Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

E-BIKES DISCUSSED – Whitehorse resident Keith Lay (far left) makes a presentation to city council Monday evening during the discussion of the need to clarify the rules for the use of e-bikes in the city.

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Spencer Edelman

City asked for clarity on use of e-bikes

Clarity is needed from city hall regarding what exactly is a bicycle, says Keith Lay, a member of the Active Trails Whitehorse Association.

By Chuck Tobin on January 21, 2020

Clarity is needed from city hall regarding what exactly is a bicycle, says Keith Lay, a member of the Active Trails Whitehorse Association.

Lay told city council Monday night with the growing popularity of motorized electric bicycles, the time is now to provide the clarity.

As it stands, he told council, the city’s bicycle bylaw defines a bicycle as any cycle that is propelled solely by human power.

He pointed out the Official Community Plan and the Transportation Management Plan both define active transportation as “Self propelled (non- motorized) transportation that relies on the use of human energy such as walking, cycling, inline skating and jogging.”

“It appears that within the city, e-bikes are permitted only on city roads and motorized trails, as they are equipped with a motor, albeit an electric motor,” Lay said.

Spencer Edelman of Listers Motor Sports, on the other hand, suggested to council that e-bikes should be allowed where regular bicycles are allowed.

They should, for instance, be allowed on the paved bike and walking path going up Two Mile Hill, he said.

He said B.C., Alberta and Ontario allow e-bikes where bicycles are allowed.

The e-bike market is emerging, and the city should look at it as an opportunity to promote more active transportation, he said.

Edelman said Listers has customers who want to bike down to work but at the end of the work day, some don’t like the thought of having to pedal back up the hill.

He suggested allowing e-bikes on paths like Two Mile Hill would ultimately encourage more people to bike down to work and back home with the assistance of the electric motor.

E-bikes that Listers deals with allow the rider to pedal without the assistance of the motor, with some assistance or they can have the motor do all the pedalling, he pointed out.

Edelman said viewing e-bikes as a form of active transportation for the purpose of accepting them on active transportation trails would result in more people biking, fewer cars on the road and less parking congestion downtown.

E-bikes, he said, do not have any fossil fuel emissions.

The paved paths on both sides of Two Mile Hill currently prohibit motorized vehicles.

Lay told council “national and international media reports suggest there is some controversy concerning the use of e-bikes on mountain bike trails, hiking trails, even on paved urban trails.

“The City of Whitehorse needs to consult with the trail users and develop a policy or bylaw which clearly regulates use,” he said.

“This needs to be done before e-bikes become a controversial subject in our own community.”

Lay noted the city is reviewing its Official Community Plan and its 2007 Trail Plan, and the Yukon government is reviewing the Motor Vehicles Act.

It is an opportune time to provide clarity around allowances for e-bikes, he said.

Lay told council the public needs to know where they can legally operate their e-bikes, at what speeds, and if there are any age requirements.

“There could be serious liability concerns should one have an accident while operating an e-bike on a trail where its use is not permitted,” he said.

Comments (18)

Up 5 Down 0

ebiker on Jan 27, 2020 at 11:08 am

I have an e-bike and it won't move if I am not pedaling. It does not assist if I am not also working. If I stop pedaling, it stops helping. As for going too fast on trails, it does not handle like a dirt bike (I also have a dirt bike). It would be very dangerous to drive my e-bike on trails anywhere near the speed I could drive my dirt bike. I like the e-bike because it makes no noise, uses no gasoline. It has assistance so I can more easily get up hills, and I can move a little faster, and definitely I can go further than I otherwise would on good trails.

On the highway I have hit 48 kmh going down a hill, pedalling as fast as I can, on high assist and the hardest gear. I would never take a chance of going anywhere near that speed on a trail. It felt unsafe on the highway, I was just checking it out. I go about 28 kmh on high assist on the highway, and therefore can use a bicycle to go to destinations that I would take a car for otherwise. It's easier and faster than a bicycle, though a good cyclist could go as fast as I cruise on my ebike on the roads.

It gets me out bicycling, and I do have to work the whole way. If I'm biking on trails, I am very happy to go 20 or less. I think that would be a good solution: a speed limit. There are people who could go faster than 20 on a regular mountain bike, there are people who are reckless and people who are careful on either type of bike. The fact that there is a soundless, odourless assist on a bike makes no difference to how dangerous it is. Speed is speed, careless driving is careless driving.

Keith Lay makes it his life's work to complain about things. I don't pay much attention to him. Let's focus on the realities here.

Up 28 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Jan 23, 2020 at 9:41 am

I'm not certain, but I think the Motor Vehicle Act will trump any municipal bylaw created for this issue. So perhaps all involved need to agree on what is a motor vehicle? Then determine where it can and cannot go.

Up 12 Down 1

SheepChaser on Jan 22, 2020 at 9:10 pm

In reply to Shamim Ashraf:

I recommend a Giant Yukon 1 or Yukon 2 or Norco Ithaqua 2 or Bigfoot 1 custom fitted with a Bafang BBSHD and a large capacity battery to manage extreme cold temps for rides greater than 20km.
I purchased my frame locally in the Yukon and went with a supplier of e-bike motor kits in Saskatoon for the conversion.

You may require custom sheels to adapt one to the other at the bottom bracket. Any CNC machine shop can make these for you. There is a bicycle shop in Portland that advertises specialty in adapting and repairing carbon frames that I used.

Basically folks, the real limiting factor on e-bikes is wind chill. You can't go any faster than your face and body will freeze. In my experience so far, that's a max of about 20kph in average winter conditions. Maybe 30kph in summer. Anything more is just uncomfortable.

I respect and wish to amplify the comments about dedicated bike lanes being a much better solution to this issue. Tell me where to be, I'll be there.

Up 20 Down 4

Shamim Ashraf on Jan 22, 2020 at 2:25 pm

I like the comments above given by SheepChaser. I am 60 yrs young with a weak left leg and want to enjoy cycling. I am attracted to electric assist bicycles and want to use them on streets and trails both. 32kph for EBikes is a good restriction but some weight and design of EBikes may also be restricted as per opinions of experienced bicyclers. Slower but heavier bikes may still have greater momentum than other lighter EBikes making stopping a bit difficult for the rider and dangerous for others around. And yes ‘The Costly’ EBikes may well be in more favour of the sellers/manufacturers rather than common riders.

Up 60 Down 1

Yukoner on Jan 22, 2020 at 11:40 am

Think there are bigger issues to deal with than where e-bikes can go like having real bike lanes and maybe proper cross walks and in the end it won't really matter because bylaw doesn't enforce anything so why waste the time.

And out on the trail people need to get over themselves. Who cares about an ebike, people have to learn to use the trails together.

Up 35 Down 2

Ai yi yi on Jan 22, 2020 at 11:23 am

The City also needs to establish and post signage with trail etiquette, such as bells on bikes and stay right/pass left, at the very least on the most popular/tourist frequented routes.

Up 31 Down 20

Matthew on Jan 22, 2020 at 8:01 am

I lived in Ontario. E-bikes and electric mopeds are a mess on the streets! They barely travel 40KM/H and take up a whole lane. Worst part about it is they DON'T require insurance..

Up 6 Down 2

PAUL ATTERTON on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:19 pm

This should help clarify how BC Parks is dealing with different classes of ebikes.

Up 26 Down 18

Max Mack on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:04 pm

"E-bikes, he said, do not have any fossil fuel emissions."

A patently false claim. All electric vehicles, including e-bikes, result in C02 emissions at almost all stages of production. In addition, C02 is emitted by thermal generation needed to produce electricity to charge electric vehicles.

More concerning for me is the active lobbying to allow e-bikes, which are heavy and can travel at relatively high rates of speed, on trails with pedestrians and cyclists.

Up 19 Down 17

Olaf on Jan 21, 2020 at 8:21 pm

Here we go again..won't be long before some one says..Well, if you can have an electric motor bike why not a gas motor bike..
Around and around we go..

Up 31 Down 15

Rob Pelletier on Jan 21, 2020 at 6:09 pm

I'd also like to add that the answer here is simple: an ebike is allowed anywhere a bike is allowed.
If there were 'issues' due to ebikes, I would understand but there just simply are no issues.

I personally would love to see Whitehorse hit a point where there are so many ebikes that there are 'issues' and I'm very curious about what those issues would be.

Up 37 Down 10

JC on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:37 pm

Why don't we just go back to the horse and buggy. Oh wait, I forgot, the greenies and climate change gurus want to get rid of animals because of their back door pollutants.

Up 21 Down 9

Rob Pelletier on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Let's focus our efforts on improved bicycle lanes that are seperate and safer for everyone; seems to me that we'd be feeding two birds with one seed with this approach. Every bicyclist would know where to be and it would in fact be the safest choice away from traffic.

Up 27 Down 0

Greiko on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:04 pm

This is what’s called a first world problem.

Up 58 Down 10

BnR on Jan 21, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Mr Lay is a good example of how NOT to spend ones retirement.

Up 33 Down 3

SheepChaser on Jan 21, 2020 at 1:50 pm

Disclaimer - Fat tire e-bike owner.
The federal government already defines an e-bike as a bicycle with pedals and a motor less than 750 watts that has an electric governor which restricts the maximum speed to 32kph.

Like all bicycles in most cities, they are required to operate only on streets and multi-use trails. No bicycle should operate on downtown sidewalks. Electric or otherwise.
One wise restriction might be to cap multi-use trail speeds of all users to 25kph. Thereby reducing risk across the board. This can be enforced with current speed enforcement technologies and will not require any new training or equipment.

Electric motorcycles are anything more powerful than 750 watts, no pedals, or that can exceed 32kph. These more powerful motorcycles are often mislabeled as e-bikes. The more powerful motors and higher trail speeds increase the likelihood of trail damage and injuries similar to other motorized off-road vehicles.

Up 19 Down 13

Matt on Jan 21, 2020 at 1:33 pm

We need to stop this scourge now! What if an e-bike mates with a motorcycle and then what do you have running around our walking trails.
STOP e-bikes now.... you can't even hear them or smell them... this is a travesty and sooner or later you will all die of clean air. But I am not worried, City Hall is on the case... what could possibly go wrong?

Up 24 Down 1

Miles Epanhauser on Jan 21, 2020 at 1:21 pm

I think both presenters are suggesting the city address the use of ebikes. They are expensive and it's safer and more enjoyable to use them on trails so let's allow residents an opportunity to provide input.

Pretty soon there will be electric motorcycles which are best restricted to the road network.

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