ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Electric bicycles have become increasingly popular here in the last couple of years, especially with people who don’t have as much strength or stamina as they used to but would still like to cycle around the park.
That’s fine, as long as they ride on Acadia’s paved roads, such as the Park Loop Road, or the gravel fire roads. But electric bikes are not permitted on the park’s 45-mile network of “broken stone” carriage roads.
Park regulations state that the carriage roads are closed to all motorized vehicles except for sections of roads where snowmobiles are allowed.
“The carriage roads were originally conceived and designed as a way of enjoying the mountains and lakes of [Mount Desert Island] separate from motor vehicles,” Acadia spokesman John Kelly said.
He cited the “Foundation Document” that the park adopted last year after considerable public input, which identifies Acadia’s “fundamental resources and values.” The carriage roads are among them.
The document states: “Visitors can travel the historic carriage road system with its bridges and gatehouses and have a truly unique experience free from the distraction of motor vehicles.”
Kelly said the carriage road ban applies to “modes of transportation with internal combustion engines and to electric vehicles such as Segways, eBikes and hoverboards.”
He acknowledged that “with changing technology, the management challenge has been in determining what constitutes a motor vehicle.”
Electric bikes are equipped with a lithium-ion battery and a motor that supplements the rider’s own muscle power, providing an extra boost.
“You can set it up for whatever terrain you’re riding,” said Joe Minutolo, owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. “If it’s hilly, there’s a power mode that helps get you up over the hills. It’s about being able to make the hills without moaning the whole time.”
He said most of the bikes he rents are the traditional kinds without motors, but he does have a few electric bikes, as well. Most of the people who rent them are older, he said.
“It’s been rewarding to see people like a grandpa being able to ride with his grandson,” Minutolo said. “They’re mostly riding the Park Loop Road.”