Editorial: State needs clarity and regs for e-bikes on bike paths

Posted 8/25/22

There are myriad dangers on every bike path. Tour de France wanna-bees weave through the crowds, believing the path should be theirs alone. Children wobble helmet-less on their tricycles with light …

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Editorial: State needs clarity and regs for e-bikes on bike paths

Posted

There are myriad dangers on every bike path. Tour de France wanna-bees weave through the crowds, believing the path should be theirs alone. Children wobble helmet-less on their tricycles with light supervision. Teens weave across two lanes while simultaneously pedaling and Snapchatting on their phones. Most hardly pause at intersections, assuming every motorist is keeping a sharp eye for cyclists ignoring their own traffic laws.

All of these bad habits can lead to bad outcomes. Accidents happen. Strangers collide.

Yet, as happens on roadways, speed changes everything. Speed has the potential to turn minor incidents into major problems. Speed reduces reaction times, and it increases the force of any collision, impact or fall.

Speed is the biggest danger with electric bikes, scooters and skateboards. Guided by users who are reckless, or by users who simply make a mistake, they are a threat to every person using the state’s bike paths.

They are also apparently banned from those paths, yet few people understand that is the policy, and anyone who uses the East Bay Bike Path knows it is not the reality. Electric bikes and other contraptions zip regularly along the path, often at sustained high speeds.

If the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is certain that electrically propelled devices are not allowed on the state’s bike paths — as a spokesman states in a story in this week’s paper — then the agency should move immediately to make that clear to everyone.

Signs along the East Bay bike path state that motorized vehicles are not allowed. Those signs must be updated, replaced or supplemented by new signs making it clear that electric bikes are considered “motorized” and also are not allowed.

As soon as it can, the Rhode Island General Assembly must hear and pass an electric bike bill to give law enforcement the clear backing to patrol the paths and issue warnings and tickets to violators.

Ownership and usage of electric bikes are increasing rapidly. So are the dangers of speed and recklessness on the bike paths. State leaders should move quickly to protect everyone using those paths, and to preserve one of the great attractions and assets of this region.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
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.