(e-bikes) being allowed on the trail system here in Hennepin County. The Minnesota Bicycle Alliance is in favor of e-bikes, and the Three-Rivers Park District will be allowing them on the trail system this year. Other than BikeMN and 3 Rivers, there is no consensus on whether or not e-bikes are a good thing or a bad thing. The position one takes on e-bikes seems to be tied not to e-bikes themselves, but to demographics, politics and, um... politics.
The industry people will tell you that the buyers of e-bikes are "cautious riders", and that they only use these things to help get up hills. I have never even seen one of these "in the wild" so I can't agree or disagree with them. I do know human behavior, however. If there is an easier way, people will take it. Especially when gasoline is $4.00/gallon. E-bikes don't require a driver's license, they don't require physical strength or stamina, and there's certainly no pre-qualification test for bike-handling skills. If you can swipe a credit card, you can own an e-bike. Easy-peasy. No background check and no waiting period.
Yes, cost is a barrier with e-bikes - I saw an e-bike for sale on CL tonight for $1,200 - more than most people would spend on a bike. Still, that's less than the price of shit-car or a scooter, and with gas approaching $4.00/gallon, that's got to get some attention.
Making biking accessible for people with physical limitations is a good thing - I am on-board 100%. For that matter, putting more people on bikes and getting them on the trails is a good thing, too - sign me up. But - are e-bikes really the best way to do this? Are the people that will be drawn to e-bikes the kind of folks we would like to share the trails with?
Politically powerful groups like AARP will undoubtedly stake out the position that e-bikes are "pro-bike" and "pro-senior citizen". Pressure will be applied to politicians and bike advocacy groups to support them. The industry heavy-weights, Trek, Specialized, Giant and Bikes Belong will nod along, dreaming of more customers, members and sponsors.
With The Industry and politicians behind e-bikes, I think this is going to be virtually impossible to stop. Add the baby-boomer demographics into the equation and it's a foregone conclusion that we'll be "sharing the road" with e-bikes. At this point, I think it's best that we move on and focus on rider education and brushing up on our evasive action maneuvers.
Let me know your thoughts - comment below.