eBikes are good. As a car-alternative for commuting, they lessen congestion and reduce our carbon footprint. They allow less-fit riders to ride rail and cycle trails that would otherwise be too tough, long or steep. Experienced mountain bikers can knock off longer distances and future (lighter) eBikes offer a tantalising alternative to traditional up-lifts like buses and chairlifts. There is plenty to be excited about.
However the Department of Conservation (DOC) caught many off guard recently with their proposal to allow pedal-assist 300 watt eBikes on 33km of new shared-use track in Tongariro National Park. This may, or may not, be a good idea.
There is cause for general optimism, but also reason for caution.
National Parks are special places that require a more conservative management approach than other parts of the Conservation Estate. As a nascent activity it is premature to test the use of eBikes in National Parks. Following their own eBike Guidelines published back in 2015, DOC should trial them on appropriate front-country tracks first. Let’s then monitor the benefits, impacts and any management issues over say the next five years before considering whether or not to charge into National Parks.
Submissions to the Draft Plan close 29 May. Trail Fund NZ and Federated Mountain Clubs are submitting their opposition to the use of eBikes in National Parks until their impacts are better understood. Have your say at www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved.
Mountain biking on the Tukino Skifield access road. Photos: Gary Perkin