E-Bikes allowed on the Paint Creek Trail?

By Susan Carroll

Review Writer

The Paint Creek Trailways Commission discussed the use of electric bicycles (e-bikes) on the Paint Creek Trail (PCT) during a Public Hearing on March 20.

The hearing allowed the commission to gauge public comments on the use of e-bikes on the trail.

Cause for the public hearing arose from concerns over a new state law signed by Governor Synder.

Prior to Jan. 28, 2018, only non-motorized bicycles were allowed on the Paint Creek Trail.

The new state legislation allows electric bicycles on linear trails with “an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail.” This includes Paint Creek Trail and surrounding trails, such as Clinton River and Polly Ann Trail: all are non-motorized, recreational trails.

“Michigan’s trails and natural resources bring together Michiganders and visitors from around the world, and these bills help bicyclists experience the beauty of Pure Michigan in a new, exciting way,” Snyder said.

The Paint Creek Trail is 8.9 miles long and runs through Lake Orion, Orion Township, Oakland Township, Rochester Hills and Rochester.

Class 1 bikes area currently allowed on the Paint Creek Trail. However, classes 2 and 3 bikes are not as they aren’t sanctioned by the law. To be permitted, the trailways commission would need to vote for their use and “Opt-in.”

Additionally, the use of Class 1 electric bicycles can be discontinued if the commission decides to “Opt-out.”

Per Kristen Myers, trail manager, there were 15 people that spoke on the e-bike subject and most of those people were in favor of allowing class 1 and class 2 bikes on the trail as they currently own or use them for medical or age-related issues such as bad knees and stamina. Two of the speakers were bike shop owners.

“User conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians are one of our biggest problems. The commission wants to encourage everyone to use the trail, but wants to make sure to keep it safe. The concern is whether or not the throttles on the class 2’s would create more conflicts if they were allowed for general, non-medical related use,” said Myers.

The matter of e-bikes will be discussed further at their next meeting on April 17.

“My guess is they will vote to continue to allow the class 1’s, as they are pedal assist and compatible with the trail. Not sure how they feel about the class 2’s. They may look at expanding their definition of ‘mobility disability’ that would cover those users who don’t fit the traditional definition, but need to use the class 2’s for other medical conditions or age-related ailments. We currently have an ‘Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices’ policy that allows for all three classes of e-bikes to be used if the user has a mobility disability. The idea would be to amend the policy to expand the definition of mobility disability,” said Myers.

No action was taken at the public hearing.

An electric bicycle (e-bike) is not a scooter nor an electric motorcycle and it is not a moped. An e-bike pedals and handles just like a regular bicycle.

The difference, however, is that an e-bike has an electrical component — a battery-operated motor — that is meant to supplement human power.

An e-bike allows the rider to be able to cycle in conditions that they would not otherwise be able to handle, such as hills or in wind. Basically, what it does is permit the biker to enjoy the outdoors – fresh air and scenery — without getting tired and to get exercise they would otherwise not have gotten.

The new law allows, “The operation of specific classifications of electric-assisted bicycles on highways open to use by a bicycle and on a paved trail.”

It establishes criteria for electric bicycle classifications and directs which type of electric bicycles can be operated on a trail under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.”

State law defines three classes of electric bicycles and are equipped with a seat or saddle for use by the rider, fully operable pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor of not greater than 750 watts (1 horsepower).

Electrical bicycle classes are defined as follows:

Class 1: an electric bicycle that is equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.

Class 2: an electric bicycle that is equipped with a motor that propels the electric bicycle to a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour, whether the rider is pedaling or not, and that disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied.

Class 3: an electric bicycle that is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 28 miles per hour.

Even if a Trailways Commission opts out of the class 1 e-bikes, to be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, people with mobility disabilities would still be able to use all three classes on the trails, keeping their speed no higher than 5 mph.

Paint Creek Trail Commission can be contacted by emailing or calling Kristen Myers, trail manager, at 248-651-9260 or email manager@paintcreektrail.org.