Are e-bikes allowed on trails?

E-bikes: what are you allowed to do and what is prohibited?

With e-bikes you can go on a (bicycle) holiday with an electric tailwind. But the motorized bikes are not desirable on all roads and paths in holiday resorts. It is often said: No passage through!

Cycling is all the rage. E-biking is even more hip. There is no region that does not adorn itself with the fact that it offers electric bikes for hire. Lots of events on the subject of e-bikes take place - especially in the mountains. But there are also problems with electric bikes that make it possible to "drive up the mountain with a smile," as Claus Fleischer from Bosch eBike-Systems explains. We provide answers to some important questions.

Why are e-mountain bikes needed in the mountains?

For Norman Bielig, a member of the teaching team at the German Alpine Club, the E-Mountainbike (E-MTB for short) is an essential further development of the muscle mountain bike - comparable to the technological leap from a rotary dial to a smartphone. Boosting the engine on bikes ensures easy entry into sport, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is good for your health.

Another aspect is environmental friendliness, as Monika Echtermeyer from the movelo Allgäu-Schwaben bike rental company emphasizes. Many car journeys could be replaced by switching to e-bikes. This is an argument that the Zweirad-Industrieverband (ZIV) also likes to bring into the race.

What is an e-bike?

The definitions diverge. The Alpine Club, for example, only understands e-bikes to be pedelecs (Pedal Electric Cycles), i.e. bikes in which the driver is only supported by the electric drive when he is pedaling himself - and only up to a speed of 25 kilometers per hour. However, there are also the fast pedelecs in which the motor assistance is only switched off at a speed of 45 kilometers per hour.

According to the ZIV, these S-Pedelecs need an insurance license plate. Helmets are compulsory for the driver, who must have an AM driving license. And then there are "e-bikes in the narrower sense", comparable to an electric moped, which can be driven with the help of the electric drive using a twist grip or a switch without pedaling, according to the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC ). David Eisenberger from the ZIV points out, however, that such e-bikes with a throttle grip are rare.

In Ellmau am Wilden Kaiser there are good conditions for a tour with the e-bike. (Source: Armin Herb / SRT)

What is an electric bike allowed to do?

Normal pedelecs are allowed to use cycle paths and designated trails in the mountains. In Austria, the Alpine Club even builds its own trails for these electric bikes, which are marked according to their degree of difficulty, explains Paco Wrolich, bike coordinator for Kärnten Werbung and a multiple Tour de France participant. Blue for easy, red for medium and black for difficult trails.

On which routes are S-Pedelecs prohibited?

S-Pedelecs are classified as light motorcycles under traffic law. Many of the routes and shortcuts common by bicycle are not allowed to be used with the fast e-bike, quoted the ADFC lawyer Franziska Klöpf from the traffic advisor bikeright: "These include one-way streets opened in the opposite direction and also field and forest paths with the 'passage prohibited' - Sign." Even with the engine switched off, the fast bikes should not be ridden there - and generally not on cycle paths.

For ZIV man Eisenberger this is a nuisance. In his opinion, municipalities should be able to allow S-Pedelecs on cycle paths at least outside the cities - possibly with a speed limit. Because S-Pedelec drivers are extremely at risk on country roads because they are not identified as fast road users by drivers. In the mountains, the DAV fundamentally rejects e-mountain bikes with a powerful engine, emphasizes Vice President Roland Stierle. However, you have no influence on downhill trails in the area of ​​ski slopes.

The Stampfangerkapelle in Söll am Wilden Kaiser, where masses have been celebrated since 1674. (Source: Armin Herb / SRT)

Can you also tune a normal pedelec?

David Eisenberger from the ZIV warns against such interventions, with which one makes oneself a criminal offense. The chip set required for tuning may be sold. However, anyone who goes on the road with such an upgraded pedelec is fulfilling several criminal offenses and endangering themselves because the bikes are often not designed for higher speeds: "You turn a bicycle into a machine, and you are not allowed to do that just like that. "

How can collisions with hikers be avoided?

Accidents with mountain hikers can occur on narrow paths, especially in the mountains. Hans Peter Mair, Head of the Alpine Spatial Planning division at DAV, emphasizes that the DAV is a "trailblazer" in the mountains and also takes on the duty to ensure traffic safety for its routes. You see your responsibility to provide sensible concepts.

Route recommendations such as "environmentally friendly ski mountaineering" should also be considered. After all, it is important to "preserve the unique nature and access to it". For the Alpine Club, however, the following applies: "The hiker always has priority." ZIV man Eisenberger emphasizes: "We generally fight for a coexistence of the tourist participants." A bike booklet, which was presented at the Mountain Bike Tourism Forum in Oberstaufen at the beginning of June 2018, is intended to promote mutual consideration.

Bicycle tour near Chieming am Chiemsee. (Source: H.W. Rodrian / SRT)

What about the liability of landowners and alpine farmers, for example?

Much still seems uncertain. "For an urgently needed cycle path / mountain bike concept at the district, regional or state level, the questions of liability law must be clarified," says Monika Echtermeyer. Alpine farmers and property owners are unsettled by a case law that imposes liability and payment obligations on them and often refused to participate. "If rural districts and / or the state government were to make it clear by taking over insurance, as in Carinthia, that property owners do not have to fear any liability for marked cycle paths, round tables could actually work successfully and develop realistic, everyday concepts."

Why aren't there charging stations at all DAV huts?

The batteries last longer and longer. But e-bikes remain dependent on charging stations. Basically, every DAV hut keeper can decide for himself whether he would like to offer a charging station, says DAV Vice President Stierle: "Many members do not want that and neither do many innkeepers." The Alpine Club can only imagine charging stations where there is enough energy available on site (wind, water, photovoltaics).

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