With all of the new e-bikes being released lately, do they have a place on roads and trails? What are your thoughts? What about shared use rail-trail, bike path type trails? Have you used one? 

Share your thoughts, concerns, and questions on this thread.

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Eric Malcolm
I have ridden amongst E-bikes and tried some out. I prefer the pedal assist type over the hub driven varieties. They seem to ride well probably due to the increased weight, but am concerned at issues like braking performance (due to the higher speed potential). As a faster rider, I like to measure myself against these bikes and find the 350W bikes about where I can equal the speed of my pedalling against an assisted bike. It's good for my older riding buddies to enjoy what I enjoy on the bikepaths. I am 57yrs old, but can still ride fast, but my peers are not in that realm anymore and this does restore for them a feeling of fun.
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I think that it is illegal to use the assist on many shared use rail-trails.  I know that is the case is Wisconsin.  Many users do not know this or care, and there is a bit of hostility growing on some of the rails to trails.  Even electric wheel chairs need a permit on some paths.  I see them on all sorts of paths and sidewalks, and good judgement is required.  
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A powered bicycle is, by definition, a motorcycle.  That's how motorcycles started, after all.

Today's e-bikes are (for the most part) very low powered motorcycles.  Some are already as fast as modern motorcycles.  For that reason, I don't think they should be used on any paths or trails that are restricted to foot and bicycle traffic. 
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Here are my thoughts: E-MTB bikes are a very bad idea for multiuser trails where traditional motorized use is prohibited. We already deal with user conflicts between bikers vs hikers and horseback riders. New cyclists slowly develop their fitness and handling skills while at the same time gaining an understanding of the "right of way" between the multi use groups. As they get more fit and experienced, they venture further out, riding greater distances and more challenging terrain.

An e-bike will enable new, inexperienced riders to travel at higher speeds and farther than they would normally be capable. This has a high potential to lead to negative encounters with other users as they can carry higher speeds with less effort around blind corners, up hills and down. Hikers and horseback riders aren't going to distinguish motorized from non-motorized riders when they file a formal complaint to the land manager or at the local advocacy meeting.

As far as enabling disabled riders to ride trails that they normally couldn't, what will the disabled rider do when the e-bike breaks down or careens off the trail while riding above their ability level? If they can't get in under their own power, they certainly won't be able to get out. These are only a few of the reasons why I believe e-bikes do not belong on multi use trails. Keep e-bikes on motorized trails/fireroads or we will be facing more trail restrictions, more litigation and a higher incidence of injuries.
Every ride should be memorable.
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