The Ben Franklin Bridge Trail had a problem you probably didn’t even know about: E-bikes were banned from the trail. ‘
This wasn’t necessarily a big issue (the DRPA police were aware of e-bikes on the trail, and were not actively enforcing the rule), but it was something we sought to change. And it was changed — the Delaware River Port Authority is currently undergoing a 45 day pilot assessing e-bikes on the Bridge walkway/trail and we are confident once it’s over, e-bikes will be allowed on the bridge permanently.
Last month, we requested a meeting with the DRPA after learning about a member of the public who inquired with DRPA Police as to whether the e-bikes were allowed on the bridge. Their response was e-bikes are not allowed as their rules specifically ban “motorized” vehicles. DRPA CEO John Hanson arranged the meeting with DRPA Police, and representatives from the DRPA Citizens Advisory Committee. Police Captain Ed Cobbs noted that they were aware e-bike and e-scooter riders were already using the bridge path.
On Monday July 12th, the Delaware River Port Authority initiated a pilot program to assess the allowance of e-Bikes and e-Scooters on the Ben Franklin Bridge Walkway. According to the press release, the pilot will last until August 25th. The 45-day trial period will allow the DRPA to monitor the activity of the e-bikes and e-scooters and note any adverse effects to the bridge’s walkway and other walkway users.
The same rules of the walkway will apply to both e-bikes and traditional bicycles with speed limits set at 15 mph. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians and use audible warnings. During the trial period, Class 1, pedal-assist only bikes, and Class 2, throttle-assisted bikes, will be permitted. Class 3 e-bikes (top speed 28mph), gas-powered motorized vehicles, skateboards, and hoverboards remain prohibited.
The e-bike revolution has been partially “charged” by the pandemic and greater affordability. In 2020 e-bike sales rose 145% and Indego bike share data shows that e-bikes are rented at three times the rate of their standard bicycles. Perhaps the biggest appeal of e-bikes is that they are enabling. I have friends and family, including my spouse, who were “never-evers” that have discovered the freedom of bicycling via e-bike. As for my 57-year-old self, my knees aren’t what they used to be, and so I have converted my trusty Breezer Uptown, which has made nearly 1,000 trips on the Ben Franklin Bridge as an e-bike.
The popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters is challenging trail managers everywhere. Like the Ben Franklin Bridge, most Circuit Trails have a rule that forbids motorized vehicles. In both states define class 1 and 2 e-bikes as bicycles (PA does not break down e-bikes by class) and therefore can go anywhere that standard bicycles can except where prohibited. We haven’t heard of any “crackdowns,” but we anticipate that some trail users and managers will resist the inclusion of e-bikes and other micro-mobility conveyances on Circuit Trails, perhaps not realizing that they are already there.