Pilot Program Allowing Electric Bikes, Scooters on Montgomery Trails Receives Mixed Reviews
Opponents stress pedestrian safety; supporters cite inclusiveness
E-bikes and e-scooters were approved for use on Montgomery County trails.
This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. Sept. 26, 2019, to correct references to the length of the pilot program.
A pilot program allowing electric bikes and scooters on county trails is receiving mixed reviews.
In May, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the six-month test program to allow electric bikes and scooters on hard-surface park trails throughout the county. The pilot began June 1 and will run through Dec. 1.
During the test, community members may submit comments and concerns to the Planning Board through an online forum. About 55 people had weighed in through mid-August.
Some commenters say the electric vehicles, which can travel up to 20 mph, are a danger to pedestrians, particularly children and the elderly.
“E-bikes and e-scooters can go incredibly fast and are not an appropriate mix with pedestrians and manual bikes on the relatively narrow trails (and sidewalks) in this area,” one anonymous commenter wrote.
Other commenters say the biggest problem arises when the bikes and scooters are not in use. They say the equipment is often left in the way of park amenities.
Others argue that the scooters and bikes are a great assistance to seniors or people with disabilities who otherwise may not be able to easily use the trails.
“I am in favor of e-bikes because I have arthritis and would like to enjoy my parks but cannot with a regular bike,” one comment wrote, emphasizing the importance of ensuring rules about how to navigate around pedestrians are clear and enforced.
Customers use a GPS cellphone app to locate the nearest e-bike or e-scooter. They renting them out through vendors such as LimeBike, which is currently supplying a program expanded this year to include North Bethesda.
Costs vary, but are typically around $1 to unlock the vehicle, with an additional fee of about 15 cents per minute of ride time. There are usually penalty fees for leaving the e-bike or e-scooter outside a defined operational zone.
Montgomery County Parks spokeswoman Melissa Chotiner said the department does not yet have data about how many people have used e-bikes and e-scooters on trails during the pilot. She also said the Parks Department has not compiled official data about any complaints or issues reported by community members.
The pilot program uses for the first time a law established in 2017 that allows the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission to test rules in one of the two counties it oversees.
Previously, any park regulations had to apply to both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, but the motorized e-bike and e-scooter proposal is the first to apply only to Montgomery.
The trails on which e-bikes and e-scooters are allowed are:
• Long Branch Trail
• Matthew Henson Trail
• Northwest Branch Trail
• Rock Creek Trail
• Sligo Creek Trail.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org