The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

Herrera- Beutler questions bike measure

 


Jaime Herrera Beutler is questioning a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to ban pedal-assist bicycles, which are frequently used by individuals with disabilities, on bicycle trails in federal forests. The issue was brought to her attention by a White Salmon resident with a degenerative muscular disease who was told by a Forest Service official that the Forest Service disregarded the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allowance for certain pedal assist bicycles on its bike trails.

Jaime sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last Wednesday, asking him to review the incident involving Ms. Bella Berlly of White Salmon, and to reverse its discriminatory prohibition on equipment that can help people with disabilities recreate in their national forests.

“A long-time athlete who has hiked and mountain biked extensively, Ms. Berlly now suffers from a degenerative muscular disease and no longer has the ability to access mountain bike trails without the use of a Class I E-Bike to assist her as she pedals.” Jaime wrote in her letter. 

“These bikes provide battery assistance only when being pedaled, and offer a valuable service to those who wish to access our national trails via mountain bike but need a small amount of assistance to be able to do so,” Jaime continued.  “Our National Forests are community assets, and it is troubling that individuals employed to act as stewards of those assets are limiting access by the physical disabilities community through discriminatory actions.”

The full text of Jaime’s letter follows:

 

Dear Chief Tidwell,

 

I have received the attached correspondence from my constituent, Bella Berlly, regarding the barriers to access that she has experienced as a person with disabilities who simply wishes to enjoy our National Forests.   The letter and the documentation she has provided are troubling, and I believe warrant your review.   A long-time athlete who has hiked and mountain biked extensively, Ms. Berlly now suffers from a degenerative muscular disease and no longer has the ability to access mountain bike trails without the use of a Class I E-Bike to assist her as she pedals.

 

Earlier this year, Ms. Berlly experienced a disturbing and traumatic incident of harassment and discrimination from a fellow mountain biker while riding her bike in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.   Just as alarming, when she contacted Forest Service officials to report the incident and to ask for their assistance, she was treated without sympathy regarding what had happened to her. 

Further, she was also told she would no longer be allowed to ride on mountain bike trails, even though it is my understanding that this bike classification is not prohibited under the Travel Management Plan, but would instead be required to ride her bike on roads and trails that are designated for motor vehicles.   It is not hard to imagine the distress this would cause, particularly for a person with a physical disability. 

 

As you are aware, Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was landmark legislation which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies.  In addition, the mobility device that she must use to access our National Forests via mountain bike, a Class E-1 Bike, has been classified under the Americans with Disability Act as a non-motorized vehicle because it is not self-propelled.   These bikes provide battery assistance only when being pedaled, and offer a valuable service to those who wish to access our national trails via mountain bike but need a small amount of assistance to be able to do so.

 

I hope you will agree that the way in which Ms. Berlly was, and continues to be, treated is an exceptionally poor reflection on US Forest Service policy, and that her experience should not be the accepted procedure directed towards those with physical limitations.   Our National Forests are community assets, and it is troubling that individuals employed to act as stewards of those assets are limiting access by the physical disabilities community through discriminatory actions.  I will appreciate your giving this matter your careful consideration, and notifying my office of any provisions which will allow Ms. Berlly and others with similar needs, to continue to access our National Forests.   I look forward to your response.  

 

Thank you for your assistance.

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018

Rendered 08/04/2018 17:30