E-bikes on the Duwamish Trail? Seattle Parks Board considering ‘pilot project’

(Riders on West Duwamish Trail, seattle.gov photo from 2015)

Should people on electric bicycles be allowed to join other riders, walkers, and runners on Seattle’s “multi-use trails”? Tomorrow night, the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners will get a briefing that could be the first step toward a pilot program this summer on five of them – including the Duwamish Trail in West Seattle.

From the proposal, as detailed in this document prepared for the Parks Board:

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) proposes a pilot project to allow Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on five of the multi-use trails we manage: Burke-Gilman Trail, Elliott Bay Trail, Mountains to Sound Trail, Melrose Connector Trail, and Duwamish Trail. These trails were chosen due to the width of the trails, the commuting connections they provide, and their ability to safely accommodate e-bikes. The pilot would include a speed limit of 15 mph on these trails, although there will be areas where riders need to reduce speed, for all users and an education campaign in partnership with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Seattle has changed significantly since 1995, when Seattle Parks and Recreation passed a Bicycle Use policy (060-P 7.11.1) that banned all motorized vehicles on multiuse trails. The population has risen dramatically over the last 28 years (150,000 more people), bicycle use has increased on streets and trails (up 100% since 1985), electric bike technology has advanced, and there is now access to a number of bike share programs including e-bikes.

The Parks schedule for the pilot program starts with tomorrow night’s briefing, followed by a public hearing when the board meets again on April 26th, and potentially a vote on May 10th. The briefing document adds, “The goal is to have regulations in place for e-bikes on Seattle Parks and Recreation multi-use trails by Memorial Day to prepare for the busy summer biking season.” This is how the pilot project would work:

During the pilot year, Seattle Parks and Recreation will collect data in the following ways: bike counters, field observations and on-site surveys, stakeholder focus groups, and public feedback through an online survey, emails and correspondence. This information will help us understand use patterns, safety concerns, and pilot outcomes. Following the collection of this data, Seattle Parks and Recreation will evaluate potential options and provide a policy recommendation to the Board of Park Commissioners.

That would happen in summer of 2019. But first – tomorrow’s briefing is during the board’s 6:30 pm meeting at Parks HQ downtown (100 Dexter Ave. N.), open to the public. Here’s the agenda.

19 Replies to "E-bikes on the Duwamish Trail? Seattle Parks Board considering 'pilot project'"

  • Swede. April 11, 2018 (10:31 pm)

    Didn’t realize they don’t allow them already. Is there signs saying you can’t ride them around!?  And limit them to 15mph won’t work, they don’t have or require a speedometer. Besides you’ll easily go faster than that on a regular bicycle which isn’t limited to said speed limit…

    • KBear April 12, 2018 (9:13 am)

      Actually, most e-bikes DO have a speedometer. And we have speed limits for cars, even though they can easily go over the speed limit. The ease of breaking a law is not a good reason not to have a law. 

      • Swede. April 12, 2018 (1:12 pm)

        Most I’ve seen have no form of display whatsoever, but good to learn there is some that have. Pretty sure a normal bike is impossible to get a speeding ticket on though since you can’t know the speed. Same with old motorcycles, they didn’t have to have a speedometer either. 

        • fiz April 12, 2018 (1:50 pm)

          Actually, one of our kids received a speeding ticket on her bicycle on her college campus.  One of my favorite stories.

  • Nancy April 11, 2018 (10:36 pm)

    I’m an avid cyclist, and believe that electric bikes will be the way for many people to add cycling to their transportation options.   As ebikes get more popular,  there will certainly be challenges with safety for all riders.  But the Duwamish trail will be a good place to test it out.

  • Anonymous Coward April 12, 2018 (5:08 am)

    Ummm…. Do these board members really think these trails are NOT currently used by e-bikes?    ’cause that’s how this reads.  Or is the e-bike ban another one of those many, many Seattle laws which are technically on the books but never enforced?

  • GF April 12, 2018 (5:42 am)

    Didn’t the state just pass ebike regulations? Why diverge from State regulations and confuse people with locally different rules?

    • Brock April 12, 2018 (9:27 am)

      Yes, the state passed laws that provided Class 1 & Class 2 e-bikes (e-assisted up to 20mph), can ride in bike lanes and trails.  However, it also left in place the ability for local jurisdictions to set different requirements.  This change would effectively sync city law with the state law — as I understand it.

  • David Boneham April 12, 2018 (6:36 am)

            I am an e bike user and usually ride at a slow pace. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all as an older cyclist I don’t care to ride faster and secondly the range on the battery rewards a slower pace with a greater mileage. The slower I move the more mileage the battery gives me. Perhaps the thing that matters most to me is that the e-bike allows me to continue my lifelong habit of cycling on the hilly streets of West Seattle. Without it I’d have to use my car for all of life’s errands. Courtesy and caution are a necessary part of bicycling whether one uses a non-powered or power assist bicycle on our  bicycle trails.

  • West Sea Neighbor April 12, 2018 (6:45 am)

    I already see ebikes every day on my commute on many trails. I prefer a traditional bike, but the ebikes don’t particularly bother me.

  • Josh April 12, 2018 (6:46 am)

    Does this include funding for the engineering studies required by state law for enforceable 15 mph speed limits?  (Multi-use trails open to transportation use are legally “highways” — Parks can’t just do whatever they want.)

  • MJ April 12, 2018 (10:11 am)

    Once again trying solve a non existent issue. 

    However as an avid bicyclist is when there is a parallel pedestrian path to a bike lane Please get the pedestrians out of the bike facility, they have a facility of their own!  

    • Guy Olson April 12, 2018 (11:36 am)

      Nailed it!

  • Whowhat April 12, 2018 (11:12 am)

    Leg power bikes can (generally) go much faster than battery power bikes- so, will all bikes have a 15mph speed limit? Or just ebikes?  Maybe this is just symbolic, but I don’t see the reason to govern one and not the other. It seems the local Tour de France speed racers cause the greatest danger (when mixed with less speed aware riders and families).

  • LJFS April 12, 2018 (12:32 pm)

    The speed limit on these trails has always been 15mph, the only policy change is explicitly allowing e-bikes. They’re just emphasizing that since it seems likely that they’re going to step up enforcement.

  • Wsea April 12, 2018 (1:45 pm)

    I’m a year around cyclist and love that ebikes use the trails. I have yet to see one ebike rider do something unsafe. My brother, who is autistic, also uses an ebike on the trails over roads for safety reasons. The more cyclist the merry. 

  • KBear April 12, 2018 (2:24 pm)

    There are plenty of non-electric cyclists who ride too fast, as well as clueless pedestrians who hog the whole width and don’t pay attention to their surroundings. I don’t think e-cyclists are any less safe than other trail users. E-bikes should just be treated the same as conventional bicycles.

  • John Davies April 12, 2018 (4:44 pm)

    I am a violator of the e-bikes rule on King Co. trails.  Why, back in March of 2016 I was in contact with Regional Trails Coordinator, of King County Parks.  We had a sit down meeting to discuss e-bike on the King Co. trails.  What came out of the meeting was this.  King Co. is still working on this problem and are not sure what to do about it.  To placate me I was told, “there is not one out there to enforce this rule so just go about your business”.

    As for the Burke Gilman trail it was bought to provide a commuter trail.

    There is a speed limit on King County Trails of 15 M.P.H.  Riding my e-bike at that speed I am constantly passed by street bikes going much faster.  e-bikes are not the problem it is violators of the speed limit.

    I am now seeing Lime bikes with motors on the trails.  Also the Helmet law is not even enforced.

  • AlkiStu April 12, 2018 (6:28 pm)

    I feel relieved that most people agree that if you are going 15 mph and under that you should allow E Bikes to use our bike trails. They are as vulnerable as any other cyclists and separating them from heavy traffic can only be a wise decision. Let’s give this transportation option all the support needed to help folks travel with out their car.  Happier and healthier should be an OK position for anyone. I would be glad to talk to anyone about Seattle Proof options when it comes to E Bike choices. 

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