Electric bikes might be coming to local trails.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is proposing a rule change that would allow electric bikes, or e-bikes, on certain state park trails and roads and select areas of the ocean shore.
“Our rules were written before e-bicycles were introduced,” said Katie Gauthier, the department’s legislative and policy coordinator. “We’re just updating the rules.”
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a long meandering, multiuse trail between Banks in Washington County and Vernonia in Columbia County, is already popular for cycling and has been a place where people have expressed interest in being able to use e-bikes, Gauthier said.
In Clatsop County and neighboring Tillamook County, Fort Stevens State Park and Nehalem Bay State Park could be candidates for e-bikes. Both parks have some snowy plover nesting restrictions. E-bikes would not be allowed in those areas.
The proposed rules would allow people to ride e-bikes on roads and trails 8 feet or wider unless a park posted that the activity wasn’t allowed. Individual parks will have some flexibility about how they enforce the rule on trails that may narrow at different points.
The state defines e-bikes as a bicycle that still has two or three fully functioning pedals, a motor that doesn’t exceed 1,000 watts and that doesn’t exceed a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Lisa Sauve of Northwest E-Bike, an e-bike rental and sales company in Seaside, said most of the people who rent the company’s bicycles are from the baby-boom generation, people in their 50s, 60s and early 70s, who might have a harder time walking long distances or riding a regular bicycle around town.
“Those of us who our knees hurt … we can’t put as much effort into riding a bike as we used to be able to do,” Sauve said.
For now, the e-bike rentals are intended for use around Seaside and most people don’t leave Broadway Street and the boardwalk area parallel to the beach. If the state’s proposed rule changes pass and allow e-bikes in nearby state parks, Sauve said her company would be interested in leading e-bike tours in places like Fort Stevens.
“If it’s possible to be in state parks, that would just be phenomenal,” she said.
The state will be collecting public comments on the proposal through May 18. Public hearings will be held in a variety of Oregon cities beginning April 23. A public hearing is scheduled in Warrenton on May 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.
After the public comment period closes later in May, the state will review all the comments and present final recommended rules to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission, which will review the rule at a meeting in June.