Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Should motorized ‘e-bikes’ be allowed on county bikeway?

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Public Safety and Public Works Committees of the Warren County Board of Supervisors met jointly on Thursday, Sept. 16, to discuss whether to allow motorized “e-bikes” to use the county’s Glens Falls-Lake George Bikeway.

Glens Falls Ward 1 Supervisor Jack Diamond, who chaired the meeting, said he expects to continue research, with an eye toward potentially piloting an e-bike program on the bike trail in Spring 2022.

Connor Morgan, a March 2021 graduate of SUNY Oneonta, spoke at length. He said he just moved to the area to join his father Kevin to run the family’s Whippoorwill Motel & Campground on Route 9 adjacent to the bikeway south of Lake George.

In April they launched the Lake George Electric Bike Company that rents, sells and services electric bikes there.

“We found increasing numbers of our guests were using electrically augmented bicycles with a pedal element,” Connor Morgan said. “They augment human power, to power through an intersection…or help folks up a hill.”

“I’m here to advocate for them because it’s an opportunity to bring more folks to the area,” he said.

He said the majority of users “are older folks, who use the bikes as an opportunity to get back into biking,” and that younger customers typically use them as affordable, alternative transportation, versus private vehicles or buses.

Mr. Morgan said there are three levels of electric bikes, and he suggested two that are appropriate for the bike path.

Any e-bike powered by a motor of under 750 watts, “equivalent to about 1 horsepower,” he said, is legal in New York State.

Type 1 is a pedal assisted bicycle only, with a simple motor that is limited to no more than 20 mph speed.

Type 2 has a throttle option that allows the rider to move through an intersection appropriately and assists with tight turns, Mr. Morgan said. These are also limited to 20 mph.

Type 3 is capable of going 28 mph. Mr. Morgan recommended against allowing these on the bike path, as “that sort of speed is inappropriate for the area for safety reasons.”

Mr. Morgan said the ebikes differ from motorcycles or even mopeds by weight and speed.

He said the average e-bike operating speed is 14 mph, and that they are heavier and more stable than conventional bikes.

Conventional bicycles average 13-18 mph “on flat ground with a 170 pound person,” Mr. Morgan said, while racing bikes can reach up to 30 mph or more.

Mr. Morgan said, “If accidents are occurring because of speed, I would suggest more effort be put to bicycle behavior and proper etiquette on the bike trail,” offering his business to help educate users through signage or connecting with the public.

He said, “There is an inherent danger with biking. I don’t find that e-bikes, of Type 1, 2 or 3 for that matter, would increase risk to children or anyone using the bike trail,” he said.

He also argued that a cyclist who is less tired, from using an augmented bike, is less likely to cause an accident.

Kevin Hajos, the county’s Department of Public Works Superintendent, discussed New York State and federal regulations of e-bikes, as well as research into municipalities across the country that have piloted e-bike programs. He said they have had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

Supervisors weigh in on ebikes on trail

Three Warren County supervisor expressed opinions about ebikes and their possible authorization for use on the county bikeway.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said he is an avid e-bike user and said it encourages “senior citizens to bike, and use the bike trail.”

He said their speed isn’t an issue. “There are guys on race bikes who go faster than that,” Mr. Dickinson said.

Queensbury at Large Supervisor Brad Magowan said, “I got on an e-bike, biking for the first time enjoyably in 20 years. It is as you said, an assist. You have to push it if you want to go 28 miles an hour.”

But Glens Falls Ward 2 Supervisor Peter McDevitt interjected, “Let me be the skunk at the picnic.”

He expressed concern about the impact of e-bikes on pedestrians, including families with children — amid “the concentration of humanity” on busier sections of the bike path, such as near Cooper’s Cave ice cream window, by Hunter Street, and Ridge Street near the newly opened Stewart’s Shop.

But other supervisors, including Mr. Dickinson, noted that the path is primarily meant for bikes, and that pedestrians should be alert to the dangers in any case. — Cathy DeDe

Bike advocacy group backs e-bikes, 1 & 2

Contacted separately by The Chronicle, Adirondack Cycling Advocates, the group formerly known as Warren County Safe and Quality Biking, supports e-bikes.

An e-bike, as offered by REI

Its chair Rich Zuccaro told The Chronicle, “As an organization and for me personally, we are in favor of e-bikes, Class 1 or 2, on the bike path.”

“This could expand biking a lot,” he said of e-bikes, “not just here, but around the country.”

“Our bike path is on the hilly side,” said Mr. Zuccaro. “For some people, e-bikes are definitely needed.

“Most of the people on e-bikes are older people who would have trouble doing biking if not for that.”

Mr. Zuccaro noted, “Usually if I’m passed on the bike path it is somebody younger, on a road bike that is going too fast.”

He said the “bigger problem” is the path being blocked by parked bikes, people walking several abreast or whose dogs’ leashes stretch across, “when they should treat the bike path more like a road.”

Adirondack Cycling Advocates has 11 active board members,” Mr. Zuccaro said, as well as “several hundred people” on their mailing list.

The group changed its name to reflect the larger region — with a less unwieldy title, he said.

He said last month’s Harry Elkes Bike Ride, hosted by the ACA in Brant Lake, drew about 110 riders, “a record,” said Mr. Zuccaro. — Cathy DeDe

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