for change.

The industry and the land managers would prefer a national law that regulates ebikes. It's much easier to effect change when you only have one entity to lobby. That takes the power away from us and our community. I don't feel like I have any influence on some regulatory agency in Washington DC. I'm pleasantly surprised at the state and local level. That could change tomorrow. Today, where I live, we have it pretty good. The past 2 years public land has accepted Class 1 ebikes. In 2014 ebikes were legalized for road use.

Like it or hate it the points made in the open letter are the things being said by governing bodies and land managers. I've heard it at their meetings. These are the standard arguments being used. At the county level when we were trying to gain access to trails, one of the speakers brought in by government was the guy that wrote the state law in 2014. Yes, one guy wrote the law and he is not elected by the people. One might think he would be on the side of ebikes. No. Almost every point made in this open letter, he raised as a warning to local regulators. This is the standard template that's shared around the country. The more I learn, the more amazed I am that any ebike advocate has any success.

There's a lot of truths in the open letter. There are already answers to many of the questions, they just aren't the answers that they want. In my opinion the most difficult issue to confront is this:

6.) There is no guarantee that the cycling industry will not upgrade the eMTB’s available to class 2 or 3 or something beyond that. There is no way for the trail advocacy groups or the Land Managers to enforce the rules if one of those entities decided to limit the trails to something like class 1. In fact, I would challenge anyone outside of the industry to be able to tell the difference between any of these classes of bikes at a glance. Land managers see this as a potential they will not be able to control once they open the doors to eMTB (remember they have seen this movie with ATV’s and UTV’s that will go 100mph). As a trail advocacy group, there is nothing that we can say to change this fear, because their fears are probably real that without some sort of official regulation, they will probably become faster and more powerful in the future.

When asked 'how can I tell the difference between a class 1 and a class 3 ebike?' There's not really an answer to that yet.

The issue of money is always raised. Our little local group did discuss the idea of a bike permit fee for all bikes. We didn't propose it, just discussed it. With all the waste in government it's difficult to imagine there is a shortage of funds for trails. Some trails are public/private partnerships. Some are managed by conservancy groups and many are county parks. I've often encountered fundraising campaigns on trails in PA. Most ask for and need volunteers for cleanup days. If there was accountability to the public, I would be willing to pay a yearly $25 fee for maintenance and more miles of trails. I do not want the money to go to enforcement. Parks and museums get the last slice of the pie these days.

It doesn't feel like early days to me at this point. I guess ebikes aren't mainstream though. Land use is probably a never ending fight.
These are new to me. And foreboding. And somewhat insulting.Ebikes mentioned on the same signpost as dogsh*t. Not Looking Good
 
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