PENINSULA — Eddy’s Bike Shop owner Jimmy Ruggles rides an e-bike 45 miles each way to the Stow shop his grandfather started nearly 80 years ago.
"I can sit in traffic on 271 for an hour, or I can ride my bike,” said Ruggles, 45, of Chesterland.
Ruggles and other electric bicycle riders can now ride in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and all other national parks across the country.
The National Park Service announced the new nationwide e-bike policy last week for its national parks after the U.S. Department of the Interior handed down a requirement for all of its bureaus to create their own e-bike policies. Officials wanted to regulate the use of the two- or three-wheeled cycles with pedals and electric motors of less than 750 watts on federal land as they become more popular.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park was selected out of all the national parks as the site for the official announcement Thursday. Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rob Wallace in the Department of the Interior rode the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad — which has a 40-pound bike weight limit, so no e-bikes allowed — with other local and federal officials to the Peninsula Depot for the announcement.
Each national park is required to create its own local version of the national e-bike policy catered to its specific park within 30 days of last week’s announcement.
Spokesperson Pam Barnes said the park is still working out the details of what its local policy will look like. There will be an opportunity for public input in the process, she said. Visit nps.gov/subjects/biking/e-bikes.htm for frequently asked questions.
In the meantime, e-bike riders can ride in the national park wherever traditional bikes are already allowed, including the Towpath Trail and park roads. They’re not allowed where traditional bicycles are prohibited, including wilderness areas.
E-bike riders have to pedal when riding on trails or other bike paths in the national parks but can rely solely on the motor when riding on park roads also open to motor vehicles.
Wallace said benefits of e-bikes include making travel easier by allowing bicyclists to travel farther with less effort and expanding bicycling to more people who might otherwise might not be able to ride a bike because of physical fitness, age or disability.
They also offer the same benefits as traditional bicycles when it comes to helping the environment by offering an alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles, along with decreasing traffic congestion and reducing the demand for vehicle parking spaces.
Wallace said e-bikes allow people to "trade a steering wheel for handlebars.”
Cleveland Clinic Chief of Population Health Adam Myers and John Henderson, the executive director of Park Rx America, which encourages doctors to write prescriptions to visit parks and other natural areas, both said e-bikes will allow more people to get out into nature and improve their health.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Deputy Superintendent Lisa Petit said “it’s not by chance” the park was selected as the site for the announcement. The park was established as a recreation area in 1974 to create natural areas for recreation in metropolitan areas, like nearby Cleveland and Akron.
“This new policy for e-bikes helps Cuyahoga Valley National Park extend our reach even further, allowing a new tool for us to enhance the park experience for those of us with mobility challenges for whatever reason that might be,” she said.
Rick May, senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, acted as the master of ceremonies at Thursday’s event, which also featured several local bike shops that sell e-bikes for visitors to take a test drive.
Eddy’s Bike Shop, with four locations in Stow, Montrose, North Olmsted and Willoughby Hills, sells about 300 e-bikes total a year, a number that continues to grow since Eddy's started carrying them about five years ago, Ruggles said.
The battery-powered, rechargeable e-bikes cost anywhere from $1,500 up to $12,000, with a range of 40 to 140 miles before recharging.
Peter and Claudia Ulintz, both 61, of Broadview Heights each took their first ride on an e-bike Thursday from Michigan company Pedego Electric Bikes.
They’ve ridden traditional bikes for about 10 years and wanted to learn more about e-bikes.
“We're thinking as we get older, it becomes more difficult, some of the terrain that you ride, and we didn't want to be limited, so we thought we would see if this is an option for the future,” Peter said.
Both said the experience was “very different” from traditional bikes: the e-bike took off and didn’t require as much pedaling, the couple said.
But both said they’re considering getting e-bikes in the future so they can keep riding.
"There's so many trails that I'm interested in going on. I'm like, I can't do that," Claudia Ulintz said. "So to me, it's opening up all these new doors and opportunities.”
Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.