Position of the Club Arc Alpin (CAA)

The demand for electric bicycles and bicycles with electric support pedelec and their supply is constantly growing. This trend takes place independently of the views of mountaineering organizations, but requires their engagement. Most of the mountaineering organizations involved in the CAA have adopted views on mountain biking as a mountain sport and have developed guidelines, brochures and training courses addressing its sporting, environmental and socio-cultural aspects. Organizations still sometimes participate in regional and interregional mountain biking programs. However, electric bicycles and bicycles with electric support still play a minor or no role. Therefore, the following CAA principles should be understood as a broadly superior position.

Definition and delimitation

Bicycles with electric motors are usually divided into bicycles with electric support pedelec and electric bicycles:

  • With a classic bike with electric support, the engine only helps the rider while pedaling. In legal matters, electrically assisted bicycles are equivalent to bicycles and can be ridden without an insurance sticker or driver’s license if the electric motor does not provide more than 250 W of continuous output power and switches off automatically at speeds above 25 km / h.
  • Stronger bikes with electric support provide more assistance while pedaling, while electric bikes can also be ridden completely without pedaling. Both types of bikes require an insurance sticker, are equated with motor traffic and are not legally licensed to ride on hiking and biking trails!

However, it should be noted that in practice, the terms “electrically assisted bicycle” and “electric bicycle” are often used interchangeably without a clear distinction in meaning. The following statements apply only to classic electrically supported bicycles, commonly referred to as electric bicycles or electric mountain bikes (E-MTB).

The basic position of organizations in the CAA

The CAA advocates its own physical movement and does not support riding in the mountains with electric bikes and reinforced bikes with electric support (> 250 W continuous output power, assistance at speeds> 25 km / h).

According to the CAA, however, the use of a classic bike with electric support does not contradict the principle of movement with its own physical strength. Therefore, the CAA supports mountain biking with classic electrically supported bicycles, as this opens up new opportunities for participation in mountain sports. Whether electric-assisted bicycles are used solely for mountain biking, as an alternative means of accessing other mountain activities, as a heterogeneous group bike, or as a means of transport for everyday needs – using these bikes makes the mountain biking experience more accessible. Nevertheless, associations in the CAA have taken a very critical view of the increase in the use of electric-assisted bicycles in the Alpine terrain.

In particular, the increase in the number of users of these bicycles and the wide range of their use suggest that both environmental and socio-cultural conflicts may arise and intensify. When it comes to the use of electric-assisted bicycles in the mountains, there is therefore an urgent need for training on aspects related to nature and the environment, control, scale and hazards, as well as basic riding techniques for beginners.

CAA recommendations Mountain biking – safe and tolerant, adopted in 2012, in principle also applies to bicycles with electric support.

Mountain sports and electrically supported bicycles

On the one hand, the additional help of an electric motor during (mountain) cycling also offers the opportunity to participate in mountain sports to people who are less inclined to this activity or are less physically capable of it; however, this option is also increasingly used by skilled and experienced mountain bikers, as it allows them to reach more distant and / or demanding destinations with less physical effort. This means that with a combination of activities on the way, participants can save energy for the mountaineering or ski tour that follows, which allows this phase of the activity to be carried out more safely. In addition, electrically supported bicycles allow people with very different physical abilities to go on joint cycling tours, as the support of the electric motor balances the differences between the participants. On the other hand, increased range and the ability to access higher, more mountainous destinations through electrically supported mountain bikes requires an in-depth understanding of riding techniques and associated risks. Mountaineering organizations therefore recommend appropriate preventive measures.

Alpine infrastructure and bicycles with electric support

The legal provisions governing the use of cycling routes and mountain bikes in general, and electrically supported bicycles in particular, vary considerably between Alpine countries. When it comes to the permitted use of trails in each country or region, organizations within the CAA are generally committed to respectful and thoughtful sharing by hikers and mountain bikers, including electrically supported cyclists, on exclusively designated trails. Pedestrians always have an advantage. In any case, this must be respected, especially if cyclists are prohibited from using the route by law, or the owner of the land or the administrator of the route has not given consent for the use. The increasing use of electrically supported bicycles can lead to potential conflicts in certain cases due to the greater number and speed of cyclists, especially when riding uphill. The CAA’s response to this generally includes calls for tolerance of others, respect, personal responsibility, and the resolution of individual cases and the differentiation of interventions instead of general prohibitions. Intervention measures must be developed together. This requires clear markings on maps, in the literature and when marking routes.

Huts belonging to mountaineering organizations are often a popular destination for mountain bikers. For some huts, the increase in the use of electrically supported bicycles offers new opportunities. Users of these bikes, however, can expect charging stations only in huts where there is enough energy from renewable sources.

Nature conservation, environmental protection and bicycles with electric support

From the point of view of preserving and protecting the environment, the CAA Association for Classic Bicycles with Electric Support provides the same recommendations as for mountain biking in general:

Make a special effort to prevent erosion damage by using only appropriate and approved routes and driving with appropriate driving techniques and adjusted speed. Above all, it depends on whether it is acceptable for landowners and caretakers to ride a mountain bike along the way.

  • Respect plant and animal habitats.
  • Respect wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn.
  • Do not drive off-road.
  • Observe existing restrictions on the preservation and protection of the environment.
  • Do not leave traces or debris behind.
  • Be environmentally friendly while driving to your destination.

The increase in the number of users of electrically supported bicycles, some of whom do not yet have much experience, and the simultaneous expansion of their travel range to more Alpine regions increase the pressure on the landscape and the natural environment in these areas. Mountaineering organizations can counter this by developing comprehensive training measures and awareness campaigns, but expect users to be alerted and educated by other related organizations as well.

Hiking and bikes with electric support

In many places, tourism organizations are working to expand their offer for mountain bikers, and are also targeting users of electrically supported bicycles. For example, cable cars are used more often, and bicycle parking lots are being built. Cycling tourism – with or without electric wind in the back – can become a steady financial inflow for Alpine communities throughout the year. Based on their experience, mountaineering organizations can confirm that active and polite intervention is an effective tool to prevent conflicts and problems that may arise due to the use of trails by different users. At the same time, the CAA requires the participation of all stakeholders, such as tourism organizations, local authorities, cable car operators, landowners, route managers, environmental organizations and sports associations in cooperation with the local cycling community, in order to develop appropriate services. for the specific situation at each location.

Approved at the CAA General Assembly on 16 September 2017 in Malbun, Liechtenstein.