E-bikes charge into the Adirondacks

March, 2019


The electric bike revolution has begun, whether the Adirondacks are ready or not.

In 2017, some 34 million e-bikes were sold around the world, mostly in Asia and Europe. The newfangled contraptions account for half of the bike sales in China and for 20 percent of the sales in Germany.

The United States has been slower to adopt e-bikes, but that is changing. In 2017, more than 260,000 e-bikes were imported into the country—a 25 percent rise from the prior year.

“The United States is 10 years behind Europe, but we are now mimicking Europe in terms of sales growth,” said Ed Benjamin of eCycleElectric, a consulting firm that follows e-bike trends.

New York is behind some other states in coming to grips with the new technology. Even though bicycle shops throughout the state, including in the Adirondacks, sell e-bikes, it remains illegal to ride them on roads in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed e-bike legislation, but critics see it as inadequate. Indeed, one observer said it would in effect ban the bikes from the Adirondacks, whose hilly roads and scenery seem tailor-made for e-bike tourism.

E-bikes also are banned on the forest preserve, meaning they can’t share the trails with regular mountain bikes. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has no plans to change the rules, but some people argue that state officials should at least consider the idea.

Legal restrictions notwithstanding, people are already riding e-bikes on roads and forest preserve trails. Evidently, many riders are unaware of the law.

The Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), which builds and maintains mountain-bike trails, has received numerous reports of e-bikes on the preserve. In a few cases, there have been nasty confrontations between traditional mountain bikers and e-bikers. Jim Grant, a BETA volunteer, once pointed out to a rider on a trail in Wilmington that he was violating the law. The cyclist did not react well. “He said he was going to ride his e-bike up my ass,” Grant recalled.

Read the full article in the Adirondack Explorer.