The Pros and Cons of Electric Bikes
March 29, 2021
E-Bikes: Get them Off My Lawn
Imagine hiking with a group of friends at sunrise at the top of the world in Laguna Beach. You woke up extra early for the view and you are discussing your plans for the rest of the day feeling the morning breeze flow through your hair.
All of a sudden you hear the turn of gears being rushed from behind as you hear a group of teenagers yell “On your left!” This disruption of the serene morning can only be caused by one thing, E-Bikes.
Electric bikes invade the trails that local hikers used to occupy. Although traditional bikers have been able to enjoy trails forever, the new rise in e-bikes have ruined the atmosphere of local hiking spots and have taken over the space.
While it is understandable that e-bikes allow bikers to more easily ride through various terrains, overall there have only been consequences for the other people who take advantage of the local hiking spots and nature paths.
Electric bike riders feel the need to ride extra fast now that they are relieved of the intense work and effort it took to ride a normal bike, but this increase in speed has become a hazard for those around them.
For instance, in Laguna Beach, the Car Wreck trail at the top of the world includes a pretty steep and narrow pathway leading to and from the site, and recently, bikers, especially e-bikers, have decided to use this path for recreational purposes. The problem with the increase in traffic along this route is that hikers are not being warned fast enough when there is a biker coming their way so it is easy to get pushed to the side and having to yield to the bikers, when in reality, the bikers should be yielding to the hikers.
There is not a problem when electric bikers ride along PCH or on the road, but when it comes to sharing a smaller road with hikers and other pedestrians, there is too much risk. Hikers should be allowed to not worry about getting hit by a reckless biker or getting pushed out of the way. E-bikes don’t belong on the trail.
E-Bike Experiences are Important
When riding at the mountain bike trails by the San Clemente dog park I came across a sight that will warm any rider’s heart. A son, a father, and a grandfather had come together to send it on the exhilarating downhill trails. I could not help but notice that the grandfather was aided by an e-bike while ascending the trails.
E-bikes have brought controversy as they have gained popularity, but from a rider’s perspective e-bikes make the trails accessible to a wide range of ability and should be a normalized part of hitting the trails.
Over the past year I have spent a lot of time riding with my father, it’s one of the few fun and COVID safe activities I have been able to continue during the pandemic. It was also during this time that my dad decided to purchase the Specialized Levo SL e-bike. The Levo SL is a pedal assist style e-bike, meaning the electric motor adds power when the rider is pedaling. Its sleek and modest frame has even prevented other riders from realizing it has an engine.
This e-bike does not present danger to hikers or other individuals enjoying the trails, but it does allow for a 51-year old father to keep up with his 18-year old son when hitting the trails. Not to mention, e-bikes give individuals with disabilities and cardiovascular problems the chance to enjoy SoCal’s amazing downhill terrain.
Many hikers worry that increased traffic from e-bikes on the trails creates danger for them. However, a vast majority of e-bikes go no faster on downhill sections than a typical downhill mountain bike. The purpose of the electric engine is to get up the trails fast, which is usually at a modest pace anyways.
I do agree that it is important for downhill bikers to watch out for hikers, and riders should be willing to cooperate with hikers and trail systems to make sure a system is put in place for that. However, there is no reason to villainize e-bikes in this situation.
As more riders make the switch to e-bikes it is important that trail communities are not so quick to oust them. After all, the trails are for everyone to enjoy, e-bikers included.