Letter to Editor: Pedal-assist should be OK

To the Editor:

The Sept. 5 issue of the Islander contains a news article, an editorial and a letter to the editor all of which exhibit some confusion concerning the position of the Department of Interior concerning the use of electric bicycles (“e-bikes”) in national parks.

The Department’s position has been clarified by the National Park Service, which issued a policy directive on Aug. 30 that does not indiscriminately allow the use of all e-bikes.

Instead, it carefully distinguishes between e-bikes equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling (pedal-assisted Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes) and e-bikes equipped with a motor that may be used to propel the bicycle even when the rider is not pedaling (self-propelled Class 2 e-bikes).

The directive makes explicit that on roads where motor vehicles are not allowed, such as the carriage roads in Acadia National Park, only pedal-assisted, and not self-propelled, e-bikes will be permitted.

This Park Service policy directive makes eminent common sense.  As the directive explains, pedal-assisted e-bikes are permitted in order to “provide a new option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, or convenience, especially at high altitude or in hilly or strenuous terrain.” As an elderly man myself, who no longer has the stamina, strength, and energy required comfortably to ride a normal bicycle on hilly carriage roads, I fully agree with this rationale and strongly applaud the new Park Service policy allowing the use of pedal-assisted e-bikes on the carriage roads.

It should be stressed, for the benefit of those not familiar with e-bikes, that the small motors on pedal-assisted e-bikes operate only when the rider is providing the principal motive power by pushing on the pedals; the motor assists the rider, but it does not operate on its own.  There is no reason to believe that these pedal-assisted e-bikes will create a troublesome disturbance to other users of the carriage roads. In practice, these e-bikes are fundamentally indistinguishable from traditional bicycles; the rider on a pedal-assisted e-bike operates in precisely the same manner as a healthy middle-aged rider on a normal bicycle.  In short, there is no fair-minded reason to prohibit pedal-assisted e-bikes in areas where traditional bicycles are in common use. The Park Service directive properly recognizes this fact and should be supported by all those who favor, in the words of the directive, “a healthy park experience that is accessible, desirable, and relatable to people of all abilities.”

Keith A. Jones

Bar Harbor


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