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CRD park rangers, police to patrol regional trails on bikes this summer

Basic trail etiquette includes keeping to the right except to pass, controlling speed (especially on e-bikes), yielding to pedestrians, horse riders and farm equipment, and alerting other users when passing.

With a proliferation of e-bikes on Greater Victoria trails has come more worries about high speeds and safety.

The Galloping Goose, Lochside and E&N multi-use regional trails saw a combined 3.9 million visits in 2023, according to the Capital Regional District.

As corridors for both recreation and active ­transportation, the trails have potential for conflict, especially with increasing popularity, said CRD s­pokesman Andy Orr.

While most users adhere to basic trail etiquette, some do not, which can be intimidating to others, he said.

Basic trail etiquette includes keeping to the right except to pass, controlling speed (especially on e-bikes), yielding to pedestrians, horse riders and farm ­equipment, and alerting other users when passing, Orr said.

It means showing respect to other users and being kind, he said.

The CRD focuses on regional trail etiquette in its annual Cruise with Courtesy campaign, which runs from July to September and targets all users, ­reminding them to be courteous to others.

The campaign includes advertising, social-media posts and outreach by CRD park rangers, naturalists and bylaw officers who will be on trails in some of the busiest sections periodically this summer to provide information and education on proper trail etiquette.

CRD park ranger staff will partner with police to conduct joint bicycle patrols on the regional trails this summer, Orr said.

As the trails become more popular, speed limits are likely to be discussed when the regional trails management plan is revisited for an update in the next few years, he said.

E-bikes that meet the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act ­definition of a “motor-assisted cycle” are allowed on CRD regional trails and designated cycling trails in some regional parks. The act says an e-bike must have fully operable pedals and an electric motor with a ­maximum output, among other requirements. They ­cannot have a combustion engine.

There are no speed limits posted on trails, but ­electric bikes must not be able to exceed a power ­output of 500 watts.

“Cyclists may be stopped by CRD Park Rangers or bylaw officers if they are considered to be riding ­dangerously, which can include excessive speed,” he said

E-bikes have a legal maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour, beyond which the motor won’t assist a rider to go faster, said Alexandra Robertson, a sales employee at Victoria Electric Bikes.

“So if you’re going down a hill, you can get more speed just like a normal cyclist would, but you’re not going to be getting any assist,” she said.

While it’s possible for an individual to alter a bike’s motor after purchasing, it’s made intentionally difficult, and some brands are designed so the motor will destroy itself if tampered with, Robertson said.

The shop won’t work on any bike brought in that has had its top speed altered, she said.

People riding bikes that are able to go above the 32 km/h limit probably purchased them online, Robertson said.

“I feel like the direct-to-consumer is kind of like a Wild West of e-bikes right now. There’s just less ­liability for them. You can’t look them in the eye and be like: ‘Wow, there’s this crash because you sold a sketchy product,’ ” she said.

Videos online also claim to teach e-bike owners how to override the speed limitations of their bikes.

Victoria Electric Bikes does sometimes alter the motor to lower the maximum speed at the request of customers, Roberson said — usually newer riders who are just getting comfortable cycling.

The shop sees a lot of customers who used to ride but are getting older or have an injury and want to get back on a bike. Others are commuters who want to trade their cars for a bike, she said.

Robertson said Victoria Electric Bikes only sells bikes that require the rider to pedal, but there are bikes that exist in a grey area that don’t require any ­pedalling.

European bikes come with a 25 km/h limit that the shop can increase to the legal limit after a call to the manufacturer, Robertson said.

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