Prediction: Bike trail war in our future

eneloop bicycle
eneloop bicycle

Among the many snazzy gizmos unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show was a new electric-assist bicycle, the $2,300 Eneloop Hybrid.

The bike features a lithium-ion battery that, when engaged, can take a rider up to 46 miles on a single charge, and recharges as the rider brakes. In Auto mode, it recognizes when the rider is going uphill and delivers more power to compensate for it.

This and other electric-assist bicycles promise to bring the possibility of 2-wheeled commuting to a much wider population of couch potatoes. It also poses a threat to the fast-growing American network of bike paths and trails.

When federal funds are used to build a trail, electric bikes are not permitted unless state or local authorities permit it. Most states don't bother to define an electric-assist bike or put limits to their usage, and most don't require a license to operate.