By Steve “Bike Boy” Hulme
In one of those “stealth” moves that our city government is somewhat famous for, people on electric-assist bicycles will soon have full access to our “Crown Jewel” Greenbelt, bike lanes, many foothills trails… and sidewalks to boot!
A hearing was held on December 5th. The Parks Department representative presented their recommendations:
– Class 1 and 2 E-bikes will be allowed, but not Class 3. (Do you know the difference? Do our law enforcers?)
– NO E-bike use on sidewalks, or in crosswalks.
I was among maybe 25 members of the general public to testify. Probably half of those people admitted to already using their E-bikes, in violation of current rules, and were asking the Council to make them legal. (Boise’s “Dreamers.”) It’s hard to oppose a nice lady who testifies about how much better things are, now that her electric-assist bike lets her and her kids get to their various destinations!
My friend and fellow cycling advocate, Annette Hansen, recommended that they conduct a poll/survey of current Greenbelt users beforehand, to gauge their feelings about the proposed rule change.
I stated that I didn’t have enough expertise to testify about E-bike use on foothills trails… that I have no objection to their use in bike lanes along the edge of the roadway… but that I have serious reservations about introducing them to the Greenbelt.
It wouldn’t be a problem in December or January… but in August, when the Greenbelt is crowded with pedestrians, skaters, dog-walkers, BMXers, Lance Armstrong wanna-bes, smart-phone zombies? Since 1971, “NO MOTOR VEHICLES” has been a rule we could live with. But that’s about to change. (And won’t the yahoos on GAS-powered bicycles feel left out?)
Apparently the opposing testimony fell on deaf ears. After it was done, and Council deliberation was completed… they decided to make it legal. With one change – E-bikes will also be allowed on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Councilwoman McLean explained it in an email she sent out. “I was compelled by the testimony that ebikes should be allowed in crosswalks and on sidewalks until we have a safer and fuller bike lane system in Boise.”
I replied, “Just as there are lots of irresponsible and/or uneducated cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, etc. already using the Greenbelt, there’s no reason to believe there won’t be irresponsible E-bike riders.” Based on my casual observation, a lot of the current E-bike riders are people who don’t ride very often, and probably won’t have finely-honed skills when interacting with other pathway users.
We will be finding out. Ms. McLean: “We will hear the ordinance next week [December 12] for the first reading, and then it will be read another two times before it becomes law. We’ve also asked to have a report on the impacts of the ordinance about 6 months after it becomes law.”
I’m a devoted proponent of bicycle transportation… but I’m happy to be “on the record” with my concerns. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it will be hard to put back.
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