Given the increasing popularity of electric bikes, a new policy has been developed for the safe, appropriate use of electric bikes on designated trails managed by Recreation Sites and Trails BC. This falls short of the requirement to ensure public access to trails that are not Recreation Sites however is a start for the province.

Electric bikes are a class of transportation/recreational bicycle that use an electric motor to either assist with propulsion or fully propel the rider. Users range from those looking to access more difficult and elevated trails, to people with disabilities who may not otherwise be able to access recreational trails.

Whistler has developed a test/pilot strategy to announce later this spring. This policy will come from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (through collaboration with the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association) that aims to lay down guidelines for e-bike use on all Whistler trails.

They classify three classes of e-bikes:: Class 1 (pedal-assisted motors, top speed of 32 kilometres an hour), Class 2 (full-throttle bike, no human effort required) and Class 3 (similar to Class 1, but with a higher top speed).

There objective was to define the use of Class 1 e-bikes and align their policy with Recreation Sites and Trails BC’s policy for established recreation trails. With that policy you can’t take a Class 2 or a Class 3 bike on a non-motorized trail, and you can’t take an e-bike on a trail that doesn’t permit bikes to begin with. Under the Whistler’s policy, Class 1 e-bikes would be allowed on the Valley Trail and on all recreational trails (except areas that prohibit biking), but prohibited from Whistler’s Alpine Trail Network. Class 2 and 3 e-bikes would be permitted only on forest service roads, municipal roads or highways.

Read the results of WORCA’s e-bike member survey: 190214-E-Bike-Exec-Summary-and-Recommendations-FINAL.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC manages approximately 600 trails on provincial public land in B.C. Unless otherwise restricted, electric bike use on recreation trails is a permitted activity. Any decision by a district recreation officer to restrict or prohibit a class of electric bike will be based on considerations of safety, environmental impact and user experience, and will normally result from an engagement process with interested stakeholders.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC will evaluate and review implementation of the policy in collaboration with stakeholders and user groups, and make adjustments as necessary.

The policy only applies to established trails managed by Recreation Sites and Trails BC and does not apply to trails managed by BC Parks or vacant provincial public land, local governments or trails on private land. Electric bikes may be still restricted outside of this policy under regulations or local bylaws.

The policy is available online here.

This is a beginning and it’s no surprise that Whistler has taken the lead and will announce a policy later this spring—hopefully other municipalities will be quick to follow!

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