At long last, BC Parks has released its long-awaited e-bike policy.
“Following the e-bikes classification system already being used by industry and other government bodies, the new policy allows e-bikes in certain areas, depending on the classification,” says the official news release.
“People with class 1 e-bikes can ride on any BC Parks’ trail where mountain bikes or other cycling is already allowed. People with class 2 and 3 e-bikes can only ride on trails and/or roads designated for motorized vehicles, depending on the park. People using adaptive mountain bikes are allowed in areas designated for class 1 e-bike use. The new e-bikes policy is now in effect.”
Cycling in provincial parks can have an impact on trails and wildlife, it says.
“Electric bikes allow more riders to use trails and reach areas that were previously limited to a few visitors, leading to increased pressure on sensitive wildlife and ecosystems.”
Anyone with an e-bike is encouraged to go to the BC Parks’ website for specific information. The three classifications for e-bikes can be found at env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/ recreation/biking/
Class 1 e-bike use is allowed where cycling and mountain biking is already permitted, unless signage indicates that trail is closed to e-bike access. Class 2 and class 3 e-bike use is only allowed where motorized use is currently permitted, such as park roadways and off-road vehicle areas.
In some parks, class 2 e-bikes are also allowed on active transportation designated trails, which are commuter pathways linking communities together like some sections of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Refer to the specific park webpage for information about permitted e-bike usage.
Adaptive mountain bikes (aMTBs) are allowed in areas designated for class 1 e-bike use, provided they meet certain requirements.
The province defines class 1 e-bikes as “pedal-assist only (no throttle).” In other words, the motor only helps if the cyclist is also pedalling.
Class 2 e-bikes are “throttle actuated.”
Class 3 e-bikes are “pedal assist and/or throttle actuated.”
So e-bikes with pedal-assist-only are OK in provincial parks; e-bikes with pedal-assist and throttle are banned.
The BC Parks’ website says: For a detailed description of e-bike requirements, go to the ICBC website,” but the website hardly helps to clarify the definitions.
The Sheriff has written about this extensively since Recreation Sites and Trails BC announced on April 26 that bicycles using “an electric motor to either assist with propulsion or fully propel the rider” are a permitted use on 600 trails under its jurisdiction. Note: pedal-assist-only and pedal-assist with throttle are OK here.
The Sheriff is already receiving inquiries about using e-bikes on the Okanagan Rail Trail between Kelowna and Coldstream.
“The Okanagan Rail Trail follows the use of e-bikes in accordance with the BC Motor Assisted Cycle Regulations,” says Matt Vader, chair of the ORL interjurisdictional development team.
The bottom line is both e-bikes with pedal-assist and pedal-assist with throttle are allowed on the ORL.
The City of Kelowna website also says: electricity-powered electronic bicycles or motor-assisted cycles, in accordance with the BC Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation, are allowed. So both types of e-bikes are OK on the city’s bicycle trails.
Constant Companion Carmen recently spent a week with friends cycling a paved trail beside the Danube River 390 kilometres from Passau, Germany, to Vienna, Austria. And it is just one of almost endless paved cycling trails in Europe.
“The Europeans are far ahead of the ‘game’… hundreds of kilometres of paved trails … going through private properties, very small towns, farming land, etc, etc, … and it is working very well for many years already,” says cycling buddy Gerd.
Compare that to B.C. where Kelowna is “leading the way” with 40 kilometres of separated paved multi-use paths. For more off-road paved cycling trails, you can go to the Kootenays where there are several paved long-distance trails. There just doesn’t seem to be the political will in B.C. to establish a paved network like the ones in Europe and many gravel trails in B.C. are in rough shape.
In the United States, a Senate committee recently passed America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act to reauthorize funding for projects including bike paths, multi-use trails, bike parks and safety incentives.
ATIA would allow states to more easily move forward with projects that make biking better, safer and more accessible. The numbers are staggering: increased funding for bike infrastructure (bike lanes, paths, trails, bridges, etc.) from $850 million to $1.2 billion in the first year and more local control to planners to make the best decisions for their communities’ needs.
The bill includes money for climate change and incorporates bikes into the solution. It offers $600 million to states and localities to pay for low-carbon transit options, including biking and walking.
Meanwhile, in B.C., Recreation Sites and Trails BC is pedalling backwards, proposing to cancel the recreation trail designation for a 67-kilometre section of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail and turn it into a logging road.
It is part of the 164-kilometre Columbia and Western Rail Trail that runs between Castlegar and Midway, part of The Great Trail of Canada (formerly called the Trans Canada Trail) . The former rail line was given to the province by the Trans Canada Trail organization for non-motorized use in 2004.
A B.C. legislature finance committee has recommended the provincial sales tax be eliminated on electric bikes. It is one of 106 recommendations made by the committee — a group of seven MLAs — after public consultation for the 2020 provincial budget.
Currently, the seven per cent tax is charged on e-bikes, but not on conventional bikes. It’s a sore point for e-bike owners, bike shops and active transportation advocates.
“And unlike electric cars (and even motorbikes), electric bikes are not eligible for clean energy rebates,” say Sheila and Murray Fraser of Pedego Oyama.
Pedego Canada joined the BC Cycling Coalition’s lobbying efforts and, just recently, made submissions to the finance committee via Pedego Oyama and Victoria Electric Bikes.
“It is exciting to see eliminating the PST on electric bikes as a recommendation for next year’s budget. As Fiona Walsh put it to the committee: electric bicycles enable seniors and others with physical challenges to cycle and travel longer distances than they would otherwise be able to,” say the Frasers.
There is bad news for those who regularly visit Munson Pond in Kelowna.
A water main will be replaced on Munson Road, says Tara Bergeson, the city’s urban forestry technician.
“The work area will be within the existing road/trail, however, the north trail and access through the gravel path connecting the two sections of Burtch Road will be closed. I have requested that the south access trail leading to the loop and the majority of the loop remain open for public use, however, this has not been confirmed and if necessary, the trails to the south may also be closed.”
The parking lot will be closed for the duration. Work is anticipated to begin in mid-September.
Part of the reason the Okanagan Rail Trail is so popular is because it runs alongside two emerald green lakes, Kalamalka and Wood. These beautiful neighbours to the trails also cause erosion that eats into the width of the rail trail. Every wave that touches the side of the path takes sand and materials with it. Over time, the pathway becomes narrower.
Past flooding on Kalamalka Lake led to high water levels that caused serious damage and significantly eroded the trail.
The erosion is an immediate threat so the Regional District of North Okanagan will be working on mitigating the erosion, beginning in September.
This will mean inconvenience for users in September. There will be some days with one-way pedestrian and biking traffic, and no access temporarily to certain portions of the trail for up to 10 hours at a time.
The trail will remain open and accessible on evenings by 5 p.m. and all weekends.
The RDNO received the final permits for all of the work on Aug. 21 and was given a window from Sept. 1 to 30 to finish the work. That timeline means it won’t impact kokanee salmon runs in Kalamalka Lake.
Additional erosion mitigation work will be underway next winter.
The Kelowna Canoe and Kayak Club will hold a Games Day at 11 a.m. Monday at Bear Creek Provincial Park’s day use and picnic area.
“Come enhance your paddling skills while having fun — and be prepared to get wet,” says the invitation.
Lunch will be served at noon with cold cuts and salads, but members should bring their own plates, cutlery and beverages.
Members should RSVP to the KCKC secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org on how many people they will bring (to get the catering right) and their paddling skill level so organizers can get the games level right.
Members of the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club are being reminded that memberships are due on Sept. 1.
There are two membership application forms available — a fill-able (.docx) form and a printable PDF form. These membership application forms can be downloaded from the website okanagannature.org.
Completed membership forms can be printed and mailed (with the appropriate fees) or they can be submitted at the next monthly membership meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10.
The membership application form includes a “main interest” section where members can indicate if they are interested in birding, botany and hiking. The sections that are checked will be used to establish email lists for the birding and botany groups similar to the hiking groups.
A recent Making Tracks column noted ongoing vehicle damage to the Kettle Valley Railway trail between June Springs Road (Little White forest service road, west end of the Myra Canyon) and Chute Lake, mainly due to ATVs.
“We are aware of issues along parts of the June Springs-to-Chute Lake section of the Kettle Valley Railway that you mention, and we understand that the particular section is designated as a ‘transportation corridor,’” said Jane O’Faherty, communications adviser for the Trans Canada Trail organization.
“That is why we want to speak out about the proposed removal of ‘recreational trail’ designation along the Fife-Castlegar section as we are concerned that if the proposed designation change on the 67-kilometre section goes ahead, we are allowing more trails to become transportation corridors.”
J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter.