Fears of serious accident with rise of electric motorbikes on Queenstown trails

by Lauren Pattemore - Nov 02, 2023

Queenstown Trails Trust chief executive Mark Williams says there are fears of a serious accident occurring on Queenstown trails as "readily available, cheap and quiet" electric motorbikes become more popular.

The trails trust is trying to "stamp it out now" before there is a collision between a cyclist or pedestrian and an electric motorbike, Mr Williams says.

He fears any accident would be serious as electric motorbike motors can go up to 2000 watts, can weigh up to 85 kilograms, and are "bloody fast".

However, the motor is silent, so you can't hear them coming, which is even more of a risk on Queenstown tracks that "weave in and out of challenging terrain", Mr Williams says.

The electric motorbikes differ from e-bikes, which are pedal-assisted, and only go up to 300 watts, Mr Williams says.

The messaging around the vehicles is also a cause of concern for Mr Williams, who saw a shop in Hamilton marketing the motorbikes as "silent - so you can take them anywhere".

He's concerned this messaging is encouraging bad behaviour on Queenstown's trails. 

Mr Williams says there's evidence of the motorbikes using local tracks and causing damage - gouges in the trail surface from the thicker tyre, for example.

He says the electric motorbikes are "tearing the ground up", and create more boggy sections in the track, which then cost "a fortune" to repair.

Mr Williams is asking electric motorbike riders to have some care and consideration for other trail users, and not take their bikes onto tracks, before there is an accident.

He encourages trail users to report electric motorcycle users when they see them on the trails.

Queenstown Police acting response manager Dylan Hannah-Jones says the team has not been receiving a higher number of calls related to the use of electric motorbikes, but encourages people to report if they witness dangerous driving.

"If someone is using an electric motorcycle on a public track, and is driving it dangerously, we'd need to know about it, because it'll be a matter of public safety."

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