View All Posts

Jul 31

Trial period through Jan. 15 will help determine if electric bikes will be allowed on ongoing basis

Posted on July 31, 2019 at 11:14 AM by Becky Burnside

A new pilot program will give two classifications of electric bicycles a six-month trial run on JCPRD paved trails.

During its June 19 regular monthly meeting, a majority of the Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners voted to approve a temporary variance of JCPRD’s Code of Regulations relating to using a motorized conveyance on designated paved trails. The pilot program, which includes all JCPRD paved trails, but not earthen trails, began July 15, and will run through Jan. 15.

Under the pilot project, e-bikes in Class 1, which can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour, and Class 3, which can reach speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, will be allowed. Both classes are considered “pedal-assist,” meaning that the rider propels the bike normally, while a motor aids in powering the rear wheel. 

Not allowed are e-bikes in Class 2, which are throttle-operated and do not require any additional pedaling by the rider. Other vehicles such as motorized scooters and Segways are also still prohibited on JCPRD trails. 

Superintendent of Parks & Golf Courses Bill Maasen said the goal of the trial is “to determine if the allowance of e-bikes on our paved trails is a problem and should the code of regulations be modified accordingly.”

Where city trail connections intersect with JCPRD trails, signs have been posted providing information about the pilot project.

Superintendent of Park Safety & Outdoor Education Terry Anderson said he doesn’t have safety concerns about e-bikes on district trails. 

“I just don’t see this creating a conflict,” he said. “An e-bike is a pedal-assisted bike, which allows a weaker rider to keep up with a stronger rider. You can’t get on and hit a throttle and go: you have to pedal it. For all intents and purposes, it is a bicycle that requires physical effort to make it go forward.”

E-bike proponents say the devices can be used by older people and people with physical challenges, can functionally replace cars for a wide variety of trips, offer transportation options for people who can’t drive, expand the number of people biking more often, and make family bicycling more accessible.

Advocates also say trail etiquette is the key for all kinds of bikes. Toward this end, “share-the-trail” signage, and yellow stripes are being added to JCPRD trails to indicate lanes and to promote safer passing.

Anderson said park police will take part in promoting etiquette on the trails. 

“Our main role during the trial period is to track and document any e-bike-related conflicts such as accidents, disturbances, or anything else,” he said. “Our officers are required to walk a section of the trail every shift every day, plus we have safety aides out there, and we have the bicycle patrol out there. Given the opportunity, when they see trail use etiquette that can be improved, officers and aides will try to provide information.”

JCPRD is also recommending all trail users observe courtesies such as: sharing the trail, pedestrians keeping right, bicycles also keeping right except to pass, bicyclists announcing their presence when approaching other trail users, passing with care, traveling at a safe speed, not blocking trails, and keeping dogs on the trails under control with leashes no more than six feet in length.

Maasen said survey dates will be established where JCPRD staff will accept public input concerning the e-bike trial. He also emphasized that any negative interactions should be reported to either park police or to his office in Shawnee Mission Park. 

If the district board decides to make the allowance for e-bikes permanent after the six-month pilot program, Anderson sees merit in acquiring electric bikes for his bike patrol officers. 

“I think it would allow the officers to cover more distance and be fresh when they got someplace,” he said. “Right now, they have the standard pedaling bikes.”

With a price range of $1,900 to $8,000, road e-bikes average about $4,750, while mountain e-bikes have a price range of $1,200 to $9,000.

“They’re fairly expensive, so to think that we’re going to get a big volume of people out there riding e-bikes has yet to be seen,” Anderson said.