John Kole rides an electric bike at his downtown Steamboat Springs store, One Stop Ski Shop, in 2010. The bikes are growing in popularity.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

John Kole rides an electric bike at his downtown Steamboat Springs store, One Stop Ski Shop, in 2010. The bikes are growing in popularity.

Watts next? Proposal would allow e-bikes on Yampa River Core Trail

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— A proposal to allow e-bikes on the city’s busiest commuter trail appears to be getting some charge.

The city is considering allowing the bicycles, which give riders an assist via an electric motor, on the Yampa River Core Trail as a pilot program this summer.

What do you think?

What do you think of the proposal to allow e-bikes on the Core Trail? Leave a comment below or email scottfranz@steamb...

The city also wants the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission to consider allowing some types of e-bikes on other hard- and soft-surface trails following a broader planning effort.

The proposal for the pilot program on the Core Trail comes after the opening of an electric-bicycle store in town and a request from a person with a disability who wants to be able to use an e-bike on the city’s commuter trail.

If the proposal is approved, the city would follow a handful of other municipalities on the Western Slope that have accommodated some types of electric bicycles on their paths and trails.

On Wednesday, city officials will ask the Parks and Recreation Commission for input on the idea.

It will ultimately be up to the City Council to decide whether the rules should be changed.

City staff attorney Jennifer Bock will lead the discussion.

If the proposal moves forward, the city is seeking input about whether to adopt a speed limit for the Core Trail that would apply to all cyclists.

Local officials are also wondering whether e-bikes should be allowed on the entire Core Trail and whether other etiquette rules should be considered.

E-bike riders in Steamboat have already been granted some breathing room in recent months.

In October, Police Chief Cory Christensen said the police force hasn’t actively been enforcing the current rules that prohibit the bikes on commuter trails, such as the Core Trail.

“In all honesty, my direction to (river rangers patrolling the Core Trail) was leave this issue alone until there’s better policy direction,” Christensen said. “We specifically didn’t enforce any e-bike issues, because we haven’t decided where we’re going with that yet.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the idea in July, but the proposal seemed to be tempered by the fact that much of the Core Trail is under conservation easements that prohibit any sort of motorized vehicles.

E-bikes are not specifically called out, as are snowmobiles and motorcycles, however.

Bock addressed the issue in a memo to the commission.

She said if the city is interested in allowing e-bikes on certain trails, it would likely need to obtain a waiver from the grantors of the easements to allow e-bikes on the property.

The city will also likely have to address what kinds of e-bikes will be included in the proposal, as some are more powerful, and faster, than others.

For example, Vail’s rules allow e-bikes that are 500 watts or less, and the bikes are not allowed to travel more than 20 miles per hour on recreation trails.

Last year, Routt County Riders President Jack Trautman raised concerns about Steamboat’s rules prohibiting e-bikes on local trails, saying they create a situation that is “far less safe” than allowing them on the commuter trails.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

rhys jones 3 months ago

Hell NO!! Keep that crap off our trail. You're asking for trouble. Accidents, injuries, fights, lawsuits... as if, between the dogs, hooked flies, gapers, and drunks, there aren't enough challenges already...

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Larry Desjardin 3 months ago

In the summer, it is already crazy riding a bike on the Core Trail, particularly on the path through town. You have pedestrians, tubers, dog-walkers, and other cyclists, many which are sight seeing, not watching what is happening on the trail. Often, people will step onto the trail right in front of you, having not watched what is coming down the path. This is particularly true with small children. Riding a bike on the trail requires to be at peak attention at all times to avoid the obstacles. Adding motorized cycles piloted by people who are presumably not cyclists, and not accustomed to watching the road alertly, seems like a good method for causing more cyclist/pedestrian collisions. Just saying.

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George Hresko 3 months ago

Clearly the city is wrestling with the use of our shared resources during the summer months. Just a few weeks ago we were presented with the concept of changing the meaning of a STOP sign to a Yield sign for cyclists. Now this proposal. As noted above, there are times during the summer months when the Core Trail's mixed use already presents hazards to walkers and others. The several almost blind underpasses come to mind as relevant examples. Rather than continue looking at these proposals--I cannot believe there won't be more in the future--I suggest that the city take a deep breath and obtain use data over the coming summer along the length of the trail, at various times and over many different days, before making any decisions. Ditto for cyclists and STOP signs. Too often ideas are presented without relevant use data that would allow a reasoned discussion and decision-making process. I know that already some are avoiding the Core Trail for their walks (think about that for a minute!) because of the possibility of an accident with a fast moving cyclist.

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Lock McShane 3 months ago

We could just require that the cyclists pedal on the Core Trail, instead of using their electric assist.

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Scott Wedel 3 months ago

The issue of Core trail congestion and safety has nothing to do with whether or not ebikes are allowed. Any mixing of cyclists and pedestrians involves enough of a different in speed to create safety issues. Most of the time, most of the trail has few enough pedestrians that cyclists can ride the trail giving pedestrians enough room. But during the Summer, the downtown section of the trail has too many pedestrians and can only be ridden at a walking or jogging pace. That section of trail is too congested to be safe for faster runners as well.

It would make sense for the downtown section of the Core Trail to have a 10 mph speed limit.

Ebikes are no faster than a normal bike with a reasonably fit rider. There is no good reason to treat them any differently than a normal bike.

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Dan Edmiston 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Scott, the speed is one thing but the ability to control the bike at that speed is another. Liken this to driving on roads full of 16yr olds vs roads full of experienced drivers. There are nuances and skills that don't come just from being able to hit the accelerator. Users of e-bikes on the Core trail likely don't have experience enough to manage the speed appropriately.

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