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As e-biking accelerates, Palo Alto eyes new restrictions in nature preserves

Original post made on Nov 30, 2022

With e-bikes growing in popularity, Palo Alto officials are racing to keep up with the changing legal landscape and impose new rules aimed at protecting sensitive habitats.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 30, 2022, 9:46 AM

Comments (18)

Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:34 am

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

e-bikes are just bicycles with a power assist. They do not cause more disruption to our trails than un-powered bicycles. So restricting them from trails that allow bicycles should be done rarely and only for specific reasons that are clearly justifiable.

I believe Jeff LaMere said best what our intentions should be (and his comments should be meant for all trails on which bicycles are allowed, not just Baylands):

"I do think if we allow regular bicycles in the Baylands, to allow a Class 1 pedal-assist (bicycle) is something that's reasonable to provide access to older riders who want to experience what other bicycle riders experience at the Baylands."

Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:47 am

James Thurber is a registered user.

The biggest issue is speed. Most European specs limit speed to about 20 mph, which is a workable speed on many trails. But in this country MOST of our e-bikes can go nearly 30 mph. For a vehicle that isn't licensed, insured or being driven / ridden by a person without a motorcycle driver's license, that's simply too fast.

I've been cycling since I was five (I turned 70 last April). It was over a decade ago that I gave away my car, not traveling exclusively by bicycle or public transit. And my bicycles are pedal powered. Although if I was riding with my sons, both of whom are avid cyclists, I'd probably consider an electric bike as they are much (much!) faster than I am.

But for 99 percent of my travels my regular bike works just fine and is eventually going to (might) put my cardiologist out of business!

Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:50 am

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

Having been almost run over by bicyclists whizzing past while walking in the baylands and trying to enjoy the wonderful natural environment there, I personally would be happy with banning all bicycles -- electrically powered or not. Can't there be at least one place where pedestrians do not have to fear for their safety from bicyclists who often are not considerate? Many paths are just not that wide to accommodate two-way travel of both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Promoting bicycling as a substitution for driving a car is fine. Ride your bicycle to the baylands, park it, and walk around.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:57 am

Green Gables is a registered user.

Why is it necessary to have an electric bike in the Baylands where it is flat and peaceful? Walking is good for all of us.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:06 am

M is a registered user.

My frustration is that those regulating e-bikes seem to have little knowledge and no experience with them. As the European Union recognizes, the big difference in e-biles is whether the e-bike assist is activated by pushing on the pedals (the standard in Europe) or via a throttle (which is deemed an electric motorcycle in the EU.) Class differences do have some meaning as well, but they are more a marketing gimmick in the US than a meaningful differentiator, especially off a paved street.

The EU differentiation is quite easy to regulate, because it easy to see if a bike has a throttle or not. There is no way to just look at a bike and know what class it is.

I'm 67 and had to stop riding my road bike in the hills because of my knees. But, I can ride by e-bike up to Skyline, and I occasionally road on the fire roads as well. (Its rich to see rangers driving big rigs on those roads telling bikers that they disturb animals and vegetation, not to mention the fact that horses and dogs seem welcome -- and the among of manure and number of dog bags on the trails at Arastradero is ridiculous.

I've stopped riding on the fire roads when the signs went up ,but it seems wrong headed to encourage people to put regular bikes on their SUV, drive up to Russian Ridge or Arastradero and then ride on the fire roads or paths, rather than e-bike up and ride without taking a car.

I would recommend that the regulators ignore the Class -- its meaningless -- focus on whether the bike is a pedal assist "pedelec" or a throttle controlled electric motorcycle, and most of all, consider different rules for those 65 and older.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:11 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Is there any actual evidence that ebikes do anything bad?

Consider this quote: "E-bikes erect a wall of sound along trails in the preserve, which create obstacles to animal connectivity, reproduction and safety. We live in times when biodiversity is threatened as it has not been in 65 million years." Huh? And ebikes do what to threaten these things? Is it noise? Really?

If we're going to ban things some people have irrational and unexplained fear of so we can give "give the city time to develop a more thoughtful policy", then I propose also ban people with tight pants or who wear too much perfume / cologne. I'm pretty sure that those are harmful to the salt marsh harvest mouse and the clapper rail, though in ways that humans cannot measure.

Posted by No heat
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:24 am

No heat is a registered user.

DTN Paul: the issue isn't that the bike does anything bad, but that it results in more people in places where they otherwise wouldn't get to. Riding a bicycle uphill in Arastradero is tough, which limits how many people do it. An ebike, not so much.

Posted by TR
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:50 am

TR is a registered user.

This is PRECISELY the kind of decision that should NOT be done as an emergency regulation. This is not an emergency but an evolving situation that should be considered.

1) The claims of those trying to ban ebikes are not based in facts. There is no mention of the different types of ebikes. Electric assist vs throttle controlled are very different things for example and there is no differentiation made here. Additionally the claims that ebikes cause noise problems for wildlife also lacks evidence. I dare most people to differentiate the noise of an ebike from an 'acoustic' (term of art in the community) bike riding down a gravel path. And either is quieter than humans talking to each other while walking. Yes there is a tiny bit of motor noise but it is not louder than many other things. If the habitat is THAT sensitive then perhaps the trail shouldn't exist at all for any users.

2) Operating speed is the issue. But guess what, we already have regulations about that. Speeds on these trails are already regulated to 15mph or less which is reasonable for a mixed use trail/gravel road. Educate and enforce the EXISTING rules rather than add even more limitations to our world.

3) As others have mentioned, in the Baylands, most of the 'trails' we are talking about are nearly equivalent to unpaved (or poorly paved) roadways. They are not pristine nature. In addition they are used as safe routes around the area. Much better to come up from Moffett to East Palo Alto in the Baylands trails than along the busy frontage roads etc.

In the end there is zero reason to ban an electric ASSIST ebike from anywhere that bikes are already allowed. Focus on what the real issues are and address them. If people are going too fast, slow them down through better signage, education and enforcement. If they are riding off trail, education and enforcement will work there too.

BTW, I do not own an ebike. I ride with my legs through these areas all the time. Next will it be me to be banned?

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

My frustration with all ebike discussions and laws are that nobody seems to understand that there is a huge difference between class 1, which is electric assist only, and classes 2 and 3, which have throttles. Class 1 is a bike. Classes 2 and 3 are motorized vehicles. Also, class 2 and 3 are easy to hack, bringing top speed up to 56mph (for class 3). THAT is why ebikes are now being perceived as a hazard.

As for ebikes on unpaved trails in preserves, if the trail is a necessary travel route, then ebikes should be allowed. But if it is just pleasure, like Arastradero, no ebikes. Nature has nothing to do with it. They ruin the experience for everyone else. Lord knows the mountain bikes are bad enough.

I own two ebikes and use them all the time.

Posted by dollarbin
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:24 pm

dollarbin is a registered user.

The segment of paved trail running from the Adobe Creek Bridge through to the San Francisquito Creek Bridge is extremely important for commuting access to the Dumbarton Bridge. I hope they preserve eBike access on this trail, much like the Midpeninsula Open Space did for the Ravenswood Trail. Furthermore, I'm not sure why there should be a restriction against type 3 bikes if there's a speed restriction of 15 MPH in place anyway, the distinction between the two types is well above this speed limit.

Posted by A resident of Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 2:18 pm

A resident of Barron Park is a registered user.

I regularly walk in the baylands and there has been a steady increase of e-bikes of varying types. I am not familiar with the classification system, but I encountered several that were clearly throttled and very noisy - completely inappropriate for the sensitive bird and small animal population inhabiting the area, and ruining the outing for everyone around. Moreover, quite a few of these e-bikes were driven by children or teens, posing a safety issue for both them and the pedestrians and bike riders.
There is no real need for e-bikes in the flat bayland trails. For more hilly areas, the risk to both the riders, and others sharing these narrow steep trails, rises significantly with motorized bikes.
I support the restrictions
I support adding restrictions, such as banning throttled e-bikes and restricting speed limits. Also there should be an age restriction.

Posted by BGordon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2022 at 2:21 pm

BGordon is a registered user.

When considering regulations, should weight be considered? Some ebikes are really heavy.

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2022 at 2:40 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

I'd rather have that dry heaves than ride an e-bike.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2022 at 5:20 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Bike speed limits in parks would make sense to me. The speed some bikes go either by human pedal power or by electric motors, makes them very dangerous, particularly if you are walking with young children or have young children on tricycles or scooters.

Even in Mitchell Park, school children riding to and from school, can ride very quickly and this can be the case near some of the playground areas where toddlers are playing and can be very unpredictable if they get frightened by big kids on bikes, or want to run back to the stroller for a snack.

Bikes are moving vehicles. They are not play things. They can be dangerous, most have no bells and shouting anything can't really be heard above the other noises in the park.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2022 at 8:01 pm

JR is a registered user.

E-bike is a misnomer, these vehicles are actually e-motorcycles and should not be allowed on bike paths, bike lanes, or anywhere motorcycles are prohibited. Scofflaws riding these e-motorcycles are creating havoc for bikers and creating unsafe conditions for all road users.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2022 at 7:57 am

TimR is a registered user.

I'm a trail runner, and bicycles of any sort degrade the trails for runners and hikers (although horses can, too, if it's muddy). So if the ease of tackling hills with an e-bike attracts more users and therefore more trail damage, that needs to be taken into consideration, too. But luckily, bikes of any sort aren't allowed at many OSPs, so it's not a huge problem.

Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2022 at 10:30 am

staying home is a registered user.

This is dumb. We should be encouraging bike use not discouraging it. If e-bikes get people outta cars and outside, then let's support it. Restricting use in open spaces is needless regulation that will discourage bike adoption.

Take the opposite view: If there is a ban on e-bikes from unpaved trails, can there be a corresponding ban of pedestrians from the paved trails? Try riding your bike to shoreline on a sunny day. Pedestrians are all over the road, talking on phones, kids running everywhere. The path is paved, an obvious design to support higher speed transport. Ridiculous, right?

People on e-bikes are not going to be going the max speed. The conditions of the road still dictate how fast you can travel.

Posted by Eeyore
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 4, 2022 at 1:35 pm

Eeyore is a registered user.

Bicycles should only be allowed on paved trails. One only has to walk Arastradero, Los Trancos, or any other steep preserve to see the damage caused by bicycles to public trails.

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