LENGGRIES, Germany (AFP) - Robert Werner and his wife Ursula usually take the time to greet hikers in a friendly way while driving their...

The electric bike's reproaches reverberate in the Bavarian Alps

LENGGRIES, Germany (AFP) - Robert Werner and his wife Ursula usually take the time to greet hikers in a friendly way while driving their electric bikes gently along the paths of the Bavarian Alps.

But most of the time, your greetings are frowning.

"The first thing they look at when they see us is our bikes," says hotelkeeper Robert, 46, about his electric bike.

"If we have an engine, they respect us less."

While the Werners are convinced of the virtues of electric bicycles equipped with pedals, but also of an electric motor that can help the cyclist pedal to eat, the others are less enthusiastic about the new cycling revolution.

On their electric bike, the couple crosses in half an hour the rise of 800 meters to the top of the mountain of Herzogstand, without perspiring.

Many purists believe that the prowess of nature should be fueled by muesli bars, not the power grid, and consider the rise of assisted cycling as another high-tech intrusion into outdoor activities.

The presence of electric bicycles on alpine trails and mountain roads has become controversial.

Hikers' complaints have been published in the German media, often accusing electric bike enthusiasts of traveling on the roads, posing a risk of collision, while others highlight environmental concerns.

"E-bikes allow more people to access the trails", including those that had not been used much before, said Friedl Kroenauer, 59, of environmental group BUND Naturschutz.

"This causes soil erosion, for example."

Boom of two wheels

For Kroenauer, who has an impressive view of the highest peaks in Germany from his office, those who climb the mountains in the area with electric bikes are wrong.

"You have to win to reach the top of a mountain," he insisted. "You must feel that you have worked your muscles, you must be exhausted."

"The electric mountain bikes make this notion of effort disappear," added the amateur athlete, a fan of walking and traditional cycling.

Despite similar criticisms from other outdoor purists, more and more people in Germany and elsewhere are using electric mountain bikes to reach the heights.

In 2018, the Germans bought nearly a million electric bikes, including a quarter of mountain bikes, according to a report by the German bicycle industry association, ZIV.

German bicycle manufacturers such as Haibike, Cube and Prophete, as well as Bosch engine and battery manufacturer, benefited from the boom.

"The bicycle industry, and in particular the electric bike industry, is extremely important for Germany," said David Eisenberger, ZIV Communications Manager.

"This creates thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, in tourism, for example."

"Share the mountain better"

In Lenggries, a town of 9,000 inhabitants, which is an hour's drive south of Munich, the Werners opened a bike rental store a few months ago next to the hotel they drive. electric bikes.

"The demand is huge and the customers are very diverse," says Robert. "Everyone wants to try."

Lenggries now offers three charging stations for batteries of electric bicycles.

In an attempt to reduce conflicts with hikers, some Bavarian municipalities are planning to set up bicycle-only areas for both e-bikes and normal mountain bikes.

But Robert expresses doubts: "How would that be solved? It would be impossible."

"It's simply about sharing the mountain better by following certain rules to live together," he says, suggesting that hikers always have priority over cyclists.

A similar debate took place decades ago when conventional mountain bikes appeared in the Alps, he recalls. He added, shrugging his shoulders: "No one is complaining today."

0 coment�rios: