Michigan trail managers must decide whether to allow electric bikes

Riders with electric bikes at the Polly Ann Trail pedestrian overpass bridge in Oxford. (AP Photo)

DETROIT (AP) — Many Michigan residents are questioning whether electric bicycles should be allowed on woodland trails and urban bikeways as the motorized two-wheelers gain popularity.

A new state law says trail managers and oversight boards can either allow electric bikes to glide alongside regular hikers and bikers or they can conduct public hearings to vote on the issue.

Oakland County had meetings in April over whether electric bicycles should be permitted in the Paint Creek Trial, the Detroit Free Press reported . Residents opposing the electric bikes argued that they were too speedy and incompatible with walkers and joggers on the path.

The county board voted after the debate to allow the types of electric bikes that only work when a rider is pedaling or roll with continuous e-power. The board banned electric bikes with a higher top speed of 28 mph.

Gregory Krzeminski sells electric bikes at his shop in Harrison Township. “I like that Paint Creek is setting the precedent for a lot of other trails,” he said.

Only Class 1 electric bicycles, which require the rider to pedal, are allowed on Detroit’s bikeways, according to the Detroit Greenways Coalition website.

Meanwhile, trail and park officials in Macomb County haven’t yet held hearings, so electric bicycles have an untested legal status, Krzeminski said.

Many supporters of electric bikes have said that they offer mobility and exercise for senior citizens or those with disabilities. They can also help cyclists who are towing a buggy loaded with children or groceries, particularly in hilly areas.

“I could not ride a traditional bike for 10 yards — my legs won’t do it,” said Jay Hoopingarner, a Clinton Township resident who said he has Parkinson’s Disease. “This bike lets me get around.” Hoopingarner rides a Class 2 electric bicycle, which allows him to cruise without expending effort.

Terry Kauzlarich used to ride conventional bikes for years, until she got older. “Now I have spinal stenosis and heart problems,” said Kauzlarich.

There are still several Michigan trails that Kauzlarich and her husband can’t ride their electric bicycles on. She said, “We hope that changes.”

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