Trail officials approve rules for handicapped access

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Disabled people will be permitted to use low-powered electric bicycles on portions of the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail under new rules that were approved today.

The Regional Trail Corp. moved to comply with a federal mandate designed to make it easier for disabled people to use recreational trails. In addition to continuing to allow wheelchairs, the new rules permit electric bikes powered by no more than 250 watts, weighing less than 100 pounds, less than 36 inches wide with pedals that can be manually operated.

Those types of bikes generally are rated at a top speed of 15 mph, which is the limit on the trail.

Motorized vehicles with internal combustion engines or without manual pedaling capability will continue to be banned. That includes Segways, said Paul Wiegman, a board member of the Allegheny Trail Alliance who helped draft the new rules.

U.S. Justice Department regulations that took effect on Tuesday require trail managers to allow persons with disabilities to use all types of "power-driven mobility devices" -- defined essentially as anything with a motor that can be driven -- unless they have performed an assessment that concludes operating such equipment would pose a safety or environmental hazard.

Some trail advocates were worried that the regulations cleared the way for dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, golf carts and other equipment that would not be compatible with walkers and bicyclists.

The rules approved today apply to Connellsville to McKeesport portion of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Steel Valley Heritage Trail from McKeesport to Pittsburgh.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868.


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