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Oregon begins process to legalize electric-assist bikes in state parks

Posted by on April 10th, 2018 at 10:28 am

E-bikes are currently illegal on paths like the Banks-Vernonia. A new rule would change that.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wants to update their rules regarding electric bicycles.

As we were first to report last summer, electric bikes are not currently legal to ride on paths in Oregon State Parks. That’s because park paths are governed by Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR), which currently classify electric bicycles as “motor vehicles” — thereby prohibiting their use. (Note that roads outside of state parks are governed by Oregon Revised Statutes which define e-bikes as bicycles). With the rising popularity of pedal-assisted e-bikes, State Parks officials recognize that the OAR is outdated.

Now they’ve begun the process to officially amend the rules to make it clear that electric-assisted bicycles (as defined in ORS 801.258) are allowed in State Parks. The OPRD website has posted a “notice for proposed rulemaking” and there’s a comment form to receive public feedback.

2018Electric-assisted-bicycle-notice

As currently written (beginning on page four the document above), the new rule would:
– allow pedal-assisted e-bikes on all roads and trails eight feet or wider;
– “Restrict speed and manner of operation to a reasonable and prudent practice relative to terrain, prevailing conditions, equipment, personal capabilities, personal safety and the safety of all other park users”;
– give individual park managers discretion to increase or restrict e-bike access if they feel it’s prudent for the context or conditions of a path;
– allow e-bikes on the seashore (where non-motorized bicycles are already allowed);
– and prohibit e-bikes on off-road trails, except when posted otherwise by a park manager.

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Here’s how the state explains the need for a new rule:

“As use of electric assisted bicycles has increased, riders have expressed desire to utilize trails and roads under ORPD management. Opening trails and roads that are eight feet and over and the ocean shore will allow electric assisted bicycles to ride in places that have greater space available to reduce conflict with existing visitors. Existing trail users including equestrians, bicyclists and pedestrians have expressed concerns with increased trail conflicts as user groups are expanded. We are proposing restricting use of electric assisted bicycles to wider trails where greater space is available for multiple types of user groups. If a park manager determined a narrower trail was appropriate for electric assisted bicycles, the proposed rule provides the flexibility to allow for it be signed as open to electric assisted bicycles. The proposed rule would also allow electric assisted bicycles on the ocean shore in areas where other bicycles are currently allowed. Riders would need to follow current rules regarding speed and manner of operations. As with all vehicles, electric assisted bicycles would not be allowed to harass wildlife or ride in snowy plover nesting areas.”

The rule would help open up cycling as a viable mobility option for many more Oregonians. People like Forest Grove resident Chris Billman— whose frustration with this legal grey area spurred him to become the first Oregon resident to get an ADA permit for his bicycle — would no longer have to operate in the shadows. And with legal clarity, bike shops and bike rental companies near State Parks are likely to see a boost in business.

Please share your feedback about this new rule on OPRD’s website or via email at OPRD.publiccomment@oregon.gov. Comment period is open until 5:00 pm on May 18th. There will be six public hearings on the rule change between April 23rd and May 7th. They’ll take place in Hood River, Salem, Redmond, Newport, Bandon, and Warrenton.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Ervin SverdrupsorenAndy Kgl.The Future? Recent comment authors
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9watts
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9watts

It is unclear to me why electric bikes are thought to be more like the human powered variety than other fuel-powered (motor-)bikes. I’m sure riders of other motorized two-wheelers have in the past ‘expressed the desire’ to be allowed to ride on these paths.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

My e-assisted bike has a throttle that can take me up to 20MPH and a governor that assures I can go no faster than 20 MPH using the e-assist. So where amongst the rules would that classify my bike?

9watts
Guest
9watts

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
…not get bogged down into the technical differences in various vehicle types.Recommended 4

I would submit that the technical distinctions only start to matter once *one class* of motorized bike is allowed.

The Bike Concierge
Guest

E-bikes are the second most popular category of bike that people are purchasing in my shop. The buyers are past retirement age and still want to remain active, but want the insurance of knowing if they ride past their capacity, they have the electric assist to help them get home. They are not looking to set speed record or terrorize other cyclists or pedestrians, and I doubt most of my customers will ever see the governed speed on their bikes.

Peter J
Guest
Peter J

It would be good to distinguish in these articles between persons with a disability and the able bodied. It is my understanding that persons with a disability would be covered by the DOJ ruling on “Other Powered-Driven Mobility Devices.” These are specifically exempt from the proposed rule -see Sentence (6) of the draft rule. My assumption is that Mr. Billman would be covered under the federal DOJ rules and therefore may already be allowed to ride his bicycle on a paved trail managed by the OPRD.

Because of the existing DOJ rule it would be better not to use persons with disabilities as an argument for allowing motorized bicycles on OPRD property. All of us will most likely have a disability at least at one point in our lives. But, that is specifically not what this rule is about. This draft rule is about whether or not the able bodied are allowed to ride electric bicycles on OPRD property.

Caveat- I am a trail practitioner, and not an attorney so take all of this with a grain of salt 🙂

for more on the OPDMD rule:

http://www.americantrails.org/resources/accessible/OPDMD-DOJ-requirement-basic.html

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Expecting an uptick on e-bike/ped collisions and injuries. Not good.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

E-bikes that can exceed 15 mph should be liability insured.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

I would limit bikes (and especially E-bikes) to a 10mph speed limit within state parks (and that could be extended to county and city parks, too, as well as national parks and sites). Maybe 15 on paths separate from the road system, but not more than that.

Jon
Guest
Jon

For me there is a clear distinction between human powered travel and motorized travel. If you are going up a steep enough hill all human powered methods of travel go about the same speed. A strong runner/hiker will go as fast as a strong bicyclist, maybe faster since they don’t have the added 20 pounds of bicycle when the grade gets very steep.
I always hear about governed speeds with electric motorized bicycles but observations have led me to conclude that just like how automotive companies use added horsepower to help sell cars, electric motorized bicycle companies are constantly increasing wattage to help sell their products. Just search “remove governor ebike” on google and “tuning” ebikes and you will get plenty of help “speeding up your commute” and going fast on the trails. If 200W is ok, 1500W is better. Once again search on the internet for videos of ebike speed and you will find plenty of videos of people going very fast without pedaling on an “ebike”.
If you can pedal an e-assist bike you can pedal a human powered bike. You may have to ride slower, not go as far, or take flatter terrain but everyone has limits. There are tons of riders can ride much farther or faster than me. If you want to ride a motorcycle there are plenty of low traffic roads and gravel roads that you can enjoy with as many watts that you want with no legal issues. If you want to enjoy a non-motorized path or trail, then ride a bicycle.

J_R
Guest
J_R

The ability of people to achieve high speeds with very little effort and minimal training quickly turns a substantial portion of them into idiots.

I would point to the invention of “personal watercraft” as the prime example. Having been a sailor for decades, I remember seeing them when they were first invented. These devices allowed great speed and freedom of movement that endangered swimmers, sailors, fishermen, and other water users. I think that the pwc’s became the primary reason for licensing of boat operators. I’ve can count on one hand the times I’ve seen a sailor or canoeist operate in ways that endanger others. I often encounter pwc operators who are less than courteous, who operate illegally, or are simply reckless.

I hope that e-bike users who are given the opportunity to use state park trails are immune to the temptations that are afforded by the easy, effortless power available to them.

B.R.
Guest
B.R.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about e-bikes with pedal-assist and how they work. Like, you *have* to pedal in order to ride, do people not realize this? The *only* reason I ride anymore is because I have electric assist and carry a kid/groceries on my bike, which gets heavy. I’m so sick of elitist bike culture.

9watts
Guest
9watts

B.R.
I’m so sick of elitist bike culture.Recommended 0

Just a bit ironic, that turn of phrase?

Bay Area rider
Guest
Bay Area rider

J_R
I hope that e-bike users who are given the opportunity to use state park trails are immune to the temptations that are afforded by the easy, effortless power available to them.Recommended 2

People should realize that pedal assist e-bikes may be easier but they aren’t effortless power. I have one that uses the Bosh system. In the lowest assist mode it boosts the power you put into the pedals by 55%. At the moment I don’t remember what the boost levels are for the other 3 assist levels. I think the turbo mode is like a 250% boost to the power you put into the pedals. Of course on the turbo mode you don’t get to many miles on a fully charged battery. The important part is the rider still has to put power into the pedals to get an assist out of the bike.

Also you can ride with no assist. When a Bosh system comes into the bike shop the mechanics can download a report with all kinds of info like highest speed attained since the last reset, miles ridden and a breakdown of how much time you have ridden at each assist level. At my friends bike show he was surprised to see that most people will ride almost 1/2 the time with no assist at all with the lowest assist mode being the one used most of the rest of the time.

N-1
Guest
N-1

E bikes are here. And they get people out of their cars. Politeness doesn’t turn off when you get on a bike (either e or not – or your car). I’m going to argue it was never there. I don’t like agro behavoir so i don’t model it. Not on my bike (solo with panniers) or my ebike (with two kids and three grocery bags). If there wasn’t so much ego, people themselves wouldn’t care someone on an ebike is smoking you up the hill. Be happy that they are getting out, outside and out of their car. Oh, and stop shouting unsolicited advice, condemnation, opinions to other people riding. Learn how to have a conversation. Find out why they chose an ebike. Who knows, we may find ourselves older, less athletic, and less able bodied one day but still enjoy the outdoors or being carfree. As for the outliers, don’t let them ruin your day, there will always be outliers.

9watts
Guest
9watts

N-1
E bikes […]get people out of their cars.Recommended 0

An interesting hypothesis. I wonder if anyone has data to back this up, or can concretize what you mean by that phrase?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

If we want to grow cycling’s mode share, we should probably consider that the fastest growing sector in the world in cycling is e-bikes. It may well be the only sector that is growing domestically.

There will be some crashes, many of them due to infrastructure designed for 10 mph. We can crush cycling so that there are no bike-on-bike crashes or we can push together to grow it and simultaneously push for infrastructure that also works for higher speeds and much higher numbers of riders. It seems so simple, but clearly others see it differently.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

So many people mistakenly conflating commuting and general pedal assist bike usage and their technical specifications for the actual topic here, which is use of these motorized machines on recreational trails in state parks. E-bikes ARE here no doubt, and the potential to increase mode share and get people out of cars with them is real. I think that’s great and I have no qualms about their use in nearly all situations and places. As I age I might even consider an assist bike myself someday for road and bike lane use to extend the years I am out there riding.

But please, please, let there be one place “boost-free” and devoid of these machines. The kind of trails this is about are nearly entirely in rural, sparsely populated locations. They are probably nearly 100% recreational use, and almost everyone taking an e-bike to them are taking it on a car-rack to get there. It is NOT about infrastructure equity or people having their “experience” diminished. My experience in these places, and those of the other trail users such as walkers/hikers/etc. is about the amazing ability to get away from cities and their cacophony under my own power. And yes even get away from the “first 2 miles from the trailhead users” on the trail itself. Out to places where sometimes it’s so still and quiet that yes, even the electric hum of an e-bike motor is noticeable and intrusive.

It’s a dangerous precedent to allow any kind of motorized recreation on trails in state and national parks where the clear cut limit is between human powered and motorized full stop. Especially when it’s perfectly capable abled riders (even if older or inexperienced, sorry) who just feel the need to go farther and faster for recreation then they can under their own power ( I worry what happens when they drain their battery or suffer a electronic malfunction). That’s just selfish, honestly. I’d sure like to ride all day for 200+ miles at a go on a beautiful warm day, but that is far above my ability and I have no hubris thinking I deserve it no matter the impact to other users. Genuinely mobility disabled users who would qualify for a disabled placard should of course be able to use a device such as electric wheelchair, scooter or trike.

So frankly e-bike users, isn’t it ok that there are just a few places you have to leave your assisted bike at home to ride? A small slice of the world that holds the line for quiet and solitude? A minuscule amount of milage compared to all the other places to ride your assisted bike (Including in Oregon, THOUSANDS of miles of just as scenic, nearly car-free rural roads)? If not, don’t expect me to not express my opinion when I meet you out there. Every time I see you on a state park trail I will let you know verbally just what I think. It may just sour your “experience”.

Eric Porter
Guest
Eric Porter

I worry more about where this leaves things 5-10 years from now. Once ebike battery capacity and power increase exponentially, and size and weight decrease equally, ebikes will become even faster. At least human power has a fairly consistent and time tested top speed and limits.

It starts with the wide paths, and then a few years later they’re ripping rooster tails uphill on the MTB singletrack…

gl.
Guest
gl.

It’s better to ban the behavior, not the bike. I agree speed differentials are a hazard on both paths and streets. Put a speed limit on the path which applies to all bikes, whether they are wholly human-powered or pedal-assisted.

Ebikes are what got me into biking, and they reduced the anxiety of traffic, weather, and physical fitness that would have kept me from knowing the freedom and thrill of bicycles. When I wanted to go further than the ebike range would allow, I transitioned to a “regular” bike, which I was able to do because of the gains in familiarity and stamina I developed while learning to ride an ebike. Now I have an ebike again, and I bike three times as much as I did when I had a “regular” bike. At every stage, there was always someone quick to tell me how I was using the wrong bike.

(Of course, this presumes anyone is patrolling and watching for ebikes — or speeds — on those paths, anyway.)

Motor Bikes
Guest
Motor Bikes

A motorbike is a bike with a motor. There’s rapidly diminishing speed difference if it’s gas or electric. Motorbikes are allowed almost everywhere in Oregon. There’s a zillion roads, dirt and paved. There’s even parks with motorbikes on beaches. Motorbikes have no place on paths built for humans, not motors.

The Future?
Guest
The Future?

Wouldn’t want to share a park with this: “Truly terrifying speeds” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbM5YgAys80
50+ mph “Stealth Bomber” a “mountain bike on steroids …and amphetamines”

Ervin Sverdrup
Guest
Ervin Sverdrup

You can buy a 700hp car that can go over 200mph, we put speed limits on them for safety and penalties for abuse. It should not be that difficult to control the use of a 20mph bike. Think about it.