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Whistler preps e-bike policy

Open house set for March 13, online survey to follow

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The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is prepping an official policy for e-bikes.

The policy—which aims to lay down guidelines for e-bike use on all local trails—was presented to Whistler's Committee of the Whole in draft form on Feb. 26.

There are typically three types of e-bike classes, explained manager of resort parks planning Martin Pardoe: Class 1 (pedal-assisted motors, top speed of 32 kilometres an hour), Class 2 (full-throttle bike, no human effort required) and Class 3 (similar to Class 1, but with a higher top speed).

"Most of the discussion here, as well as in other jurisdictions, is really focusing on what can we do to work with the Class 1s," Pardoe said, adding that the RMOW is trying to align with Recreation Sites and Trails BC's soon-to-be-released e-bike policy, which will permit Class 1 e-bikes on all established recreation trails.

"(Under that policy), you can't take a Class 2 or a Class 3 bike on a non-motorized trail, and you can't take an e-bike on a trail that doesn't permit bikes to begin with, so what we're looking at for our system is something that's kind of consistent with that."

Under the RMOW's draft policy, Class 1 e-bikes would be allowed on the Valley Trail and on all recreational trails (except areas that prohibit biking), but prohibited from Whistler's Alpine Trail Network.

"The Flank Trail would act as a boundary, so up above that there would be no e-bikes," Pardoe said.

"And the reason for that is there's growing concerns over wildlife issues and a fragile ecosystem ... and then there's also a concern about rider safety and ability, and that people who are riding an e-bike who may not necessarily have the skills or the ability or the knowledge to be in an alpine environment."

The Emerald Forest Conservation Area will also be off-limits to all e-bikes, the only exception being the connection between Lorimer Road and Alta Lake Road.

Class 2 and 3 e-bikes would be permitted only on forest service roads, municipal roads or highways.

Other e-mobility devices, like motorized wheelchairs and scooters, are also being considered in the policy, though the main focus is on e-bikes, Pardoe said.

The draft policy was built through stakeholder engagement and scans of relevant policies in other jurisdictions, with the Whistler Centre for Sustainability's Shannon Gordon doing a lot of the "heavy lifting," Pardoe said.

The Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is generally supportive of the draft policy, although it would like to see e-bikes prohibited from the Whistler Interpretive Forest, Pardoe added.

"Their concern there is that the Whistler Interpretive Forest trails are ideal for the uphill riding, and there is potential for user conflict," he said.

"So we're looking to resolve that through further discussion with WORCA."

An open house will be held on Wednesday, March 13 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre, with an online survey to follow.

Find more info at www.whistler.ca/services/transportation/cycling/e-bikes.

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