Sean Kinlin: Integrate electric technology into system of rail trails

Published: 7/21/2019 1:26:43 PM

We appreciate Mr. Kahane’s concerns about the use of our local rail trail network (“Let’s rethink motorized vehicles on rail-trails,” June 29) and his interest in keeping the many trail users safe while they bike, walk and jog along its length.

The issue raised regarding the growing use of electric-assist vehicles on the trails, our city streets and sidewalks is an important one. However, apart from the experiment with the Pedal N’ Party bus in Easthampton, the conflict between the new e-vehicles and trail users has been minimal.

We are fortunate that the regional trail network already is governed by legal ordinances established by our towns, cities and state organizations, such as the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The majority of these regulations have established an upper limit of 20 mph for e-bikes, and even lower when used on the rail trails.

Northampton’s ordinance stipulates that the use of electric vehicles on the trail is limited to electric-assist bikes with operable pedals and cannot exceed 12 mph. To meet these regulations, the new, popular ValleyBike Share bikes that are pedal-assisted have a GPS-enabled governor that limits their speed on the rail trails to a maximum of approximately 12 mph. In comparison, most of the recreational bicyclists we meet on the trails are also riding in the range of 8-14 mph.

We cannot stop the dramatic growth of electric scooters, skateboards and bicycles in our communities. Rather, we need to accept these new technologies as clean alternatives to the many car trips taken by residents.

Let’s safely integrate these new e-technologies into our transportation system by providing clear guidance on where and how our neighbors use these on our streets, sidewalks and trails.

If this and other trail-related issues interest you, please consider learning more about the Friends of Northampton Trails at

Sean Kinlin


The writer is vice president of the Friends of the Northampton Trails.

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