Eric Lendrum has heard the discussion over whether or not e-bikes should be allowed on the Warren County Bikeway.
Lendrum, co-owner of Rick’s Bike Shop in Queensbury with his brother Jared, sells Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes.
A pilot program allowing Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on the Warren County Bikeway has been discussed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors, but Class 3 would be left out.
Class 1 e-bikes use a battery and electric motor to provide pedal assistance at speeds up to 20 mph.
Class 2 e-bikes work the same way as Class 1 e-bikes, but also have the ability to go at speeds up to 20 mph without the rider pedaling.
Class 3 e-bikes are more powerful than those in Class 1. Class 3 e-bikes provide pedal assist at speeds up to 28 mph, which makes it easier for commuters to get to where they need to go without putting in much of a workout.
Lendrum said he believes the confusion surrounding the e-bike discussion comes from what people think of when they hear the term.
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Rick’s Bike Shop, along with other bike shops in the region like Grey Ghost Bicycles and Inside Edge, sells e-bikes that are pedal-assisted bicycles.
“They are a bicycle first with an electric drive full of software and sensors and things that emulate your rider input to ground output,” Lendrum said. “It’s an extension of you.”
He said that the people making the most noise about not wanting e-bikes on the bike trail have never ridden one.
He equated it to “armchair quarterbacking,” a term used to describe someone with a lot of thoughts and opinions on a topic but having no experience in what they are talking about.
“It’s one of those things. I don’t know how much of an opinion someone should have until they themselves have ridden one, or really spoken to somebody whose made the leap into the investment,” Lendrum said.
Brian Usher, mechanic and sales associate at Grey Ghost Bicycles in Glens Falls, said he thinks that generally e-bikes are a great idea.
Except for when it comes to Class 2 e-bikes.
“We are all for e-bikes. As long as they are pedal-assist and not throttle,” Usher said.
E-bikes classified as Class 2 can work the same as Class 1 e-bikes in that they can pedal-assist up to 20 mph when the rider is pedaling. But they also come with a throttle, which can go up to 20 mph without the rider pedaling.
“You can take what is essentially a moped and ride it on a bike trail where you shouldn’t be able to,” Usher said.
Lendrum, who also equated Class 2 e-bikes to a moped, said some people may be concerned about the speed itself, but he feels that the main issue deals with proper trail etiquette.
He said he feels there are some people who don’t like to be passed by people on bikes, or who don’t follow trail etiquette themselves.
Usher said that people like himself, who consider themselves cyclists, don’t go on the bike trail if they are training or planning on riding at excessive speeds.
“It’s unsafe to go that fast on the bike trail. That’s our kind of concern with e-bikes on the bike trail — is people abusing it, using throttle-based bikes,” he said.
Lendrum brought up the possibility of adding a painted line in the middle of the trail.
“I believe 90% of the griping issues over the bike path are not as relevant to speed as they are spacing,” Lendrum said. “And you can solve it with $1,000 worth of paint.”
The price of e-bikes can start out at roughly $2,000 and be as expensive as $12,000, Usher said.
A majority of e-bikes sold at Grey Ghost Bicycles are considered “entry-level hybrid” bikes. Usher said the e-bikes in his store cost between about $2,000 and $2,800.
“We sell them to people who just want to get out there and enjoy riding bikes that, for some reason, they can’t keep up with their significant other or they want to go farther than their health or their age or whatever condition allows them to,” Usher said.
While some may find the price to be steep, there are financing options. Usher pointed out that people can look into financing options through the manufacturer of the e-bike, not the shops.
Jessica Spear, manager at Inside Edge in Glens Falls, said that this is the second summer the store has carried e-bikes.
She said the store sold its first two e-bikes this year, but she has noticed the trend gaining traction.
Inside Edge carries a higher-end brand that costs in the range of $2,900 to $3,900, she said.
“I know that there are big differences between different companies of how fast they actually go,” she said. “That is something that we are trying to get used to with everything that we sell here, is to try it and see exactly how much oomph it has.”
Spear said she understands people who own e-bikes wanting to use them on the bike trail.
But she feels that if someone isn’t used to an e-bike or hasn’t had the proper training, it could produce a safety hazard for others using the trail.
“It can be, I think, a little bit dangerous for them. Just because there’s no license required for the e-bikes, so people don’t have any necessary training for it, and it can get away from you,” she said.
Dennis Dickinson, Lake George town supervisor, said that he, along with his wife and two adult children, own e-bikes.
He said the only thing he feels should be done prior to e-bikes being allowed on the Bikeway is the addition of signage.
“There are some places, especially down in the Queensbury, Glens Falls area where there is a lot of pedestrians,” Dickinson said. “I don’t object to them being there, but they have to realize that they’re on a bike path and they have to be careful.”
Pilot program on hold
Conversations surrounding the allowance of e-bikes on the Warren County Bikeway have been ongoing since the fall.
The bike trail is a multi-use trail where people walk, ride bikes and even Rollerblade.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors tabled a resolution at its last meeting on April 14 that would have approved a pilot program allowing Class 1 and 2 e-bikes on the Bikeway for six months.
Those conversations have been put on hold so that the agencies involved have time to analyze the laws and rules surrounding e-bikes further.
Queensbury Town Supervisor John Strough, a member of the county Public Works committee, said that the rules and state laws surrounding e-bikes need to be looked at before the topic can be brought back to the Board of Supervisors.
“New York state has made a lot of rules and laws as far as e-bikes go, and they’re about as clear as mud,” he said.
One state law that will be a hurdle to get over has to do with where e-bikes are currently permitted. According to the law, e-bikes are not allowed on any municipal road with a speed limit above 30 mph.
That means that e-bikes aren’t allowed on most roads in Queensbury, according to Strough, including Country Club and Blind Rock roads, which are a part of the Bikeway.
“If you’re going to allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes to use the Bikeway, then you’re going to have to authorize their use on those two roads at least,” Strough said.
There is confusion surrounding the language of this law. It is unclear if the authorization falls on the individual town’s lap or Warren County’s.
Ryan Moore, the county administrator, said that this is the major issue the agencies involved are looking at.
“The attorneys for both t
he county and the town (of Queensbury) are looking into how we address that,” he said.
Moore said that if the attorneys find that the towns are responsible for the authorization of e-bikes, then those municipalities will have to bring a local law forward to make that happen.
Strough said he would have no problem allowing e-bikes on those roads, or anywhere else you’d find standard bicycles. He said he spoke to the town attorney about creating a resolution reflecting that sentiment.
“I don’t know how they are going to word it, but this is how I worded it to them: All Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes will be allowed in the town of Queensbury anywhere and everywhere bicycles are allowed,” he said.
The bike trail runs from Glens Falls to Lake George. Strough said that if it is decided that each individual town is responsible with authorizing e-bikes on their roads, then Lake George and Glens Falls will have follow suit.
Dickinson, who is also a member of the county Public Works Committee, said he is totally in favor of allowing e-bikes on the trail and in town.
He said there are a lot of senior citizens in Lake George that use the bike trail. Dickinson noted that there is a steep hill that would be easier to manage on an e-bike.
Moore said there should be an answer one way or the other by the county’s next cycle of committee meetings within the month.
Embracing e-bike culture
Lendrum, of Rick’s Bike Shop, said that Warren County should “embrace the e-bike culture.”
He said he has heard concerns about having e-bikes on the trail. He said some were concerned about a family of four being on the trail and having someone pass them going 20 mph.
“But that’s not faster than the guy on his carbon road bike doing a workout,” Lendrum said.
He, alongside his brother Jared, bought Rick’s Bike Shop from Rick Chiasson a year ago last Wednesday. Lendrum said that Chiasson was an embracer of e-bikes.
Chiasson is an avid biker. As he got older he started taking shorter bike rides, according to Lendrum.
He said that a decade ago, Chiasson was on the e-bike hype train.
Lendrum said he started to see what Chiasson saw, that e-bikes allow people to do something that they may not have been able to previously.
The emergence of e-bikes has made bike riding a viable option for a wider range of age groups, Lendrum said.
Now people with health concerns can ride longer without exerting as much energy. The spouse of a triathlete who hasn’t been able to train nearly as much can now keep up, he said.
He described an e-bike as a normal bike with a prosthesis.
“We love bike culture,” Lendrum said of himself and his brother. “I did it because bikes make me feel better about myself.”
Lendrum pointed out that the positives from allowing e-bikes, in his eyes, outweigh the negatives.
If someone is out more than they would have been previously, thanks to an e-bike, they are more likely to spend their money on local businesses, he said.
Lendrum said he doesn’t rely on using an e-bike yet, but he does own one. When he doesn’t plan on using it, he loans it out to friends and others for them to try it for themselves.
Lendrum and his brother also own North Country Subaru. Lendrum said that a year ago he had to travel between the car and bike businesses, and he decided to test out one of the shop’s e-bikes.
He was able to make the 1-mile bike ride to the car dealership faster than he could in a car.
“I felt good about it. I wasn’t profusely sweating. Yes, it took the intensity of the ride away, but my heart rate was elevated, I felt warm. It felt like it was a warm-up to a workout, but without the workout,” Lendrum said. “All I did was use a little bit of electricity from plugging it into the wall.”
Jay Mullen is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls, Warren County and crime and courts. You can reach him at 518-742-3224 or [email protected]