Lifting of Okanagan Rail Trail e-bike ban gains traction

Class 2 electric bikes closer to being allowed on North Okanagan portion

E-bike regulations on the Okanagan Rail Trail could be streamlined to ensure a smooth ride for all users. (Pedego Oyama photo)

Changes geared towards e-bike regulations are on track to ensure a smooth ride on the Okanagan Rail Trail.

Class 2 and 3 e-bikes are currently banned on just a 13-kilometre portion of the popular trail, within the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO).

Following complaints about the rules, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (GVAC) agreed Wednesday, June 1 to support a bylaw change that would allow class 2 e-bikes on the trail. RDNO will need to agree to the changes, which are expected to be discussed at its June 15 meeting.

Sheila Fraser, who owns Pedego Oyama and started an online petition against the RDNO bylaw, said allowing class 2 e-bikes would fall in line with the rules along the rest of the 50 kilometre trail in Lake Country and Kelowna.

“Hopefully that will just be a rubber stamp on June 15,” Fraser told The Morning Star.

Class one e-bikes are pedal-assist only, while class two bikes have a throttle and a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour. Class three e-bikes are pedal-assist only, have a throttle and top out at 45 km/hr.

The ban on certain e-bikes is supported by some pedestrians who have had close-calls with cyclists and who believe the bikes belong on the roads.

“We have a big enough problem already with the speed and unsafe manner in which normal pedal driven bicycles are used on our trails without adding electric motor assisted e-bikes to the problem,” resident Brian Sutch said in a letter to the editor.

But with increased trail etiquette education, Fraser says the trail can be safely used by everyone.

“We’ve got pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers, everybody out on that trail,” said Fraser, who had more than 4,200 people sign her online petition to allow the on-demand throttle bikes.

Her business, started in 2018 and now operating from Gatzke Farm, sells and rents Pedego-brand e-bikes, which have the option to turn the motor on or off.

“A lot of our riders are people who are coming back to cycling who maybe haven’t done it in 20 or 30 years,” Fraser said. “I never get tired of seeing the smiles on peoples faces when they come in from a ride on the rail trail.”

Before heading out, those renting or buying are educated on proper trail etiquette from the company.

“Single file, pass on the left, yell or bell – because you need to let people know you’re coming,” said Fraser, who is also planning a workshop on the three E’s (education, etiquette and e-bikes) June 18.

A portion of funds from every rental at the Oyama business is also donated to the Okanagan Rail Trail.

“We truly believe that it (Okanagan Rail Trail) has made our business successful,” said Fraser, who lives in Coldstream and owns the business with her husband Murray. “It’s been a great ride.”

READ MORE: E-bike restriction on Okanagan Rail Trail to be reviewed, following complaints

READ MORE: Vernon main street pedestrian plaza approved


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