12 WHISTLER TRAVELLER
E-BIKE STRATEGY IN WORKS
The burgeoning popularity of electric-assist bicycles, or “e-bikes,” has
prompted Whistler resort officials and biking enthusiasts to formulate
the best strategy for dealing with them on Whistler’s extensive
recreational trail network. In late 2018, the Resort Municipality of
Whistler (RMOW) began seeking input from the Whistler Off Road
Cycling Association (WORCA), the Whistler Centre for Sustainability
and the public on how best to address concerns about the impact of
e-bikes on the environment and the user experience. The strategy,
which could result in some areas being designated for non-electric,
pedal-powered bikes only, was to be released in June 2019.
It’s not likely to be the final word, however. Although there are many
opinions based on anecdotal experience, there is little empirical
data about the true impacts, said WORCA President Dale Mikkelsen.
According to the RMOW website, Class 1 e-bikes require the rider to
pedal before the electric-assist motor kicks in, with a maximum speed
of 32 kilometres per hour. Class 2 e-bikes don’t require the rider to
pedal but have the same maximum speed. Class 3 e-bikes require
pedalling but have a top speed of 45 km/h. The latter two are classified
as motor vehicles by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
and are allowed on forest service roads (same as gas-powered
motorcycles) but not on recreational trails in B.C.
This spring, the Province released new guidelines for Class 1
e-bikes, but they only apply on the limited array of trails managed by
Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. The RMOW’s strategy aims to use
those rules as a starting point, providing clarity on the use of e-bikes
and other electric-assist mobility devices on most Whistler-area
trails — from the Valley Trail to lower- and higher-elevation singletrack
paths. Whistler’s new strategy “could result in areas being dedicated to
pedal-powered bikes,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton. “The goal
is to find ways to accommodate them on our trails while monitoring
key impacts and concerns.”
Mikkelsen said WORCA favours educating riders about the multi-use
nature of most Whistler trails and gathering data on the effects, rather
than a heavy-handed approach, at least for the next couple of years.
One of the key questions, he said, is: Will e-bike users add greatly
to trail use because they’re able to ride farther with less effort, or will
most simply ride the same trails in less time?
“WORCA is saying, ‘We don’t know enough to say that e-bikes
should be allowed or not allowed,’” Mikkelsen said. “We need to learn
more about how our trail systems operate generally — what is their
capacity, and what are the maintenance requirements given that
capacity. We don’t want to jump the gun, but we also want to be aware.
We don’t want to be stuck in a reactive position a year or two from
now, but rather an informed position.”
TRAVELLER I LOCAL VIBE
PHO TO JOERN ROHDE