E-bikes on trails ... a good idea?

The present scheme for protecting petrogyphs involves not publishing locations, and restricting the number of access roads. Which works pretty well.

The thing that seems to be confused here is that all ebikes are the same in terms of maximum allowable speed. There’s ebikes that practically are just electric motorcycles in terms of speed and acceleration but there are others which are closer to the electric scooters you see at the grocery store or just a bit faster than them. In any case, it’s easy to work on proper classifications of ebikes that can be used on bike trails that don’t exceed a certain speed (say 10-12 MPH) as those aren’t likely to get up to that top speed in the first place and those that do most users won’t likely want to go that speed as it gets dicey for them to control the ebike. It’s really out of regulation ebikes (those that can go in excess of 15 MPH) that you have to watch out for. But those you’ll easily be able to distinguish them as most are just regular bicycles with a mod and battery pack.


I must be misinterpreting you somehow because I can’t get these two quotes to work together. The first quote seems to say “We need to make all bike trails accessible to everybody.” and the second one seems to say “We shouldn’t do anything to trails to make them more accessible but let that be the responsibility of the individual”. I’m not arguing with what you are saying, I’m just confused.

Are we talking about bike paths or things specifically designed for mountain biking?

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I thought we were talking about unpaved multi-use national park system type trails. Probably not with the specific types of “problems” etc. that you see on mountain-bike specific trails. Does the argument change though?

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Make sure the definition of e-bike is good and tight.


That was why I thought my first cut at a rule “No e-bikes unless you are disabled” was good, because it didn’t really allow people to game the definition. If a disabled person can drive that little car on a national park trail and it helps them enjoy nature, I’m not opposed to it. I just don’t want a whole bunch of tourists tearing up Moab in such a thing. I’ve come to the conclusion it is better not to make a preemptive rule prohibiting them until it actually becomes a problem.


I do see where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you trying to solicit the different angles even at the risk of the questions being thought of as ableist.

I think @RickMycroft’s example of an “ebike” is a great one to bring to the discussion. I think we can imagine examples of this being a disabled person’s safest way to visit nature. I think we can also imagine the outrage here at BoingBoing if a bunch of entitled jerks were charging through Yellowstone on these.

Obviously we should be able to tell the difference between someone using the ebike for “legitimate” reasons and someone looking (in our eyes) to be a “jerk,” but it may not be as easy for the law to discriminate between in its language. For example, I don’t think we should be requiring only card-carrying disabled people to enjoy the benefits of assistive technology. Assistive technology should really be universally available to anyone it would benefit, without needing to go through some sort of test.

Obviously the easy answer is “it’s not a problem until it’s actually a problem.” Sure, that’s probably good enough for real-world scenarios and leave it at that. Is it worth thinking ahead of time, though, and imagine what parks should do if it does become a problem? Or is even imagining such hypotheticals problematic?


As @Otherbrother points out below though, such vehicles are already always allowed for disabled people currently.

The actual text of this rule is really hard for me to figure out. There is a reading of it where it says that you have to let someone drive a motocycle into the opera house and you aren’t even allowed to ask if they are disabled.

I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it unless we start seeing courts ruling in favor of people who get arrested for driving motorcycles in opera houses.

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In an age where people are claiming that their bad knees entitle them to not wear a mask in private businesses during a global pandemic, it is only a matter of time.

is it time to discuss the difference between a bicycle and a guitar




If your goal is to limit damage by limiting the ways people can reach a spot, in order to reduce the number of people in the place, a visitor cap is a far more sound option. It will always be possible to pick a group to exclude on a number of visitors basis, not just from trails, but from everything. If the concern around e-bikes is speed, speed limits are better.


Right. In both cases it boils down to “what is the actual issue here, and how can we mitigate that issue in a way that’s non-discriminatory?”

If the issue is wear and tear, then your solutions solve it.

If it’s a more indefinite “issue” like “I want to be able to be in nature and not see things that disturb my personal sense of nature,” then… we may have to just say the issue is on you and can’t be solved in a non-discriminatory way, and doesn’t need to be.


It was that or “snail-bike”. People don’t even use the term “snail-mail” any more. “Non-e-bike” and “regular bike” are both dumb.

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That is a legitimate challenge. My understanding of the term “disabled” at least when it comes to accessibility with anything other than parking spaces, is that it somewhat depends on the individual to determine if they are disabled in a given context. My mother’s diabetic neuropathy would be something that I would want to count as a disability with regard trail access but I wouldn’t want to count my hearing impairment.

As for, “lack of endurance”, if you look at this thread, it is specifically this issue that I’m kind of interested in. If the 24-year-old ultramarathoner is able to climb up to see the petraglyphs does that mean that special accommodations should be made such that the 50-year-old 50-lbs-overweight but otherwise healthy guy should also be able to climb up to see the petraglyphs? Is the policy that they don’t develop the trails near them ableist?

Is that intrinsically the case? Are policies that are designed to reduce technology in ways that don’t have anything to do with accessibility also silly, like a no cell tower policy to reduce electronics use?

Parks consider these kinds of questions. Here’s one example:

In general, when considering the feasibility of constructing a new accessible trail, making improvements to increase accessibility on an existing trail, providing accessible trail features or constructing outdoor recreation or beach access routes, the following conditions would be considered as exceptions to these guidelines:
• Where compliance would cause substantial harm to cultural, historic religious or significant natural features or characteristics;
• Where compliance would substantially alter the nature of the setting or the purpose of the trail;
• Where compliance would require construction methods or materials that are prohibited by law; or
• Where compliance would not be feasible due to terrain or prevailing construction practices.

https://www.americantrails.org/files/pdf/Trail-Accessibility-Design-Malibu.pdf. Also http://npshistory.com/newsletters/crm/crm-v14n3s.pdf (Preserving the Past
and Making it Accessible to Everyone: How Easy a Task?). Cool, right? The people whose responsibility it is to run the parks and comply with the law are thinking about these issues.


They seem to be thinking about how these extend to the e-bike issue as well but they haven’t apparently come up with any kind of consistent answer. It’s not an easy question with a short answer as I thought when I originally posted in the other thread.