E-Bike and Scooters on Paved Trails – Yay or Nay?
E-bikes and scooters are rarely seen in Pittsburgh, but they might become popular in the future. Rather than banning them, I think it would be more constructive to discuss how we could safely incorporate them into alternative transportation policy.
Another reason I’d like to discuss this is because I’ve encountered this individual with a scooter on Panther Hollow Trail three times, and he was riding on it on two occasions, including today. But he hopped off before my camera was able to capture a clear picture.
Although unauthorized motor vehicles in parks or greenways are prohibited according the city code, I feel 90 c.c. scooters, on which the individual was riding, can be exempted. They cannot keep pace with other motor vehicles on steep roads like Bates and Greenfield and can be squeezed to the side just like us cyclists. Also, they do not make much noises or exhaust due to their small engines. Lastly, some people might label E-bike or scooter users as lazy persons, but I’d like to point out that some of them really cannot ride traditional bikes due to health issues, and they are still helping alleviate traffic problems by not driving a car.
I’m ok with e-bikes (assuming they meet the PA speed/power regulations), but if the contraption needs a license plate to be legal, it should not be on the trail.
Theoretically, we could allow any two wheeled vehicle to use the trails if they followed all the rules. But then if cars would follow the rules we wouldn’t need trails in the first place.
This topic seems amazingly polarizing already! Here’s my take:
ebikes are getting faster every year. They are by definition, motorcycles. Not just sort of like motorcycles, but actual motorcycles. Currently they aren’t as quick but they will be quite soon. Granted, within that category of motorcycle, distinctions can be useful. Having multiple, more specific terms are good for everyday conversations. But for the purpose of segregating traffic, the best distinction is motorized vs human powered.
There’s nothing wrong with ebikes or scooters, but allowing motorized traffic on pedestrian trails is not something I would like. We could attempt to allow some motorized vehicles but not others, but I don’t think it would be successful. The only distinction that is clear and won’t be abused is human powered vs motorized.
I don’t think you’re going to find a receptive audience here. I don’t want motorized bikes, electric or gas, on the trails, and I definitely don’t want the pollution and noise gas powered bikes make.
They cannot keep pace with other motor vehicles on steep roads like Bates and Greenfield and can be squeezed to the side just like us cyclists.
Learn to ride properly, and take the lane as appropriate.
To be fair, ebikes don’t create any localized pollution and make less noise than some of my bikes. ;)
Definitions and context may be in order here.
Electric bikes (or E bikes) may refer to very different things. In a trail context, I would think the discussion would be limited to those E bikes that are “bicycle like” and offer some level of pedal assist.
Electric motorcycles are an entirely different vehicle type, and are legally prohibited from using the trails (at least trails on which certain types of federal funding were invested.)
There are circumstances in which an electrified or motor assisted vehicle may use the trails. There are strict limits on horsepower and speed. Users are generally required to have a “mobility limitation” that prevents them from using the trail without such assistance (as in the case of a motorized wheelchair user.)
In countries that have implemented ebike regulations, they tend to focus on max wattage. But these limitations are notoriously easy to defeat. In just a year or two, we’ll be dealing with the reality of ebikes sold at walmart being capable of 30mph. A few more years and they’ll be even faster.
China has 200 million ebikes on the road and is currently trying to figure all this out. Surprisingly, they actually banned ebikes in many big cities last month. Needless to say it has been massively controversial. I don’t think an outright ban is the solution but it does show how problematic it is to classify and regulate ebikes. There are whole new topics to consider. For example, ebikes are nearly silent yet can be loaded down with multiple people and cargo. That’s a deadly combination, especially on what we would consider bike/pedestrian trails.
Supposedly some racers are using e assist during bike races like tour de France. (:. I think those are ok as long as you aren’t going a million mph. There have been times with giant hills I’ve wished one on my bike.
I’ll take the subjective approach: Don’t be a jagoff.
This is the mirror to the issue of riding a bicycle in the parking lot or walkway to some building or shopping plaza where there is a “No bicycles” sign prominently posted. The intended audience to such signs is McCaskill-wannabe youths who are not riding for transportation, and might be just as likely to be on the side of a surface as atop it. If you rode around at a moderate pace in such places on a road bike, few would even notice your presence, and fewer still would care.
So, if you’re going to take your 200-watt crotch-rocket bicycle and toodle along the Jail Trail at a sedate 12 mph, I don’t think anyone would notice or care. But they would if you wound it out to full power.
Another analogy: You can drive a Lambo down Ellsworth behind a cyclist going 15 mph and be perfectly pleasant about it. Or not.
This has been discussed before, of course.
When I was in China in 2012, the bike lanes had a mix of pedestrians, bicycles, electric bicycles, electric tricycles… It was a mess, but it mostly worked.
If I were designing the rules, I’d say that no motorized vehicle capable of going faster than 15mph on level ground should be on a bike trail or bike lane, and no internal combustion engines, except for maintenance and emergencies. I figure that electric-assist bicycles will be quite common everywhere, in 10 years or so, and they’ll need to find their place on the roads and trails.
The web is doing a wretched job on the following links today:
One thread from 2009-2010, and another from 2013-2016:
If it has a throttle, definitely do not support.
If it’s human powered, with electric assist, pedaling required, speed limited, then maybe.
PA law delivers a pretty clear definition of an ebike.
On February 4, 2014, SB997 was introduced by Senator Matt Smith, which seeks to amend PA Vehicle Code to include “Pedalcycle with Electric Assist.” In a memo addressed to all senate members, Smith said the definition shall include “bicycles equipped with an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts, weighing not more than 100 pounds, are capable of a maximum speed of not more than 20 mph, and have operable pedals.”
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of “pedalcycle” (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. “Pedalcycle” is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals OR a “pedalcycle” (bicycle) with electric assist (a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
Thanks, Vannevar! I was too busy (or too lazy) to pull up that citation.
It’s a good addition to this discussion.
Absolutely. I have to say, PA did a pretty good job on this. It’s actually more restrictive than the Federal definition.
The legislature and government have delivered an effective, appropriate definition of a PA e-bike. Our own small differences over throttles, pedals, etc really don’t matter – there’s a statewide standard.
If you buy an ebike that’s outside of the PA-state definition and operate on PA roadways, you’re using an illegal vehicle. Which will have interesting implications in the event of a police stop or a collision.
Want to know why you can bike in the roadway? Because you’re riding a legal bike.
This is my (only) issue with the ELF’s (which is a great vehicle) that Performance is selling – or the Autopod ebikes that a CMU startup was pushing – they don’t meet the PA definition of an ebike. Drop money on one, and it’s not a legal ride.
Bike trails around here post a 15mph speed limit. Which is reasonable. If e-bikes stick to it, it seems fine to me.
But they do have to stick to it and not get distracted by all those Cat-6’s zooming past them… Enforcement.
In Europe, I’ve occasionally encountered motorbikes on bike trails. The riders kept to reasonable speeds and were generally polite (other than generating motor noise). On the other hand, a motorbike is significantly heavier than a bike. I don’t think it’s right to allow that amount of mass dodging around among lighter, unprotected cyclists.
So, make them use the streets.
If you buy an ebike that’s outside of the PA-state definition and operate on PA roadways, you’re using an illegal vehicle.
No, I think this is wrong. This new PA definition of a “pedalcycle with electric assist” isn’t prohibiting any vehicle types. It’s just saying that if a vehicle meets the conditions Vannevar quoted, then it’s now considered a “pedalcycle with electric assist”, and any such vehicle is now treated just like a pedalcycle under the law.
But a vehicle that doesn’t meet those rules (say, it’s over 100 pounds, or its wheels are under 11 inches, or its motor is over 750 watts, or it goes faster than 20 miles) is still a vehicle. And unless it violates some other rule, it’s legal to ride it on PA roads.
In addition to qualifying as a “vehicle” in PA law, an ebike that isn’t a “pedalcycle with electric assist” might also qualify as a motorized pedalcycle, a motor-driven cycle, or a motorcycle, depending on its specific characteristics. (Those last three terms are nested: Every motorized pedalcycle is also a motor-driven cycle, and every motor-driven cycle is also a motorcycle, by definition.)
For instance, the definition of “motorized pedalcycle” says it has a maximum speed of 25 mph, not 20 mph. So if an ebike would count as a “pedalcycle with electric assist” except that its max speed is 21 mph instead of 20 mph, it would likely count instead as a motorized pedalcycle. And therefore it would also count as a motor-driven cycle, and a motorcycle.
That means, for instance, that there would be an annual registration fee of $9 for the 21 mph ebike, since that’s the fee for motor-driven cycles, and there’s no exception for those motor-driven cycles that are also motorized pedalcycles.
And since a motorized pedalcycle is considered by law a type of motor-driven cycle but not a type of pedalcycle, the prohibition on riding bicycles on highways seemingly wouldn’t apply to it. Likewise, it probably wouldn’t be allowed in a bike lane (though to be fair, Title 75 just says lanes may be reserved for certain vehicle types, and doesn’t spell out the mapping from markings like “(bike symbol) ONLY” to legal terms like “pedalcycle”).
Basically, if an ebike is too fast to be a pedalcycle with electric assist, it would instead count as a motorcycle, except for those parts of the law that say “a motorcycle unless it’s a motor-driven cycle” or “unless it’s a motorized pedalcycle”.
Steven – is it possible the pedalcycle designation permits these vehicles to operate on public roads without registration, insurance, and plate, as bicycles do? Conversely, if it’s motorized and doesn’t meet the definition of a pedalcycle, logic would dictate that it would be required to be registered and plated, as a motorized vehicle. Don’t know, just supposing. As if any LEO would be so bored as to enforce any such thing.
I’m not sure which specific “these vehicles” you mean, but I think it works like this:
Pedalcycle with electric assist ( 100 lbs max, 2 or 3 wheels over 11″, electric motor, 750 watts, pedals, 20 mph max) generally plays by the same rules as any plain bicycle, except you must be 16+ years old.
But it looks to me like the law says they must be registered, since that part of the law exempts vehicles “moved solely by human or animal power” and doesn’t mention pedalcycles at all, even though they can’t be registered since they lack a VIN. I think the intent of the legislature was to have pedalcycles with electric assist not require registration, insurance, or plate, and they just screwed up.
For that matter, I think the law actually requires PennDOT to perform annual inspections on all bicycles, because it fails to use the word “motor” before “vehicles” in the section where it requires annual inspections, and fails to exempt them elsewhere. My guess is everybody is pretending certain parts of the law were written more sensibly than they actually were.
Motorized pedalcycle (electric, up to 3 wheels, automatic transmission, pedals, 25 mph max, as well as a similarly-restricted gas version [details omitted]) is treated as a motorcycle but with some exceptions: lower annual fees, no inspections, no certificate of title required if registered in another state, class C license required but not class M (maybe, it’s unclear), no helmet or goggles required even for young people, limited-access highways prohibited.
(I was wrong about motorized pedalcycles being allowed on limited-access highways; there’s a specific provision that says they aren’t.)
logic would dictate
Yeah, good luck with that. :-)
“How the humble bicycle is making a comeback in US cities”
An interesting article which may not seem to bring anything new to the table at first glance, but it mentioned some resistance to expansion of bicycle infrastructures are due to alienation of low-income residents. Many of them cannot ride bicycles because of health conditions or age. But the MIT’s autonomous Persuasive Electric Vehicles may change this, and enable them to utilize bicycle lanes to get around.
I’ve attended the “Mobility is a Civil Right” townhall meeting a few weeks ago, and I’ve heard how residents at Hill District are vying for bus services. Many of them are elderly or people with disability, and they are greatly affected by any cut or change of bus services. Perhaps MIT’s autonomous vehicles can offer an alternative solution while prompting installation of more bicycle lanes.
I have seen a couple riding motorized bikes from Homestead through to at least the Hot Metal Bridge at a fairly high rate of speed. I usually see them around 5 PM. The bikes are more like mopeds than electric assist bikes. The riders aren’t pedaling at all. I’m all for assist motors on trails, but not this sort of bike. I’m not sure if this should be reported. Has anyone else seen them?
The rules for the GAP are here. If you think they’re violating the rules, you could try calling 911. In some areas that seems to work.
I see nothing wrong with e-bikes. In fact I expect that at some point in my life I’ll end up having to ride them due to progressive age-related decrepitude.
They’re bikes. As long as reasonable speed limits are accepted, things should be fine.
The point (at least to me) is to get people out of cars when travelling locally. They don’t have to “suffer” for their own good. They should just be able to easily get around under their own control.
Anyone who hops off their scooter and walks when they see a bicyclist coming is A-OK with me.
Yesterday in halifax someone rode a single stroke fume emitting bike something past me. In a bike lane. That wasn’t cool. I’m fine with the electric as long as they are throttled to maybe 13-15 mph.
gas bad. electric good. why not restrict bike paths to electric?
[for what it’s (not) worth: in Slovenia motor scooters were using bike paths.
In the end convenience will trump fussy rule-making.]
I draw the line…
On Roads (not in bike lanes / bike trails / two-way bikeways)
Pedal assist, Yes. Throttle driven, Yes.
On bike lanes / bike trails / two-way bikeways on Road
Pedal assist, Yes. Throttle driven, no.
On Rail Trails / Mutli use paths:
Pedal assist, Yes. Throttle driven, no.
On mutli-use Singletrack Trails:
Pedal Assist, No. Throttle driven, no. Mostly concerned with access restrictions to non-motorized MTBs, based on backlash from Wilderness / Hiking groups like somewhat local-ish Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness who vehemently oppose ebikes and often use them as a scapegoat to drum up anti-mtb sentiment.
In Dedicated bike park:
Pedal Assist, Yes. Throttle driven, no.
In motorsports park.
Pedal Assist, Yes. Throttle driven, Yes.
I recently saw an electric assist long-tail cargo bike climbing main st, it was impressive how fast they were able to ascend. I’m for e-assist bikes for commuting uses, especially in a hilly area like we live. I’m happy to share roads and bike lanes with them.
Not interested in entertaining the idea of throttle driven scooters anywhere but on the road in regular non-restricted traffic lanes and off road in motorsports park, quad trails, or private land.
With that said, I’m kind of interested in the Scoobi scooter share, I will probably rent one, and use it on the road, outside of bike infrastructure, where it belongs.
- This reply was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by Benzo.
IIRC (and I could be way off) AASHTO specifies bike paths be designed for 16 mph traffic?
I think I’d be fine with assistive tech operating at a max 20 mph / 30 kph on cycling-specific infrastructure, since that’s within the range of speed that everyone (peds, cyclists, skaters, joggers, eagle-watchers) expects cyclists to operate at.
But they should definitely pay their fair share of taxes for all the extra wear and tear they’ll be putting on our roads! (/sarcasm)
BikeSnobNYC did a nice investigation and report on dockless electric scooters in Portland. The small type of scooter, like Bird, not the big type of scooter, like Scoobi (we need words to distinguish between these types!). He found e-scooters to be fun and useful, and not the sidewalk menace they’re sometimes portrayed to be. He concluded:
“If this is the future, what’s not to like?”
Saw a Scoobi cruising into Oakland through Panther Hollow on the trail yesterday, around 5:15pm. Scared-looking woman on bike had pulled off the trail to let the dude pass. I blurted out a “what the fuck, man?” as I passed by going the other way, but I’m not sure he heard or cared. I am very much not comfortable with this. How do y’all feel about it? Is there anything productive I can do besides cursing at people?
ETA: Saw a dirt bike on the Jail Trail earlier this summer as well, but that was so bizarre that I didn’t have the wherewithal to process what I was seeing/hearing and react at all.
- This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by pearmask.
Contact scoobi. They can gps track everyone and contact the guy and tell him to stop.
Unfortunately scoobis ads for their service featured their scooters on sidewalks and local trails.
Didn’t even realize they were GPS-tracked, although that makes perfect sense. Ok, yeah, I’ll get in touch with them. They should definitely not be allowing that to happen.
Scoobis are motorcycles. I in no way consider them scooters. They’re bigger, faster, and more powerful than the 30-49cc gas powered mopeds that still can be seen around town from time to time.
I would prefer they stay off trails. But just as you can drive a Lamborghini or Corvette or Ferrari down Grant Street at 25 mph, I see no reason to prevent using them on trails. “Don’t be a jagoff” is a good general rule.
They’re legally not allowed on trails. They are street only. Scoobi is clear about this in their literature. Except their pics which shows them parked on trails.
Scooters in some cities are getting hotwired, hoarded, or vandalized in large numbers.
A good pro-scooter article:
“The novelty of scooters — and the risks — highlights just how completely we’ve let cars monopolize our streets, and how fiercely the culture fends off any incursions.”
Perception that scooter companies allow bad actors on scooters.
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