The Union Board of Aldermen has been discussing the use of electric bicycles in parks and elsewhere in the city.
There are, apparently, three classes of electric bikes, which have top speeds of between 20 and 28 mph. That sounds awfully fast for someone sharing a path with people walking their dog or kids riding a traditional bike.
I had recent experience with electric bikes and they did seem to be going too darn fast for a trail that is usually for nonelectric vehicles.
It all started when I saw something on Twitter about a “Zombie Trail” outside St. Louis, which sounded awesome. I looked online and found out more about the trail, which is near Wildwood.
Legend says the trail is haunted by an early settler who was struck and killed by a train on the trail. According to Terrain magazine’s website, the trail has been the site of strange incidents since the 1860s.
That sounded like something to see, so I headed to the trail, also called the Rock Hollow Trail, a few weeks ago on a day when the temperature was just above freezing.
Or I thought I was heading to the trail.
I misread the location and made the mistake of parking at the Meramec Greenway Trailhead, where the Al Foster Trail will take you to the Rock Hollow Trail — a whole mile away.
I brought our black lab mix Sirius, who is less than a year old and still a puppy, at least mentally. Physically, he weighs 80 pounds and is tough to control.
This was the longest walk I’ve taken Sirius on. Unfortunately, he has eaten multiple harnesses we’ve bought to allow him to be leashed from his back, so the only way to walk him is with the old-fashioned leash connecting to the collar, which is probably uncomfortable for Sirius and harder to control for me.
The mile walk didn’t seem that daunting, except when you consider how Sirius was dragging me around, which probably doubled (or more) the length of the walk.
Still, the Al Foster Trail was a nice walk, with large bluffs to my left and the Meramec River to my right.
The miniature tracks of the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad ran along much of the trail. I had not heard of this, but volunteers take people on 30-minute rides in small trains from May to October.
I saw people on traditional mountain bikes ride by. It brought to mind the recent “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where Larry David hit a bicyclist with his car, then questioned why people still need to ride real bikes with all the great exercise bikes that are now available.
Then I heard a buzzing noise from behind. It was an older man on what looked like a regular mountain bike, but was clearly electric based on how fast he was going and how little effort he seemed to be putting into it.
Usually, when a bicyclist zooms by, he or she will at least say “on your left” so I can make sure the dog doesn’t run right into their path. Electric bike guy didn’t say anything. He didn’t really need to because of the noise he was making, but it would seem to be a nice courtesy.
This was a very wide trail, so he didn’t get particularly close to Sirius and me. But I would not want to be walking a feisty dog on one of the eight-foot wide multi-use paths in Union’s Veterans Memorial Park or City Park and have an electric bike zoom by.
Thankfully, the electric biker passed before we got to the muddier part of the trail, where Sirius did everything he could trying to make me slip and fall.
Eventually, we came across a trail map, which showed the Zombie Trail to still be a ways off. A few feet later, Sirius made a large deposit, which, with no trash cans around, meant I was going to have to carry his bag around the rest of the walk.
So, I decided to turn around.
Just then, I noticed an older couple coming toward us from a couple hundred feet back. My left foot had been hurting for several weeks, so I was not walking my fastest.
But I was still a little taken aback by how quickly the older couple was gaining on us. It’s always awkward being passed, especially by people doing regular walking.
I’d hoped to be able to make it to the one bench we passed and let them pass while Sirius and I took a break. But, between my hurt foot and Sirius looking everywhere, that was too optimistic. The older couple passed us while I walked slowly though the muddy part of the trail.
“Puppy?” the man asked when he saw Sirius.
This was a tough question to answer, but I replied something like, “Pretty much.”
It was a rewarding feeling when we finally made it back to the car. Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to hike on the actual Zombie Trail.
But one thing I know is there are already enough things to give me anxiety on these trails. We really don’t need electric bikes to add to it.
So keep the electric bikes on the actual streets with the other motorized bikes, like motorcycles and scooters.