Thank you, Jim Stanford. Electric-motor bikes (e-bikes) should not get a special exception on nonmotorized pathways. They are vehicles. They use a motor. They are motor vehicles. E-bikes are great, but they belong in the slow-moving motor vehicle lane (shoulder). The state of Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the National Elk Refuge and Jim Stanford, of the Jackson Town Council, all recognize this obvious, common-sense reality.
Separating nonmotorized from motorized transportation was and is the whole point of building and supporting pathways. The first sentence of the Pathways Master Plan for the town of Jackson and Teton County reads: “Imagine using ‘human power’ to move through the Jackson Hole landscape.” The phrase “nonmotorized” occurs 54 times in the plan. The phrase “except e-bikes” occurs zero times, despite the fact that e-bikes have existed for at least 120 years (Patent No. US552271 — 1895).
This is about ability and willingness. Nonmotorized pathways were fought for and supported by those of us willing to travel by “human power.” All the taxpayer funding, individual donations and volunteer support over the last 20-plus years was accepted with the explicit promise that they would support nonmotorized pathways. Breaking this promise is dishonest, hypocritical and says, “We didn’t really mean nonmotorized, but thank you for your support and money.”
Every reason given for allowing e-bikes on pathways has already been addressed by shoulders, the bus, carpooling and willingness.
The first reason: “This will improve access for a range of users who to this point maybe found it difficult to access bikes,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said. “Maybe found it difficult to access bikes” is a lot of syllables for “unwilling to pedal.” People unwilling to use nonmotorized transportation can “access e-bikes” on the shoulder and won’t have to slow down for elderly walkers, young families or real bikers. There is an exception for people who are unable to use nonmotorized transportation: “Pathways shall be provided for nonmotorized transportation, except motorized wheelchairs for the disabled shall be permitted.”
I wholeheartedly support this exception for the unable. I wholeheartedly oppose an exception for those unwilling — sorry, for those who “maybe find it difficult” to pedal. Every e-biker I know or have met (around 50 so far) is able to pedal a real bike. Every. Single. One.
Another reason: To “allow more commuting professionals who can’t show up to work sweaty ... to opt for alternate transportation” [News&Guide, Dec. 6, “E-bikers get approval to rev up on pathways”]. Umm, really? Stinky professionals is a reason to discourage the use of healthy, zero-emission transportation? Professionals who don’t want to perspire already have great options for alternate transportation: carpools, the bus and e-biking on the shoulder.
Another: “We have a traffic issue in this community,” County Commissioner Greg Epstein said in the above-mentioned article, “and this is a great alternative to allow people to use a different mode of transportation than jumping in their car.” Did you notice that trick? Limiting the options to only e-bikes or cars. No mention of real bikes, walking, skateboards, running, carpools or the bus. All reduce traffic without discouraging nonmotorized transport. E-biking on the shoulder reduces traffic just as much as on the pathway.
Another: “I really see it as a way for people to commute and to do grocery shopping or things we’d normally get in our cars to do,” Town Councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson is quoted as saying. Same trick again. There are already plenty of other ways for people to do things “we’d normally get in our cars to do.” Four are real bikes, the bus, walking and e-biking on the shoulder.
Safety (of e-bikers) is often the main reason cited by advocates of e-biking on pathways. Let’s be honest: E-bikers are the only users whose safety will be enhanced. The safety of all other pathways users will be (and has been) diminished. Check the records of collisions on the pathways at the police and sheriff’s departments. The reality is, e-bikes on nonmotorized pathways are discouraging nonmotorized use.
If e-bikers are willing to take responsibility for their own safety, they can safely use the shoulder. Safety tips: mirrors, helmets, bright clothes, flashing lights, follow the rules of the road and mirrors (I repeat mirrors because it’s my obsession).
Unwillingness to pedal, unwillingness to carpool, unwillingness to ride the bus, unwillingness to sweat and prioritizing the safety of e-bikers over nonmotorized users are not valid reasons for allowing e-bikes on pathways. Nonmotorized pathways were built for and should be reserved for those willing to use human power to be tomorrow’s solution.
I urge my neighbors and friends on the Town Council to reconsider and to not allow electric-motor bikes on the nonmotorized pathways. Thank you again, Jim Stanford. I am with you.
P.S. Sixty-five percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated by burning fossil fuels, another 20 percent from nuclear energy. In Wyoming coal-fired power plants produce eight of every nine kilowatt-hours.