July 4th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 27
PPK purchases e-bikes for rental service
… But where do they belong?
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Pass Herald Reporter
E-bikes have been around for several decades, but it's only in recent years that these convenient electric bicycles powered by a small motor have gained popularity, particularly among outdoor recreationists, people with mobility issues and the elderly population alike.

The Pass Powderkeg Ski Society has recently invested $10,000 to purchase five e-bikes, extra parts and accessories as a new recreational service they will offer. The 2018 RadRover Electric Fat Bikes arrived at the beginning of June 2018 and can now be rented out from the Crowsnest Community Pool.

The Society sees this as an economic development opportunity with twofold benefits, attracting visitors to the area and promoting an active lifestyle.

Joey O'Brien, Manager of Community Services with the municipality, likens the opportunity for Crowsnest Pass to that of the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail that connects Canmore and Banff, which he says sees 2,000 riders a day and is now a major form of tourism in the area.

“The Community Trail is a fabulous asset that we’re really not taking advantage of to drive economic activity here. Our community trail rivals and, I think, exceeds the Banff-Canmore Legacy Trail because that trail, while it’s beautiful, it’s right next to a highway,” says O’Brien. “Our trails here, in my opinion, are equally as good or better because they go through the community and actually give you a cultural experience.”

The idea is that the bikes would be rented out by locals and visitors to ride them to restaurants or events and use them as a leisurely mode of transportation or recreation while adventuring around Crowsnest Pass. The bikes would also be used for interpretive guided rides and historical tours and, since they are equipped with fat tires, this makes rentals and programming possible for the winter, as well.
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According to O’Brien, e-bikes are permitted to ride anywhere a normal bike is allowed - which is in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations - including the Community Trail and the network on the Pass Powderkeg Ski Area (PPK).

Looking at the provincial legislation, the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations assign three main characteristics to an e-bike, or a "power-assisted bicycle" as it is called in the document. It is defined as a vehicle that is capable of being propelled by muscular power, and has an electric motor of 500 watts or less and/or has a speed cap of 32 km/h. The law further states that neither a license nor special insurance or vehicle registration are required to operate them.

Therefore, provincial legislation designates that all roadway regulations that apply to regular bicycles apply to motor-powered bicycles of 500 watts and under.

The municipal e-bikes conform to these standards, obviating the need for the municipality to change operating agreements with private land that some trails cross.

However, there are two main types of electric bicycles on the market, both of which satisfy the criteria to be designated as a “power-assisted bicycle” according to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations, but socially, are accepted to varying degrees: the pedal-assist and throttle, with models under 500 watts in both types. Pedal assist bikes have a motor that is activated when you pedal, thereby making pedaling easier. E-bikes with a hand throttle, although they can be used as a pedal-throttle combination, do not require pedaling from a rider to move.

The RadRover Electric Fat Bikes purchased by the Ski Society are equipped with a throttle. According to the Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes, this means that a rider can accelerate the bike without pedaling, although still under the limitation of a speed cap of 32 km/h.
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Some trail user groups question the appropriateness for a throttle-style e-bike to be permitted on municipal trails, likening it to be more akin to a motorized vehicle than a muscle-powered bicycle.

Furthermore, as it stands, the municipal website calls the Community Trail systems “non-motorized.” The municipal Off-Highway Vehicle Bylaw defines an off-highway vehicle as “any other means of transportation that is propelled by any power other than muscular power or wind,” but has a clause that excludes “miniature vehicles, including but not limited to go carts, golf carts, pocket bikes, riding lawn mowers, scooters, and mopeds."

So where the e-bike falls into the equation is an ambiguous matter for the municipality at this time, as it is for many neighbouring communities.

Mayor Blair Painter says that Council will be discussing e-bike use in the municipality and looking at what, if any, changes are required to policies or bylaws.

However, some residents and community groups worry that the e-bikes are decidedly out of place on municipal trails and that the Ski Society has jumped the gun in purchasing the e-bikes without consulting with the user groups using the trails right now and without ensuring that the municipality has clear bylaws in effect.

Joni MacFarlane is a Crowsnest Pass local and regular user of the Community Trail and doesn’t feel that it’s an appropriate place to allow e-bikes. She has concerns about safety and the discrepancy within the bylaws.

“The community trail is not very wide and it is way easier for a regular bike to veer off or stop if they have to. E-bikes, because of their weight, are harder to control and not as easy to maneuver,” she says. “Because of their weight, they are way slower to stop and there would be a harder impact if you were hit."

If e-bikes were to be allowed on the Community Trail, MacFarlane says she would like to see the municipality adjust its bylaws and post proper signage like speed limits and trail designations.

See page 4 for MacFarlane’s Letter to the Editor about her thoughts on e-bikes.
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The United Riders of Crowsnest (UROC) are a non-profit group of avid mountain bikers who have an operating agreement with the municipality for trail building and maintenance for the PPK trail network.

Andrew Fairhurst, president of UROC, says that while UROC is neither for not against the use of e-bikes, they feel that proper due diligence has not been done on the municipality’s part.

“UROC is neither for nor against e-bikes, but wants to be part of a community that respects all trail users and their individual needs with bylaws, policy and procedures in place,” says Fairhurst.

Even once proper legal documents are amended to reflect the allowance of e-bikes, Fairhurst says the municipality needs to be mindful of the user experience of all those who use the trails.

“While we primarily represent mountain bikers, introducing motorized vehicles to those other trail users could take away from the user experience expectations that they have,” he says. “We recognize that there is place for, and a demographic attracted to the use of e-bikes, and if that's going to get people outside and being active, we're all for that, but there is a user experience expectation that all trail users have when they are on a Pass Powderkeg trail. Right now, it's non-motorized and if we introduce e-bikes, then that user experience is going to change.”

Fairhurst says he would like to see the municipality engage in public consultation and provide an opportunity for all user groups to give input, and amend bylaws to defining a motorized vehicle, which would then inform a standardized policy and appropriate signage.

“You're introducing a new form of trail usership which has the potential for conflict," he says. “There need to be policies in place to recognize that there is a need to have these places to ride, but there is also a need to respect these other users, trail runners, joggers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, families walking, that aren't' expecting to have that sort of encounter.”
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According to Mayor Painter, it is likely there will be an opportunity for public feedback in the form of an electronic or paper survey, but he was unable to provide more details as Council has not yet discussed the matter. Residents are also welcome to write a letter to the municipality, which would be addressed at a Council meeting.

Neighbouring and similar municipalities have experienced a similar ambiguity where e-bikes are concerned.

The Fernie Trail Alliance says they consider e-bikes a gray area and, according to Julie Kelly with the FTA, are awaiting further legislation to inform their own policies.

“The government is coming out with a policy in the next month. Once that is in place we will contact our land owners to see if they want to follow suit with the policy,” she says.

In Waterton Lakes National Park, power assisted bicycles are allowed on roads only, but are an area of ambiguous status there, as well.

"Visitors can use power assisted bicycles on roads in Waterton Lakes National Park, as is applicable with provincial road laws. It is important to note that power assisted bicycles are not allowed on trails in Waterton Lakes National Park. Parks Canada is currently reviewing regulations and how they pertain to power assisted bicycles to determine an official strategy. More information on power assisted bikes in Parks Canada places will be available in due course,” indicated an email statement from Waterton Lakes National Park.

In Canmore, pedal-assist bicycles are permitted on multi-use trails, but throttle electric bikes are not.

The North Star Rails to Trails group that manages the trail from Cranbrook and Kimberley has taken a more lenient approach with regards to e-bikes.

“We try to limit ‘enforcement’ and trust everybody follows the rules. Our rules say no motorized vehicles. Are e-bikes motorized? What is the definition of motorized? We typically don't worry about them and generally say motorized is gas-powered. That way persons can use electric scooters, wheelchairs etc,” indicated the society in an email statement.

The Kimberley Nature Park Society echoed that statement, saying, “We do not have a formal position on e-bikes, so for now at least, they are permitted in the Park.”

Like most new innovations or concepts, both controversy and ambiguity surround e-bike use, especially now, in its early stages of gaining popularity. However, as Mayor Painter points out, e-bikes are here to stay... it’s just a matter of having the proper legislation in place to manage their use.

“That industry is just going to grow,” he says. “It's time that we had policies in place that we deal with it.”
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July 4th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 27
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