E-Bike Pilot Project Approved for City Trails and Paths

MARCH 12, 2024

Electric assisted bikes have been given the green light for use on city trails and paths, on a trial basis.

Sarnia council approved a one-year pilot project, allowing city staff time for an in depth review of actual operating conditions and uptake.

Councillor George Vandenberg supported the motion for the study.

“These are electric assist bicycles that we’re asking to go on the trails, not fully electric,” said Vandenberg. “I’m going to give you an example, in the Netherlands when I ride a bicycle it’s an electric assist. It gets me to get over the bridges, the canals and assists me to get up some of the hills because I’m getting up there too.”

Councillor Anne Marie Gillis said already mobility aids, such as electric wheelchairs, or mobility scooters are permitted to be used in public spaces under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“One of the recommendations from Bluewater Trails was that we need etiquette on our trails and we don’t have it,” said Gillis. “People don’t understand what they’re supposed to do on the trail. So, one of the things that we were putting forward was that we get proper signage put up so people understand exactly what you do when you’re on a trail.”

General Manager of Engineering and Operations David Jackson said part of the pilot project will include an educational component, and staff are supportive of working with the Bluewater Trails Committee on improving trail etiquette and communication efforts.

“Up until now we’ve never received a specific complaint about an e-bike,” said Jackson. “Throughout the summer we do get complaints about bicycles, same kind of etiquette issues, so it would be our intent just to do a campaign around that.”

Jackson said city staff will report back in April 2025 on the pilot.

“Largely it would be a survey of users to say how has it worked, what are concerns, what issues have come up, that’s largely what it will be,” said Jackson. “We do have some options for monitoring, we have cameras that we could put up and we do have some counters so we would look to do some of that. But, largely again a lot of this is the feeling of how people feel when someone passes them, so it is a perspective thing.”

A recent survey found 55 per cent of respondents against the idea of e-bikes on trails and paths, while 45 per cent were in favour of it.

Councillors Bill Dennis and Terry Burrell voted against the pilot project.

During its Monday meeting, council also endorsed continued operation of the Cycling Without Age Program on all trails and pathways.

Original at https://sarnianewstoday.ca/news/2024/03/12/e-bike-pilot-project-approved-for-city-trails-and-paths