There’s a new type of traffic on the Macpherson trail network: electric bicycles (e-bikes).
The Revelstoke Cycling Association (RCA) opened the trail network to class one (pedal assist) e-bikes last week. Otherwise, motorized vehicles are still banned from the trails.
“We were getting a lot of people messaging us about our policy, essentially asking ‘oh, why can’t we e-bike?'” says Charlotte Sit, the RCA director-at-large.
“So, it’s been on the radar for a while, since longer than last year.”
Survey inspires changes to RCA rules
In 2020, the RCA surveyed members on their support of allowing e-bikes on the trail network. The majority answered “Yes,, with 55.7 per cent supporting the notion. 24 per cent answered “no,” and 20.3 per cent answered “no opinion.”
However, even with RCA support, the rules around e-bikes can be complicated.
According to the ICBC website, electric bikes are classified as a “two- or three-wheeled cycle with a seat, pedals and an electric motor or motors (power output not exceeding 500 watts in total).” In addition to following bicycle safety rules, e-bikes cannot be gas-powered, and riders must be 16 or older.
In 2019, B.C. policy updates allowed e-bikes on trails managed by Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. However, this policy excluded locally-managed trails, including those managed by the RCA.
For anyone facing confusion around what trails allow e-bike usage, Sit recommends the Trailforks app.
Ongoing debates surrounding e-biking
While e-bikes have been allowed on certain RCA trails for a few years now, their presence has caused debate; particularly surrounding concerns of two-way traffic.
“If you’re riding downhill and somebody is coming up faster than expected, there could be a bit of conflict there,” Sit explains.
Initially, the RCA considered an e-bike “exemption allowance” for those with disabilities who cannot ride traditional bikes. However, due to complications, they decided to open certain trails to all e-bike users.
Sit insists that e-bikes do not provide an opening for other motorized vehicles on RCA trails, stating that “having that class one distinction is pretty critical.”
While e-bikes can be controversial in the mountain biking community, they are a helpful tool for accessibility.
“There’s this older demographic of people who used to mountain bike a lot and they still want to have that in their lives. But there’s some reason that they can’t ride as hard or as much as they used to,” Sit says.
“Having an e-bike allows them to join, to go out riding with younger people, and keep up on the uphill and have fun.”
For more on this history of the e-bike question on local trails, see this story from 2018.