Letter: Don’t argue with success on the bike path

Posted 5/18/23

To the editor: Thank you for coverage of a bill to legalize all classes of Electric Motorized Bikes (EMBs) on state bike paths (“The battle over e-bikes,” May 11). Your coverage of …

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Letter: Don’t argue with success on the bike path

Posted

To the editor:

Thank you for coverage of a bill to legalize all classes of Electric Motorized Bikes (EMBs) on state bike paths (“The battle over e-bikes,” May 11). Your coverage of this confusing and contentious issue was well balanced.

The law would regulate EMBs on bike paths in exactly the same way as they would be regulated on roadways, without any regard for vulnerable users, especially kids, using bike paths. This of course would apply to our much cherished East Bay Bike Path.

The bill has already passed in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and if it passes in the Senate in the next few weeks, it will become law. And the East Bay Bike Path as we know it will become history.

Many say EMBs are just like regular pedal bikes. But how is an EMB that can go 20 miles per hour without pedaling the same as a pedal bike? Many of the Class 2 and 3 EMBs have motorcycle size tires, and most cannot be stopped with traditional rim brakes — they need hydraulic disc brakes in order to stop because of their size and weight. They can accelerate rapidly without any visual warning, and require much longer stopping distances than traditional bikes. Many weigh 40 to 70 pounds or more.

The proponents for EMBs on bike paths have tremendous support from the EMB industry, as the financial incentives are enormous. But even Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition’s Kathleen Gannon, quoted in the article, admitted she can’t always go up to 20 mph on her pedal bike “because conditions won’t allow it.”

Proponents also insist that EMBs are helpful to users with physical limitations, but as bike seller Mike DeStefano of Bristol Bikes noted, the current buying trend is towards “younger and younger … teenagers even.”

As we all know, the East Bay Bike Path is already the most congested bike path in the state and the most visited park in the state, with an estimated one million visits in 2014.

Yet promoters of this bill compare Rhode Island with other states, even though our whole state bike path system has a total of only 72 miles. Maine, with similar population numbers, has 395 miles of bike paths. Massachusetts has 414 miles. Why then would we introduce EMBs that can travel at 28 mph, 3 miles over the speed limits on our roadways, and 8 miles over the limits in school zones?

We all know the options for enforcement are so limited as to be almost impossible to achieve.

As the accompanying editorial stated last week, EMBs are great in the right locations, but not all classes are safe on a busy five-foot-wide bike path. Why argue with success?

Judith A. Byrnes
62 Seabreeze Lane

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.