(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Commercial e-bike tours conflict with current uses of the Pioneer Road

The road is a quiet place with diverse topography and scenery…

  • By Linda Kruger
  • Thursday, March 2, 2023 3:27pm
  • Opinion

My partner, Jeff Gnass, and I are frequent users of the Pioneer Road. We currently aren’t cross country skiers, but Jeff is an avid runner and I’m a dedicated daily walker. North Douglas is one of our favorite destinations and the Pioneer Road has become one of our top go-to places in the borough. We frequently share the road with dog walkers, other runners and walkers, bird watchers, the occasional mountain biker and others and enjoy not having to share the road with motorized vehicles, including e-bikes or tour groups. The road is a quiet place with diverse topography and scenery that makes it interesting for both walking and running. It is currently enjoyed by residents of all ages and the occasional visitor to town. There are few local trails as popular as this one that are not already impacted with commercial tour group use.

I’m requesting that the CBJ Assembly deny the permit application for commercial e-bike tours on the Pioneer Road. If approved, the permit being considered by the Assembly would open the road to commercial e-bike tours four times a day, six days a week from early spring into the fall. This level of commercial activity would effectively remove this road for local use six days a week for six months of the year. Just as the sky is blue, e-bikes are motorized vehicles. These are facts. E-bikes can go fast, especially downhill. We’ve had numerous encounters with e-bikes while running and walking on non-motorized use trails, where the riders appear to be unaware of the relatively fast speeds their e-bikes can achieve, and consequently are operating them on the verge of being out-of-control or are simply being reckless. E-bikes allow riders with very few bike riding skills — only developed by spending adequate time on a bicycle on a variety of terrains — to easily find themselves riding at higher speeds than expected, on unfamiliar terrain, and not be fully in control like they would be if riding a traditional, self-propelled bicycle on an urban bicycle trail.

In the past year we have almost been hit by e-bike riders on the Twin Lakes Trail and the Treadwell Mine Trails. People unfamiliar with riding e-bikes, and those who are careless about pedestrian users, can be dangerous to others. I anticipate more of these encounters with cruise ship visitors on bikes, many unfamiliar with riding bikes (as are many in the general population), let alone e-bikes.

I’ve tried to think of an appropriate analogy, and I think I’ve come up with one. This is like suggesting that commercial snow machine trips on the ski runs at Eaglecrest would be a good idea because CBJ could make a few dollars. I suggest the Assembly first consult with regular users of the road to better understand potential impact to their experiences, and the CBJ Law Department regarding the liability that CBJ would be assuming. From my vantage point the liability and impact to local user experiences outweighs any potential benefit the city might accrue.

Please join me in encouraging the Assembly to keep walkers and runners, bird watchers, mushroom gatherers, and others on the Pioneer Road safe while maintaining this space for local use by denying this permit for e-bike tours.

• From 1976-1989 Linda Kruger was an Alaska state park ranger and southeast regional manager. She retired in 2019 after 28 years as a social science researcher with the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station. She did research and advised the agency and local communities on recreation, tourism, climate change impacts, community resilience and adaptation and other topics. She has lived in Juneau 1983-89 and 2003-present. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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