HomeTop StoriesPalo Alto prohibits e-bikes on unpaved trails in open spaces

Palo Alto prohibits e-bikes on unpaved trails in open spaces

PALO ALTO — A new state law allowing electric bicycles wherever standard bicycles are allowed has baffled local lawmakers.

That new law went into effect this year, but local lawmakers can still pass new ordinances to ban e-bikes in certain areas of their cities.

The city of Palo Alto has banned e-bikes on open-space dirt trails like the Baylands Trails.

“I can’t walk this trail. It’s too far for me. I’m too old for that,” says Paul Trainer, who has ridden e-bikes for decades.

He says the ban is a step in the wrong direction.

“Many people think that an e-bike scares nature. Wrong! An e-bike is the absolute best thing in the world for people to see nature,” said Trainer.

For conservationists like Matthew Dodder, who is the executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the city ban, which keeps open spaces free of e-bikes, is late and good for wildlife.

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“We have a lot of species that are threatened or endangered — like Ridgway’s rail — that are very sensitive to disturbance,” Dodder said.

He says the rise of e-bikes over the past three years is taking its toll on nature reserves and that motorized transport has no place on unpaved paths.

“E-bikes are louder and faster. With the proliferation of e-bikes it’s pretty certain – if we open it up to e-bikes – we’ll have more and more here, which will put even more pressure on the species that are already at risk here ‘ said Dodder.

City Councilman Greg Tanaka, who is also an e-bike commuter, was one of only two votes against.

“I see e-bikes as a democratizing tool for a lot of people. There are a lot of people who are out of shape and with an e-bike this place is a lot more accessible,” said Tanaka.

Tanaka believes it sends the wrong message to cities looking to reduce carbon emissions and promote greener commutes.

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“I hope my surrounding cities won’t ban e-bikes because then the commute path will be really shut down and people will be forced into cars or motorcyclists will be forced to take much longer routes and much more dangerous routes,” said Tanaka.

Proponents of the ban say cyclists will still be able to ride on the paved roads in and around the Baylands.

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