Vernon News

Advocate cries 'discrimination' for Okanagan Rail Trail e-bike ban

A senior e-biker on the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Shelia Fraser

An e-bike advocate says the Regional District of North Okanagan's ban on certain e-bikes discriminates against a large proportion of the population.

E-bike store owner Shelia Fraser told the recent ban on certain types of e-bikes from parts of the Okanagan Rail Trail has prevented many seniors and others less abled from accessing the trail.

"They have really discriminated against a large portion of the Okanagan population," Fraser said. "I have an 85-year-old customer who rides an e-bike and he says they've taken away his ability to ride the bike on the Okanagan trail."

READ MORE: Completion of Okanagan Rail Trail's missing link finally in sight

The controversy erupted this spring when signs appeared along the trail advising trail users that Class 2 and 3 e-bikes were prohibited from the section of the rail trail under the regional district's jurisdiction. It runs from Coldstream to roughly the Crystal Waters subdivision, about five kilometres north of Oyama.

The bylaw was passed in July 2021 and replicated rules implemented by B.C. Parks in 2019. The regional district said the bylaw was introduced after it received complaints. To date, no one had been issued a $200 fine.

The bylaw outlaws Class 2 e-bikes which have a throttle as well as a pedal-assist function but allows Class 1 e-bikes which just have the pedal-assist mode.

However, Fraser said many e-bike riders need the throttle function.

READ MORE: Petition launched against Okanagan Rail Trail e-bike ban

"The throttle was intended to be an assistance tool just to assist a rider from a dead stop or a fatigued rider when they are on a long haul," Fraser said. "I had a customer with a heart condition that can't pedal the whole distance of the trail yet (but) he loves to go out there with his wife and he needs his throttle to be able to do that."

Fraser owns e-bike store Pedego Oyama and says the ban hasn't affected her bottom line. The brand she sells, Pedego, allows the throttle to be disabled, making the e-bikes legal on the rail trail.

She has, however, reduced the speed limit on her rental fleet from 32 km/h to 20 km/h.

Although Fraser's not sure that putting a speed limit on the trail is the answer as it's not yet clear what the nature of the complaints were that brought about the ban.

"Why would you put up a speed limit if speed is not the issue, it's kind of the cart before the horse," she said.

Fraser is making a presentation to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, June 1, to lobby against the e-bike ban.

READ MORE: Complaints from users behind new Okanagan Rail Trail e-bike restriction signage

And it appears she has the public's support behind her.

A recent online petition to allow Class 2 e-bikes on the rail trail has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chair Akbal Mund said it was "definitely" worth reviewing the bylaw and looking at consistency between the jurisdictions the rail rail runs through.

"As much as we've had vocal support from the one side of the issue we've also had many letters from people who support the ban of e-bikes on the trail," Mund said. "It's not a one-sided affair... you have to look at the use by everybody and make sure it's safe for everybody."

Fraser said the e-bike ban goes against what the rail trail is supposed to be.

"What the rail trail was meant to do was that it was to be a pathway that connected communities together... and it would be for all ages and all abilities, and by discriminating against Class 2 bikes you are discriminating against a large portion of our population and people that have more limited (ability)," she said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

LETTER: Appalled by Mayor Basran's treatment of council candidate
  OPINION Although it may be old news, I was appalled to see the story on Ron Cannan’s treatment at Colin Basran’s campaign launch party. I have been unable to forget what a negative signal this is sending o
Facebook/Gurdwara Guru Amardas Sikh Society wants to relocate to a larger site that will have an agricultural component.
New Kelowna Sikh temple looking to grow food for the needy
A relocated and expanded Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, will include gardens to feed the needy and train people going through difficult times. The Gurdwara Guru Amardas Sikh Society has applied to the City of Kelowna to rezone land near Benvouli
A vendor trims marijuana with scissors during the annual 4-20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Canada’s financial intelligence agency says a wide range of businesses – from food wholesalers to electronics repair services – have been used to disguise the proceeds of illicit cannabis operations.
Front companies being used to launder illicit cannabis cash: intelligence agency
OTTAWA - Canada’s financial intelligence agency says a wide range of businesses — from food wholesalers to electronics repair services — are being used to disguise the proceeds of illicit cannabis operations. In a new oper
Artist rendering of proposed housing development on the Ponderosa Lands in upper Peachland.
Peachland golf course project comes with hundreds of homes
More than a decade after first being approved, work is expected to start next year on a new golf course and up to 500 homes on what’s known as the Ponderosa lands in upper Peachland. In 2011, a plan for those lands was approved by the

Top News