Question about class 3 bike on Maryland C&O tow path bike trail

BrianK

Well-Known Member
Hi folks,
I’m planning to drive out to the C&O tow path bike trail in Maryland. Online, Maryland states this bike path is limited to class 1 e bikes with no throttle.

My e bike is a class 3 with throttle, which I need to get moving due to chronic weakness in my left leg from strokes several years ago. I do wear a brace on my left lower leg, and I can take my handicapped parking placard with me to verify that despite being able to ride an e bike, I do indeed have a permanent disability.

Two questions:
1) is anybody aware whether Maryland actually enforces their class 1 e bike regulations on the bike paths?
2) what’s the chances that if they do, they’d actually accept my circumstances as an exception to this regulation if they do stop me?
 
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J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Hi folks,
I’m planning to drive out to the B&O tow path bike trail in Maryland. Online, Maryland states this bike path is limited to class 1 e bikes with no throttle.

My e bike is a class 3 with throttle, which I need to get moving due to chronic weakness in my left leg from strokes several years ago. I do wear a brace on my left lower leg, and I can take my handicapped parking placard with me to verify that despite being able to ride an e bike, I do indeed have a permanent disability.

Two questions:
1) is anybody aware whether Maryland actually enforces their class 1 e bike regulations on the bike paths?
2) what’s the chances that if they do, they’d actually accept my circumstances as an exception to this regulation if they do stop me?
Do you mean C&O?

The C&O is a National Park and their rules follow the state rules where the park is located. Two Maryland State Park trails allow class 1 ebikes, the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the Torrey C Brown Rail Trail.

Here's the C&O rule:


I've seen plenty of Park Rangers on the C&O, I've never been questioned in any way about my ebike there. I've heard from other riders that they weren't allowed, but they are wrong.

So yes, Class 1 are legal. Speed limit is 15 mph. If you keep a low profile, I can't imagine you'd have a problem. The trail can be deserted in the middle of the week. Weekends are busy and riding in some areas can be a chore. Picture driving Skyline Drive and getting stuck behind a Winnebago 😖

Don't assume park personnel (non rangers) don't know what an ebike is. I have a friend who's a park manager in Maryland. Ebikes have been a part of their training and bulletins since 2015. When I told him I was riding his park, he asked me the watt rating and if it had a throttle. Hence the 'low profile' comment.

Not a concrete answer to your question, I know. Just thought I'd pipe in with what I do know.

Best of luck, Brian!
 

BrianK

Well-Known Member
Do you mean C&O?

The C&O is a National Park and their rules follow the state rules where the park is located. Two Maryland State Park trails allow class 1 ebikes, the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the Torrey C Brown Rail Trail.

Here's the C&O rule:


I've seen plenty of Park Rangers on the C&O, I've never been questioned in any way about my ebike there. I've heard from other riders that they weren't allowed, but they are wrong.

So yes, Class 1 are legal. Speed limit is 15 mph. If you keep a low profile, I can't imagine you'd have a problem. The trail can be deserted in the middle of the week. Weekends are busy and riding in some areas can be a chore. Picture driving Skyline Drive and getting stuck behind a Winnebago 😖

Don't assume park personnel (non rangers) don't know what an ebike is. I have a friend who's a park manager in Maryland. Ebikes have been a part of their training and bulletins since 2015. When I told him I was riding his park, he asked me the watt rating and if it had a throttle. Hence the 'low profile' comment.

Not a concrete answer to your question, I know. Just thought I'd pipe in with what I do know.

Best of luck, Brian!
Thanks J.R.! Yes, it is indeed the C&O so I corrected my post. Believe it or not, there is a B&O trail, in Ohio I think.

I guess I could teach myself to ride without the throttle, then take the throttle off and throw it in the pannier.

But I do rely on it when I hit the wall and push beyond my limits, which isn’t infrequent with my stroke history and changes from day to day.

Then I need the throttle just to get my sorry butt back to my car.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Thanks J.R.! Yes, it is indeed the C&O so I corrected my post. Believe it or not, there is a B&O trail, in Ohio I think.

I guess I could teach myself to ride without the throttle, then take the throttle off and throw it in the pannier.

But I do rely on it when I hit the wall and push beyond my limits, which isn’t infrequent with my stroke history and changes from day to day.

Then I need the throttle just to get my sorry butt back to my car.
It wouldn't hurt to call the visitors center at Williamsport Md and ask them about a handicapped permit to ride a non conforming 'assisted cycle'. The worst they can say is no. I don't think the NPS does permits, but they should.
 

BrianK

Well-Known Member
It wouldn't hurt to call the visitors center at Williamsport Md and ask them about a handicapped permit to ride a non conforming 'assisted cycle'. The worst they can say is no. I don't think the NPS does permits, but they should.
That is a very good idea. Or better yet, limp in with my leg brace on, in person, and plead my case. (I no longer have much of a noticeable limp when I’m not tired, but it couldn’t hurt!)
 

Art Deco

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Selinsgrove Pennsylvania
That is a very good idea. Or better yet, limp in with my leg brace on, in person, and plead my case. (I no longer have much of a noticeable limp when I’m not tired, but it couldn’t hurt!)
Grey beard ... check. Handicap tag ... check. Leg brace ... check. 'What's your excuse' tshirt ... check. Park officials that don't want to explain harassing a harmless guest to the press... check . Hope you get good weather, Brian . 😀
 

Ken M

Well-Known Member
Sadly 3-class state legislation has created a mess at the local level with some still viewing ebikes as motorized vehicles especially if they have a throttle. Obviously if the path speed limit is 15mph even the Class 1 riders will have to stay below the max assist limit so what difference does riding a class 3 ebike make? But don't ask the local regulators that as they don't like to be put on the spot.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Northeast Pennsylvania
FWIW, I rode a section of the C&O and the WMRT trails in Maryland last week. The only park ranger I saw was at the Hancock trailhead. He was more concerned about fishing licenses than e-bikes. I rode my class 2 bike there for 2 days and was never questioned.

That being said, I talked to a fellow rider with a class 2 bike who claims he was asked to leave the C&O by a ranger. No citation was issued. This is second hand information though so take it for what it's worth.

Whenever I ride in MD., I usually disable my throttle to conform to the spirit of the law if not the letter. It takes only a couple of minutes to enable it again should I have an emergency need for it. In disabled mode, the throttle controls the walk assist only at a speed of 2 mph. So far, I haven't tested this method with a ranger, so I don't know if it's actually legal or not.

BTW, most of the C&O from Williamsport west to Paw Paw WV. has dried out from the flooding caused by hurricane Ida. There were still a few muddy spots though.
 

Tom@WashDC

Active Member
Region
USA
City
Loudoun County, VA
I ride a 1500 Watt Bafang Mid Drive Fat bike in D.C. and on the C&O Canal up to Great Falls National Park. I have not had any negative interactions with law enforcement, State, Federal, or D.C.. I rode up to the U.S. capitol steps and engaged the uniformed division of the Secret Service, they had lots of questions about my bike, I told them it had a top speed of 40+ mph, but that I had programmed it to 20MPH. They all expressed admiration for my DIY Bike and agreed they all want an e-bike. I was able to drive on the lawn all around the Capitol Building. I met a group of D.C. Bike Mounted Police at the White House and they were all googley-eyed about my bike and had a whole slew of questions, said they just acquired a small fleet of electric bikes. The Park Police on the National Mall and C&O Canal are very friendly, nod an wave as I pass by.

Ride respectfully, and you should be OK.
 

theemartymac

Well-Known Member
Hi folks,
I’m planning to drive out to the C&O tow path bike trail in Maryland. Online, Maryland states this bike path is limited to class 1 e bikes with no throttle.

My e bike is a class 3 with throttle, which I need to get moving due to chronic weakness in my left leg from strokes several years ago. I do wear a brace on my left lower leg, and I can take my handicapped parking placard with me to verify that despite being able to ride an e bike, I do indeed have a permanent disability.

Two questions:
1) is anybody aware whether Maryland actually enforces their class 1 e bike regulations on the bike paths?
2) what’s the chances that if they do, they’d actually accept my circumstances as an exception to this regulation if they do stop me?
I'd also ask your doctor for a doctors note (ideally, with a prescription letter) explaining that you have a disability, and specifically that your throttle-equipped bike is a prescribed accessibility aid for you. That could come in handy at other times as well, so worth keeping a scan or photo on your phone.

It might not satisfy every ebike restriction you encounter, but I'd bet a paycheque it would keep you from getting a fine and just result in a polite request in the worst case. No city or government staff member wants to risk the PR nightmare that comes from denying accessibility to documented disabilities over the nuance of bicycle regulations.
 

BrianK

Well-Known Member
I went out to the Western Maryland Rail Trail today with a good friend, and we parked at the Big Pool parking area access, the beginning of this paved bike path. He was riding a slick ultra-lightweight carbon road bike and I was on my fat tire e bike. We rode 15 miles west before turning around.

We rode 5 miles back and stopped in Hancock MD for lunch at BuddyLou’s Eats and Drinks and had an awesome lunch, then rode the ten miles back to the car. We averaged 14 mph.

No rangers in sight, so no hassles about my class III e bike. Judging by today I really doubt there ever will be.

So that’s 30 miles on an e bike today, a personal record, the farthest I’ve ever ridden any bike, either before or after five strokes I had five and a half years age that left my left arm and leg temporarily paralyzed. My prior longest e bike ride was 21 miles.

This might not sound like much, but when you’ve been partially paralyzed it’s an incredible blessing.