E-Bikes may soon be allowed on Roanoke City Greenways following new state law

They’ve been a dirty word in some communities over the last few years, including Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va – Roanoke City Council will host a public hearing on Monday night for a proposed shakeup on the greenway.

Starting July 1, e-bikes are allowed on greenways by state law, unless local leaders have good enough reasons to prohibit them.

In the world of bikes, there’s a trend that’s impossible to ignore. Downshift bike shop owner Stephen Ambruzs said e-bikes are the future.

“A lot of people still don’t understand what e-bikes are and that is quite honestly part of the problem with their prohibition up until this point," Ambruzs said.

E-bikes have motors to give riders an extra boost. The most popular models only work while peddling, and max out at 20 miles per hour.

But they’re a dirty word of sorts in some communities, like is the case in Roanoke.

Michael Clark is the city parks and rec director. Buried on the city’s website you’ll find that e-bikes are banned from greenways. But, a new state law allows them by right unless local governments hold hearings and decide otherwise.

“Well what ultimately forced our hand was some legislation passed by the state," Clark said. “I like the approach that council has taken in soliciting citizen input because I am anxious to see what the general public has to say about it.”

The parks and recreation advisory board has recommended the city follow state law. On Monday night, council will take feedback and be on the clock to decide.

“From full prohibition to full allowance to partial allowances based on classes or types of trails, anything in between, there are so many different options that we could land on here," Clark said.

The opposition falls into two main camps, bicycle purists and those concerned with speed, which isn’t exclusive to e-bikes. Ambruzs hopes the city finally makes the greenways equitable for all.

“I think it’s a great position for Roanoke to be in right now to act as the leader in the cycling community, they have been given the opportunity to say that ebikes are welcome here and that we are truly a destination for people who are cycling enthusiasts,” Ambruzs said.

The plan pertains to e-bikes only, and that means electric scooters are still not allowed on the greenways.