As technology has progressed, e-bikes have become readily available and there has been an increased demand for their use on the Otago Central Rail Trail. As a result of feedback, DOC made a decision to review its position.
Mike Tubbs, the DOC Alexandra Conservation Services Manager, said, “This was not a decision DOC wished to make alone. DOC recognises that having stakeholders’ commitment to any change to the current position was critical to it being supported and implemented.”
The e-bike issue was discussed at a recent stakeholder meeting involving DOC, the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust, Otago Central Rail Trail Operators Group, Central Otago District Council, Tourism Central Otago and Otago Chamber of Commerce.
The unanimous feedback was to support a change to permit use of power-assisted cycles (not exceeding 300 watts) on the Otago Central Rail Trail by anyone, not just disabled persons.
DOC supports this change to the local policy and wishes to communicate this to stakeholders and the public.
The current Otago Conservation Strategy states that the Otago Central Rail Trail, “is intended to be used by walkers, ATB’s (all terrain bicycles) and horses. It is not intended to be used by motorised vehicles except for approved farming or departmental management purposes.”
A local Otago Central Rail Trail policy (2006) further defined that, “No powered devices providing mobility or mobility assistance to able bodied people will be permitted on the Otago Central Rail Trail, (with the exception of vehicles for management or approved farming purposes)”.
Therefore, unless ridden by a disabled person e-bikes were considered to be a motorised vehicle and therefore not permitted on the Otago Central Rail Trail. The previous position was arrived at as a result of consultation with Otago Central Rail Trail stakeholders at that time.
The NZ Transport Agency defines power-assisted cycles with a combined maximum power output not exceeding 300 watts as a cycle and not as a motor vehicle.