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NOTEBOOK – ONE GOOD READ: Tensions growing between motorized bicyclists and those who use pedal power


A few years ago, as my husband and I struggled to ride our bicycles up a hill on Decorah’s Trout Run Trail, we watched a woman (older than the two of us) scoot up the hill without breaking a sweat. “How’d she do that?” I panted. “It’s an electric bike,” my husband said. “We should get some.” We haven’t, but thousands of others apparently have. Scott Calvert of the Wall Street Journal writes that animosity is growing between riders of pedal-powered bikes and those powered with batteries. In the past year, there’s been a spike in the sales of electric bikes, prompting busier recreational paths across the United States. The combination has sparked a flurry of insults and complaints between those riding motorized bikes and traditional cyclists, Calvert writes. “We’re seeing more conflicts on our trail network,” Whit Blanton, executive director of a Florida land use and transportation planning agency, told Calvert. “It’s crazy how angry people are getting about the crowds.” Visits to multiuse trails nationally increased 50% during the pandemic, according to the nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Meanwhile, year-over-year e-bike sales jumped 54% in 2020, and were up 162% this year through March compared with the same period last year. Disagreements over e-bike policies have popped up from New York to California. Moves to allow them on municipal trails have been met with pushback because of the speeds and concerns about overcrowding, while e-bike advocates press for an end to bans, writes Calvert. Forty-five states have passed laws that treat e-bikes much like conventional bikes, according to the nonprofit People for Bikes. A guiding principle is that riders of electric bikes should have the same rights and responsibilities as those who ride traditional bikes, Calvert writes.

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