Why you'll see e-bikes zip along some park trails in Kananaskis, West Bragg Creek

The new Alberta Parks e-bike pilot project allows pedal-assisted bikes on certain trails in Kananaskis Country, West Bragg Creek and Calgary area provincial parks.

Alberta Parks running pilot program until October 2020

The Legacy Trail, which spans from Canmore to Banff, is one of the pathways where pedal-assisted e-bikes are now allowed. (Patrick Dwyer)

A new Alberta Parks e-bike pilot project allows pedal-assisted bicycles on certain trails in Kananaskis Country, West Bragg Creek and Calgary area provincial parks.

Running until the end of October 2020, the Alberta Parks e-bike pilot project seeks to test if allowing e-bikes in more areas will further encourage Albertans to get on the trails, increase trail accessibility and expand tourism activities.

"Well we've certainly seen a significant uptick in the use of e-bikes over the last three years, and folks are seeking clarity on where they can e-bike in our parks," said Michael Roycroft of Albert Parks on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Define e-bike

Prior to this pilot program, e-bikes were not allowed on trails, and were allowed only where other motorized vehicles are allowed — for example, on roadways.

The provincial Parks Act defines the word "cycle" as "human-powered only," said Roycroft, who is the manager responsible for provincial park trails in the Kananaskis region, which includes Calgary.

"E-bikes being a relatively new phenomenon are currently unclassified and undesignated, so they automatically fall into the motorized category."

There are some restrictions when it comes to what type of e-bike can be used in the pilot project. According to Alberta Parks, the e-bike must be non-throttled, have a maximum output of 500 watts and stop assisting as pedalling stops or the speed reaches 32 km/h.

"People when they're buying their e-bike, if they want to use them on some trails in Alberta Parks and Kananaskis, keep a lookout for the type of bike they're buying," said Roycroft.

"Make sure that they fall within that scope."

Where to e-bike

Signs have been put up indicating where pedal-assisted e-bikes can now travel in the Kananaskis region, and there is a full list on the Alberta Parks website.

The list of approved routes includes the commuter pathway system in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park near Cochrane, a number of trails around Kananaskis Village and the Legacy Trail in Canmore that extends to Banff and toward the Nordic Centre.

"One of the reasons we identified and chose the trails we did was because these trails are actually more focused on front-country and mid-country areas," said Roycroft.

"We're not, at this stage, piloting trails that get out really into the backcountry and wilderness."

He says the trails were chosen because they would have the least impact on public safety and wildlife.

Conservation officers can ticket people if they venture off the designated trails, but Roycroft says the focus right now is on educating people about where they can and can't go and gathering data for review of the pilot project next October.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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