Earlier in 2019, the Sheriff called this the Year of the Rail Trail. Another theme has emerged: the Year of the E-bike.
The first designation was in recognition of the first full year of the Okanagan Rail Trail between Kelowna and Coldstream, ongoing efforts to build a paved rail trail between Armstrong and Sicamous, and renewed efforts to complete rail trail connections in the South Okanagan.
The second designation is in recognition of the growing and immense popularity of e-bikes in the Okanagan. One retailer in Kelowna had sold more than 100 e-bikes by July. Another owner said this has been his busiest summer in his shop’s 25 years, thanks to e-bike sales.
In April, Recreation Sites and Trails BC announced e-bikes were an approved use on its 600 kilometres of trails and that was followed by similar approval by BC Parks last week. There is more good news to report later in the column.
Hiking, biking and skiing buddies Lawrence and Maggie led the way among the Sheriff’s friends after their bike-and-barge vacation in Croatia. As soon as they returned to Kelowna, they bought e-bikes in June 2018. As of our Okanagan Rail Trail ride on Wednesday, they each had more than 3,300 total kilometres on their bikes.
The Sheriff, who used to ride less than a half-dozen times a year, bought his Trek Powerfly 5 e-bike from Fresh Air Concept in Kelowna last September and has already logged more than 2,000 kilometres.
The Sheriff had never cycled more than an exhausting 30 kilometres on a regular bike, but now goes 50, 60, 70 kilometres, and has done as much as 92 kilometres (the last 10K with a dead battery) on the Trail of the Couer d’Alenes in Idaho.
Hiking-cycling buddies Martin and Joyce, Paul and Carol, Paul and Pauline have joined us on e-bikes which now regularly outnumber regular bikes.
Cycling buddy Astrid who lives in the Upper Mission area of Kelowna is a recent convert.
“The bike goes up South Ridge Drive to the top of Kuipers Crescent at 20 km/h with little effort. It’s pretty hard to get my head around that because I still dreaded the hill while approaching it from the bottom. As it turned out, although having a backpack full of groceries, it was nothing. I returned from Costco with a very heavy pack in just under 50 minutes (to the top of Kuipers),” she wrote this week.
“I have you to thank for influencing me to even consider an e-bike. It opened up my activity options.”
Constant Companion Carmen, who recently returned from cycling 390 kilometres beside the Danube River from Passau, Germany, to Vienna, Austria, said e-bikes were everywhere (elderly cyclists passing her on her regular bike).
Europe is light years ahead of British Columbia, North America in fact, in off-road bike paths with numerous paved trails through the countryside. On virtually every street in every major city, there are wide raised cycle-only paths beside a wide pedestrian-only sidewalk. The cycle paths were always busy with thousands using bikes instead of motor vehicles.
There are almost as many bikes, 78 million — as people in Germany (83 million) with 10 per cent of all traffic volume made up by cyclists. Yet, in a 2015 YouGov survey, 58 per cent of those who rode a bike said they did not wear a helmet. In a country where cyclists make up 20 per cent of all road injuries and 12 per cent of road fatalities, you might wonder why there are so few helmets on people’s heads.
It might be for style reasons or because Germans just love to feel the wind blowing through their hair. But if you’ve ever been sat in an emergency department waiting room with a friend who has had a bike accident, you know how important a helmet can be.
Researchers know it too. A 2015 study at the University of Arizona involving 6,267 patients with traumatic brain injuries after cycling concluded that “helmeted bicycle riders have a 58 per cent reduced odds of severe traumatic brain injury after an accident compared to their non-helmeted counterparts.”
When BC Parks announced its new policy of allowing e-bikes (pedal-assist only) in provincial parks last week, it said it was following current e-bike industry standards for the three-class system.
“The variability of these e-bikes requires BC Parks to differentiate between classes to minimize possible impacts on wildlife, environmental, recreational and cultural values of the parks.”
However, there is still confusion by many e-bike owners about where they are allowed, especially if their e-bike has a throttle so they can motor along without having to pedal.
The city, regional district and Recreation Sites and Trails BC all consider e-bikes to be non-motorized uses. But BC Parks said they are motorized and were not allowed in its parks until last week’s announcement. However, the new rules open provincial parks to pedal-assist only units. Bikes with a throttle are considered class 2 unless the throttle is deactivated.
Mission Creek Greenway is a regional district park. The Okanagan Rail Trail is operated by four local governments. So far, everyone is allowing e-bikes with pedal-assist and throttle.
The confusion over the three classes centres on classes 2 and 3.
BC Parks allows class 1 with pedal assist and e-bikes with a throttle if it is deactivated.
BC Parks didn’t help the confusion when it says in a chart that class two is throttle actuated up to 32 km/h but in text says the motor is capable of providing assistance in part or exclusively by throttle. Does ‘in part’ mean it is also pedal assist?
BC Parks says class 3 is pedal assist and/or throttle actuated but has a maximum higher speed of 45 km/h.
An internet search for e-bike classifications had confusing results.
B.C. Parks says its primary goal is to educate the public on the new policy to generate voluntary compliance. If riders don’t comply, tickets up to $575 may be issued.
Another interesting email from Brian Sutch, a member of the Vernon Outdoors Club.
“I see on the BBC World News they have opened up a new 800-mile (1,288 kilometres) cycling-only road from the Peak District in mid-England all the way to northern Scotland. It is 98 per cent off-road and was built because of public demand to get away from motorized traffic while cycling.
“This contrasts remarkably to B.C. where the current government is proposing to turn 67 kilometres of the Trans Canada Trail into an industrial logging road. I, for one, did not make donations to the cross-Canada trail concept to have some clown come along and make it accessible to logging trucks after the trail was turned over to the B.C. government to manage (for non-motorized use).
“Some time ago when I lived in Penticton while out hiking on the Kettle Valley Railway in the Naramata area, our hiking club met a young German family with two quite young children on mountain bikes. They explained that they had started in Hope and were doing the trip so they could write an article in the mountain bike magazine of which the man was the editor as there were no trails left in Germany where you could travel by bicycle for days on end without encountering motorized traffic.
“This highlights just how ill-informed the B.C . proposal really is as I cannot imagine attracting such visitors when the word spreads that we are turning parts of the trail over to industrial use. Someone has clearly lost their mind on this one, particularly when one looks at the enormous success of the Okanagan Rail Trail experience.”
Work continued Wednesday at the north end of the Okanagan Rail Trail where the Westkal Road parking area will be paved, barriers built to prevent erosion and walking paths constructed from user vehicles to the trail entrance.
A contractor is also working in several areas between kilometres two and 12 to stabilize the lake bank and prevent the erosion, which has been narrowing the trail.
Partial closures (one-way traffic) will be in effect weekdays through Sept. 15 with full access after 5 p.m.
There was alternating one-way trail traffic at two points on Wednesday, but a full closure is planned from early morning to 5 p.m., weekdays Sept. 16-27 between Kekuli Bay and Lake Country, and between Coldstream and kilometre six. Flaggers are handing out the construction schedule so users can plan their outings.
In the U.S., electric bicycles may soon be humming along trails in national parks and other public lands It’s part of a new Trump administration order that will allow e-bikes on every federal trail where a regular bike can go.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the order, classifying e-bikes as non-motorized bikes.
The e-bikes “make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability or convenience,” said National Park Service deputy director P. Daniel Smith.
E-bikes are the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle industry with U.S. with sales jumping 72 per cent to $144 million last year, according to the NPD Group, which tracks bike sales.
Kirsten Martell, a personal trainer in Kelowna, is ranking her five favourite hikes in the Okanagan in a YouTube video which was posted on Aug. 23.
“Recently, I have been dedicated to building my online empire and I currently have over 160 clients,” she wrote in an email.
“Me and my partner have been working on building and growing our YouTube presence. The latest episode is five of my favourite hikes in the Okanagan. I know a lot of tourists and even locals would love it.”
The five hikes are: Mount Boucherie, Glen Canyon Regional Park, Kalamoir Regional Park, Hardy Falls Regional Park and Christie Falls (not easy to find and difficult).
The video also includes tips such as wearing shoes with grip (after she nearly fell) and don’t eat the bugs (after one flew in her mouth).
The YouTube link is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuE9n4CTvJc97s-movYIJJg
The Kelowna chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims will host a showing of The Camino Voyage at the Cineplex Orchard Plaza in Orchard Plaza Shopping Centre in Kelowna at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25 as part of its presentation in 24 movie theatres across Canada.
It is being organized by Demand Films which holds one-night special event screenings in Cineplex and independent cinemas.
Tickets must be purchased online in advance at tickets.demand.film/event/8153. No tickets will be available at the door. Tickets are $14.50 (plus a $1.50 service fee). Ticket purchasers’ credit cards are not charged until the threshold is reached and screening is confirmed.
Threshold date for each of these 24 Cineplex locations will be Sept 12 to reach at least 50 tickets reserved.
The 2018 documentary is about a crew including a writer, two musicians, an artist and a stonemason who embark on the Camino pilgrimage by sea in a traditional boat that they built themselves. It is billed as “an inspiring and dangerous, 2,500-kilometre, modern-day Celtic odyssey all the way from Ireland to northern Spain.” A trailer is posted at: ca.demand.film/the-camino-voyage/
The Interior statement said riders must use the motor only to boost their pedalling on the trails and not zip along on motor power alone.
J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter.