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Haleakala looks into electric bike policy

Public comment period open through Dec.6

Haleakala National Park is considering a new policy that would allow the use of electric bikes on all roads where traditional bicycles are currently permitted, park spokesperson Jin Prugsawan said Tuesday.

The National Park Service announced on Aug. 30 that it would allow low-speed e-bikes with the idea of increasing healthy recreational opportunities for visitors to the national parks and providing additional transportation options.

Parks across the U.S. are beginning to implement the e-bike policy, but Haleakala hasn’t yet. The Maui community will have 30 days to review and comment on the proposal for Haleakala; the period started Nov. 6 and ends Dec. 6, Prugsawan said.

“In Haleakala National Park, e-bikes will be allowed in all the locations regular bikes are allowed, so we do not foresee any major changes or impacts,” Prugsawan added.

Policy changes will be made in the Superintendent’s Compendium, a listing of public regulations for both the Summit and Kipahulu districts of the park.

The term “e-bike” refers to a two- or three-wheeled cycle with a battery-powered “assist” that boosts the rider while pedaling. The electric motor is only allowed up to 750 watts, or one horsepower, which does not apply to electric mopeds, scooters or motorcycles.

E-bikes would be prohibited from the same places where traditional bicycles are prohibited, except where the use of motor vehicles is allowed.

The proposal would include e-bike classes 1, 2 and 3. Type 1 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and stops providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. Type 2 has a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. Type 3 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and stops providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph, according to the National Park Service.

E-bikes offer a chance to ride for visitors who may be limited because of physical fitness, age, disability or convenience.

“You still can get a good workout in, but you can cover more distance,” said Donnie Arnoult, owner of Maui Cyclery in Paia. “You might be able to ride in places you haven’t ridden before because it will allow you to go up these hills that might have been difficult before, but now with the motor, you can adjust how much assistance you want. If you have a bunch of levels of fitness, now you can all ride together.”

Arnoult currently offers test rides for those interested in purchasing the e-bike, but does not offer rentals. However, he has noticed the overall growing demand for e-bikes for recreation and travel.

“It’s a nice advantage for people who want to ride who maybe have been slowing down or struggling to ride with their friends, and now they can just hop on this thing and be out there and be active,” he said. “They have definitely become popular to some degree. I have a lot of people coming into the store almost every day and asking me about them.”

The National Park Service’s adjusted policy also recognizes that e-bikes offer an alternative to gasoline or diesel-powered modes of transportation, which in turn can reduce harmful emissions. Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes can decrease traffic congestion, reduce the demand for vehicle parking spaces and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road.

“There’s definitely an interest,” Arnoult said. “The pricing point is still a little bit high, about $2,500 for a basic one – a hybrid with a motor on it – and they go up from there. The ones I sell, some are at $8,000 and those are the really nice ones with a motor and a battery on it.”

Whether the bike is a class 1, 2 or 3, a person operating an e-bike within federal national park lands is subject to the federal laws that apply to traditional bicycles (36 Code of Federal Regulations part 4), which state that “bicycles are prohibited on any designated or undesignated trail” as well as “from any off-road or off-trail travel.”

Using the electric motor to move an e-bike without pedaling will also be prohibited.

According to a Haleakala National Park press release last week, the park “will retain the right to limit, restrict or impose conditions of bicycle use and e-bike use in order to ensure visitor safety and resource protection.”

Aaron “Moose” Reichert, owner of Krank Cycles in Makawao, said that the proposal “sounds like a pretty fair policy” as it acknowledges the growth and popularity of e-bikes, and “hopefully it will set a precedence” on how e-bikes will be regulated.

“I think sales and rentals have gone up in the last three years and then the last ramp up has been in the last year and a half to two years,” Reichert said. “Especially in this last year, there have been more rentals on the tourism side requesting those.”

Reichert added that Krank Cycles has also partnered with some hotels and resorts on the west side and south side as the hospitality industry begins to offer e-bike rentals to guests.

“If those kinds of places are beginning to offer them as an amenity or as part of their concierge on premise, that just tells you the trend is swinging pretty widely,” he said.

While Krank Cycles is located Upcountry where mountain biking is more popular, Reichert said they started to rent class 1 e-bikes about two years ago.

“From a business standpoint, it’s just more people on bikes and you’re reaching a bigger audience,” he said. “What an e-bike does is that it gets people that wouldn’t normally ride a bike to ride a bike because part of that effort is taken out. . . . It’s a cool feeling, that’s why it’s spread really widely.”

For more information and to access the document available for public review, visit www.nps.gov/hale/learn/news/proposed-electric-bike-use-in-haleakala-national-park.htm.

Comments may be submitted by email to Linette_Makua@nps.gov with the subject line labeled “E-Bike Policy.” They will not be accepted via fax. Bulk comments in any format, hard copy or electronic, that are submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

Commenters who provide their personal address, phone number, email address or other personal information should be aware that their entire comment may be made publicly available at any time. They may request that their personal information be withheld from public review, but the National Park Service cannot guarantee it will be able to do so.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.