To the Editor:
John D. Rockefeller Jr. first envisioned that the Acadia carriage roads, which he built and donated to the park, would always be free of motorized vehicles.
Decades later, in 1949, the agreement permitting bicycles on the carriage roads reconfirmed the ban on motorized vehicles. While the irony of this ultimate “not in my backyard” stance by a man whose fortune derived largely from the exploitation of natural resources and the expansion of motorized vehicles cannot be ignored, it has benefitted millions of visitors while inconveniencing a relative few.
Now comes the Trump administration, in its characteristically non-factual, heedless, rule-by-fiat style, declaring e-bikes to be non-motorized and demanding they be immediately allowed on the carriage roads — without benefit of any planning.
For some this may be seen as a triumph of deregulation, expanded access and commercial opportunity. Others will see typical Republican Party degradation of the legislative process, depredation of the environment and unconcern for safety. The creation and maintenance of our national parks has always involved politics.
As a cyclist, the carriage roads are the only place on Mount Desert Island where I can ride safe from the danger of motor vehicles and their distracted drivers. Shockingly, roads outside and inside the park do not even have the minimal protection of designated bike lanes.
Over the years, I have witnessed and experienced the threats of inexperienced cyclists who have little control over their rental bikes and no understanding of the rules of the road — a danger to themselves and others.
I have also been challenged by pedestrians who feel others should be responsible for the safety of their unsupervised young children and their unleashed dogs. The problems of both scenarios are mitigated by the relatively slow speeds (6-12 mph) of recreational cycling; these problems will be exacerbated by motorized bikes which can go 28 mph (which is actually above the speed limit of some roads).
With the current Republican administration taking park service funds to build their border wall, how will the introduction of electronic motorized vehicles to Acadia’s carriage roads be instituted, monitored and its impact assessed? Who will be responsible for increased safety and maintenance issues? And what implications does this have for the nature of the park and our understanding of access?
It seems that the carriage roads are now being treated as an expansion of the Loop Road — exactly the opposite of their original intended purpose. Perhaps we might better consider them part of the hiking trails system.
As a senior citizen, my abilities and access are increasingly limited — but I would not impose my limitations on others by demanding equal access to all park features at the cost of changing their very nature and others’ experiences.
Or, anyone for escalators on the Precipice?