Edmonton

Electric bikes set to hit the trails in Jasper National Park

Electric bikes will now be allowed to ride alongside hikers and horses on some of Jasper National Park's scenic trails.

Pedal assist e-bikes officially allowed on all trails and areas where bicycles are permitted

An electric bike rider tours the Valley of the Five Lakes trail in Jasper National Park on May 3, 2019. (Mike Mahoney)

Electric bikes will now be allowed to ride alongside hikers and horses on some of Jasper National Park's scenic trails.

As part of a pilot project rolling out this year, pedal-assist e-bikes will be permitted on all trails and areas where bicycles are permitted.

"I think it's a good idea for sure to suss out the legitimacy of e-bikes on trials," said Marc Vien, sales manager at Jasper Source for Sports, a sporting goods store that sells e-bikes.

"There's a lot of places in the national park that are accessible by bike but maybe not to the entire general public due to limitations on fitness, etc.," said Vien. "But those e-bikes allow people to get to those places easily."

Sherwood Park resident Marcie Leier, who has biked through the trails of Fryatt Valley, and other backcountry areas in Jasper, said the park is already one of the most accessible to experience Canada's Rocky Mountains.

Cyclist Ryan Leier biking along a trail in the Fryatt Valley. (Marcie Leier)

"We love Jasper the best because there is so much more access there for biking and for getting off the beaten path than there is in any other national park," said Leier.

"We have absolutely no concerns about sharing the trails with e-bikes. I've found most of the e-bikers to be on the older and more mature side. They are just trying to stay active doing what they love and continue to get to the places that they have been going to for years."

Any concerns she might have about e-bikes on the trails would be rider-dependent, she added.

"I've practically been run over or forced off of trails by people on regular bikes going for Strava times," she said. "I find it to be much more of a problem in the River Valley than in Jasper though."

According to Parks Canada, Jasper National Park saw a three per cent increase in attendance last season, from just over 2.3 million visitors in 2016-2017, to more than 2.4 million visitors in 2017-2018.

Despite locals and tourists hitting the trails from across Canada and around the world in increasing numbers, Vien said he doesn't believe that allowing e-bikes will have a negative impact on the natural environment.

Parks Canada confirmed the pilot project, but noted that only some pedal-assist e-bikes will be allowed on the trials, with restrictions on accelerators, and power assist features when travelling over 32 km/h.

A bike that has an accelerator is not a pedal assist e-bike; it may only be used on roads, not on trails, the new regulations state. A Parks Canada spokesperson was not available for comment about the pilot project.

A spokesperson for the Friends of Jasper National Park, a charity which promotes respect for the natural and cultural heritage of the area, said the issue of e-bikes on trails, is still being discussed with its members.

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).

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