Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trail Ethos for E-Bike Community

QWR believes that all outdoor recreational activities should have a responsible land-use ethic.

Land managers today face a growing number of new trail-related technologies.   QWR believes many of these new vehicle types are encouraging the public to get off the couch and hit trail… which is a very positive development.

However, with new vehicle types comes the responsibility of that sport to adopt and embrace a sound trail ethic that imparts respect for the land and other user groups.

Over the last several years at various recreation events, QWR has visited with local, state, and federal recreation officials about the explosive growth of E-bikes on both motorized and non-motorized trails.

According to Wikipedia, “An electric bicycle, also known as an e-bike or booster bike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which can be used for propulsion…  E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter varieties can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on the laws of the country in which they are sold, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph).”

In numerous areas, the trail-use laws and regulations are unclear as they relate to E-bike cross-county travel or use on public land trail systems.   This is not the fault of the E-bike community or the agency.  Rather it is a sign that E-bike stakeholders should be proactive and work with trail managers to create a strong land-use ethic and regulatory platform that both protect the resource and the long-term viability of the sport.

QWR is encouraging the E-bike community to consider developing a common sense national trail ethos through the collaborative process with agency staff and other user groups.   This will be good for the sport and the land.

Comments and feedback are encouraged.


  1. Feedback from a LE - This discussion does need to occur on a State-wide (CA) basis. Recent changes to the law regarding motorized cycles is making the issue even more complex.

  2. Good discussion Don. I am an avid long time off-road motorcyclist, mountain biker and now e-bike mountain biker. In my experience, pedal-assist, 20mph limit, 350W e-bikes are similar to and compatible with mountain bikes. I do not believe they should be considered "motorized" in the traditional sense of that classification. My 250cc dirt bike is not compatible with mountain bike and hiking users in our local foothills trails. My e-bike absolutely is. Almost no one I encounter on the trails knows that I am riding "boosted". My capabilities for speed, acceleration and traversing difficult trails are still less than top athletes on a traditional mountain bike.

    I find it very disappointing that IMBA is taking a stance that e-bikes are motorized and should not be considered an equal to mountain bikes in trail access. One of IMBA's primary positions is to rid mountain bikes of the "mechanized" label so mountain bikes have more access (especially to wilderness). IMBA's argument is that mountain bikes are compatible with many trails they are banned from and it is the mechanized label that excludes them. Unless IMBA can show that e-bikes have a significantly different impact than traditional mountain bikes (and so far their own studies say they do not) IMBA's labeling of e-bikes as motorized is a hypocritical position. Yes, technically e-bikes are motorized, just as mountain bikes are mechanized, but their use and impact is entirely compatible with mountain bikes.

    Sadly, trail access opinions and regulations are often grounded in feelings and perceptions instead of reality. I hope I can continue to enjoy my e-bike in our local foothills trails but I'm afraid I may soon lose my favorite exercise activity to uneducated feelings and perceptions.

    Al Youngwerth

    1. You hit a lot of key points.
      Two things sadden me.
      Mtn bikers rejection of low power electric bikes on trails.
      People who are riding "electric motorcycles" on biking trails. It is selfish and is alienating everyone, including responsible OHV riders.

      Kevin Moore

  3. Al, you bring up a lot of good points. You highlight the need for a robust discussion between E-bikers, land agencies, and other users AND adoption of pro-active e-bike related trail management prescriptions.

  4. California has defined what is an "electric assist bike", 2 categories of electric bikes, and electric motorcycle.

    Kevin Moore