On a recent stroll along the Pendleton River Walkway, we were nearly hit by an individual riding an electric bicycle traveling nearly 20 mph. I queried city hall on the issue of electric bicycles on the walkway, and perhaps because the walkway runs through her ward, Councilor Innes chose to respond.
The following was her reply, “I looked it up on Google. Rick could have done the same. It seems the answer depends on the size of the motor.” Though that really didn’t answer my question, and rather than take up any more of her valuable time, I left it at that.
This last week, on a stroll to check the progress of the latest goat pilgrimage along the Umatilla River, I noticed a sign at the Trailhead Park walkway entrance that clearly stated, “NO MOTOR VEHICLES.” Hmmm. That’s when I decided to take councilors' cue and see what Google, the state of Oregon, and the feds had to say on the subject. The volume of information was overwhelming and an answer to my question was just not that simple.
Oregon statute ORS 814.410(1)(e) states the following: “(1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if a person does any of the following ... (e) Operates an electrical assisted bicycle on a sidewalk.” It sounds pretty cut and dried until you consider state definitions of what constitutes a sidewalk, walkway, trail, or path, and even the difference between what the state and feds consider a motor vehicle. The state does make exceptions for handicapped riders to operate electric bicycles on state park trails where they would not otherwise be permitted, but a special license is required, and very few have been issued.
Definitions aside, it all boils down to safety, the same reason cars and pedestrians are separated. The state has left it up to the city to address the safety issue on their turf, and to date they have failed to do so.
Google knows almost everything; any student as well as Councilor Innes will tell you that. However, knowledge of the system is essential to get an intelligent answer to what seems like such a simple question: garbage in equals garbage out.