BikePark Wales (BPW) have increased the cost of using the trails for Ebike riders. Over to Director Martin Astley to explain:
So, the day pass price is now £15 for an e-bike, and £8 for a regular rider. Uplift remains the same price for both at £30, as does a season ticket at £100. It’s just non-uplift day passes that have the increase, because people on e-bikes can effectively do self uplift, even in that hour the uplift drivers take off for lunch.
Because of that, BPW are saying an ebike rider can get up to a dozen runs in per day, compared to four or five for an average rider under their own power. In turn, they have to account for potential extra trail maintenance. It’s certainly been controversial, and there are a lot of objections in the comments across YouTube and Facebook, which are mainly people arguing four things, only one of which is valid.
1. “I am very fit. Did you know I happen to be a riding god?”
2. “This is a slippery slope.”
3. “This is unfair because [X]”
4. “This is disability discrimination.”
Taking them in order:
1. They can do the climb a dozen times in a day on a normal bike, because of their magnificent legs and impeccable fitness.
Good for them, most of us can’t. While all of us want to make the most of any opportunity to ride in such a place, considering the size of the climb most riders are going to be taking plenty of breaks. There’s also fatigue to think of – anyone who’s done a lot of bikepark riding knows it’s that last run of the day, when you’re tired but on a bit of a high, that you’re most likely to have a silly crash on.
2. Nitpicking about trail wear, rider weight, tyre compounds, comfort braking, or how hard a given rider rides.
Well at least this argument includes less showing off, but this is basically a slippery slope argument over how granular and specific BPW want to make their pricing. Trail erosion has always been a tricky and often hyperbolic debate, going right back to arguments over access in the 80’s and 90’s, so this is the point people either get the big sticks out for e-bikes or claim there’s no difference at all. Ultimately, BikePark Wales are dealing with averages for large numbers of riders, so have to settle on something that’s both practical and fair, and billing riders by weight or how hard they ride wouldn’t be.
3. It’s unfair because somewhere local to them only charges £2 a day for parking; what a rip off, it’s daylight robbery, huff, puff, &c.
Unlike BikePark Wales, that cheap local place probably doesn’t employ a team of full time dedicated trail builders sculpting new trails and features while maintaining and refurbishing old ones. There are trail centres that are cheaper or even free, but nowadays some of the older ones have whole areas that are just decaying. There’s a reason BikePark Wales doesn’t have slippery bits of log sticking out of eroded berms; that reason costs money and it’s not EvilGlobalCorp® shareholders.
Given the proportion of ebikes to regular bikes we see around, putting the day pass price up seems unlikely to be opportunistic profiteering on the part of BPW. Generally, outside of corporation towns with chairlifts, things like trail centres are not what people do to make a fortune. For example, just look at Lee quarry: putting commercial facilities in place hasn’t panned out, and with council funding cut, maintenance has effectively been handed over to the local rider community. People running a trail centre commercially might make a living and pay some staff, but they’re hardly the hot new investment bubble. Often, trail centres are things people go into because on some level they care about it.
4. It’s disability discrimination.
Despite opening up plenty of contention well outside the bounds of trail centres, this one holds water and is a serious issue BPW should consider. Arguments against it are, to put it politely, incorrect. If you’re the kind of person who complains about someone with a Blue Badge using a disabled parking space because they “don’t look disabled”, then you’re wrong and have a very poor understanding of disability, how it affects people’s daily lives, and how it can and cannot be obvious to others.
Of course, not everyone who turns up to BikePark Wales with an e-bike is disabled, and there’s a solution to that BPW should consider: Blue badge holders with e-bikes could get the regular price for a day pass. This isn’t without its flaws, as in the past decade it has become much harder for people to get one. Medical reasons people ride an e-bike also might not map 1:1 to reasons people can apply for a Blue Badge, but it’s definitely something BikePark Wales should consider and account for.
Overall, BikePark Wales will be subject to increased running costs because of e-bikes, and they’re working towards the right decisions. Theoretically, BPW are losing £22 per day on any rider with a day pass who’s equipped to race the uplift vans without totally exhausting themselves.
Arguments one and two above are only true in the case of some riders, but not all, and BikePark Wales have to deal with “all”. One pedal powered rider and one battery assisted rider aren’t really going to make much measurable difference to each other in a single day on the trails, but a few thousand of each kind of rider over a given number of days or weeks will be a very different story in terms of trail usage and maintenance.
We hope they consider and settle on a better solution for disabled riders, many of whom may only recently have had mountain biking opened up as an option at all by e-bikes, but we can see exactly why they’ve made the decisions they have so far.