E-bikes and elections

Luke Mehall - 10/29/2020

Well, here we are again, on the cusp of an important election, and I have a column to write. Before I dive in, I want to give a shout out to my friend and writer Jennaye Derge, who covered my space last month. I was going through some writer’s block, and though I don’t actually believe in writer’s block, I had it for a hot minute. 

I could write about not writing, and not believing in writer’s block, but there’s more pressing business to attend to: e-bikes and elections. 

Let’s start with the easy one: e-bikes. Now I’m going to talk some shit here, but let me start off with saying I think that e-bikes are amazing. I had the opportunity to take a quick spin on one at Second Ave. Sports when I was shopping for a new mountain bike last year, and they seem super fun, as well as being efficient. 

Recently I found out that e-bikes would be allowed for a trial period at the local Twin Buttes trails. This piqued my attention because my fiancée and I recently bought a home in Twin Buttes, and thus I’ve found myself enjoying these trails on my bike, and also for some dog walks. 

My gut instinct was that allowing bikes on our town trail systems was a bad idea. I imagined climbing up a hill, putting in everything I had, and then getting passed by an e-bike rider who just had to push a button. And guess what, last week that exact thing happened to me. 

Now as anyone who regularly reads my work knows, I am a climber who bikes. I am infatuated with mountain biking and in love with rock climbing. But one thing I love about biking around here is most everyone gets the simple rules of mountain biking. If someone is climbing up a hill and you’re going down you move over and let that rider climb up; and then you communicate how many other riders are in your group. A similar rule applies when you’re climbing up a hill and you want to pass that person. You communicate with each other and the slower rider moves over for a second and lets the stronger rider go by. 

This system has worked for decades, but now all of a sudden we are going to allow bikes with motors on these trails? 

When I had my e-bike incident last week, the rider passed me without warning and proceeded to ride off trail over some delicate vegetation. Then, a minute later, he turned around and went back down the same trail had just ridden up. Twenty minutes later, as I was finishing the climb, I looked up to see the e-biker speeding down the trail in the opposite direction. I stopped him and said, “hey man, just so you know these are directional trails up here,” to which he replied, “It’s just recommended, right? I’ll be careful,” and then sped away.

I know I’m not the only one having odd interactions like these on our local trails. Amber, my fiancée, had an incident where an e-bike rolled right up behind her as she started, and then rudely passed her off trail; the rider obviously unaware of mountain biker etiquette. 

On the flip side, I know some experienced bikers who have e-bikes and absolutely love them. But, they are taking their e-bikes on trails and roads that allow motorized recreation. And that’s what these bikes are: motorized vehicles. Allowing them on our town trails is a huge mistake, and quite frankly it gives an advantage to bikers who don’t have the fitness or the skills. I will add that I could see the validity to allow riders with a physical disability to use some sort of electronic assist, as I know that community is quite active and impressive with how they have adapted to continue biking, even after major injuries. 

It seems like overall humans are, at this stage in our evolution at a point where we allow the free use of technology before we truly know the ramifications. Allowing e-bikes on town trails seems to be the equivalent of giving a 10-year-old an iPhone. Luckily this is just a trial period and the City of Durango Recreation Department is accepting feedback, which you can send to rec@durangogov.org. 

Now that I’m over the writer’s block, let me write a few words on the election. (By the way the reason I say I don’t believe in writer’s block is because there is always a reason for it, and the cure is discovering that reason, and then clearing and cleaning out the mind however the individual writer does so.) 

Overall, I feel our system is broken in so many ways, and both parties are to blame. And why the f*** our president is elected by the electoral college outcome versus the popular vote is arcane. (So, you bet I voted “yes” on Proposition 113.) Another example of our broken system is the fact that Congress has not enacted more stimulus funds for struggling Americans and small businesses. 

Lately it seems like we are a country with two different gangs, and we have to pledge allegiance to one or the other. But just as Trump disrupted the system in 2016, I have confidence another, and better disruption is around the corner. Andrew Yang is my personal favorite politician these days, and his universal basic income doesn’t sound so crazy now after seven months of COVID. 

Though I am a news junkie and usually spend election night watching the results roll in, this year – if the weather allows – I’m going to disconnect and camp at my favorite site in Bears Ears National Monument, where there is no cell service. I have already voted – shout out to how easy and efficient Colorado makes it – and I am encouraging others to as well. By next Wednesday, I’ll find out; hopeful for a new day and a fresh start, but mentally prepared for four more years of political choss and chaos.

– Luke Mehall


Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine, author of five books, and host of the Dirtbag State of Mind podcast. You can find more of his work at climbingzine.com. 

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