E-bikes will be allowed on Emerald Mountain and neighborhood trails for trial period
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council agreed to allow Class 1 electric bicycles, or e-bikes, on Emerald Mountain under a trial period, as per the recommendation from Parks and Recreation, staff during Tuesday’s work session.
Council members also agreed to allow e-bikes on neighborhood trails and to implement a 15 mph speed limit on those trails as well as the Yampa River Core Trail, changes that will be implemented via ordinance in an upcoming council meeting.
The changes will go into effect and trial periods will begin following two readings of the ordinance in front of City Council.
Since it’s difficult to guess exactly how much usage, or user conflicts would go up with e-bikes added into the mix, the council opted for a short trial period of one year, rather than two.
“It’s the staff’s recommendation to allow it because we really don’t have a strong enforcement mechanism not to,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Angela Cosby. “They are here. It’s going to be hard to turn back around and not allow it. We’d rather take the proactive approach of trying to educate people how to bike safely in those areas versus using trying to spend the energy stopping something that is already happening.”
Ahead of the meeting, e-bike use on city owned trails was limited to Class 1 e-bikes on the Yampa River Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail.
After a year of research and public comment, the Parks and Recreation commission presented its five recommendations to City Council. The first was to implement a 15 mph speed limit on the Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail, as well as any neighborhood trails on which council may permit e-bike use. Council agreed unanimously to implement the speed limit.
Council also agreed to increase the space where people may ride e-bikes, allowing class 2 e-bikes on the Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail, as well as class 1 bikes on Blue Sage, Butcherknife, Tamarack Sneak, Bear Creek and Fox Creek to the overpass over a one year trial period.
“It sounds like some of these class 1 e-bikes have maybe been using some of the trails already,” said City Council President Jason Lacy. “I don’t have a good feel yet for how different usage is going to be on the trail. I’m not certain how much the impact is going to be.”
The most divisive recommendation was to allow e-bikes on Emerald. Despite the Parks and Recreation commission voting 3-2 to keep Emerald Mountain as a non-motorized trail system, city staff’s recommendation was to allow class 1 e-bikes.
There are three classes of e-bikes based on how the bike provides additional power and its maximum speed:
• Class 1 e-bikes activate the electric drive system when a rider pedals, without a throttle, and has a governor that limits the bike to a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
• Class 2 e-bikes activate the electric drive system via a throttle and have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
• Class 3 e-bikes activate the electric drive system when the rider pedals, without a throttle, but has a higher maximum speed of 28 miles per hour.
E-bikes are limited to motors under one horsepower. Machines with motors larger than one horsepower are considered mopeds or motorcycles.
Council members Kathi Meyer, Lisel Petis, Michael Buccino, Heather Sloop and Jason Lacy all were in favor of allowing class 1 e-bikes on Emerald, but council members Sonja Macys and Robin Crossan voted in favor of the Parks and Recreation recommendation to keep Emerald non-motorized.
“I feel strongly that the Parks and Rec recommendation is a good one.,” said Macys. “We don’t put enough money into maintenance of trails. Encouraging use by an additional impactful use without a corresponding increase in funding is a losing proposition.”
Lastly, the council unanimously agreed to make these changes via ordinance rather than a resolution. An ordinance is a change to city code and therefore, is enforceable, and any infraction is punishable. That being said, the difficulty of enforcement was a contentious topic.
“I’m not sure it actually matters with the realities behind enforcement,” said Petis on her decision to vote for an ordinance over a resolution. “But I like the idea of having teeth.”
Council members found it unclear how e-bike usage would be policed or monitored to ensure that people are riding the proper type of e-bike in the proper places, but that was deemed an issue for another time.
“We need to focus on the policies and trust our staff on implementation,” Macys said.
Speed limit and usage policies will be posted on the Core Trail and other neighborhood trails to remind cyclists of the regulations. The idea of a required video presentation for all e-bike users also was discussed, as well as asking e-bike retailers and renters to educate customers.
“We’ve been talking about a better signage plan for all users on the Core Trail, and we’ve been talking about the river, based on respect for others with friendly reminders about what proper etiquette is when you’re using some of these areas,” said Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson. “We’re talking about how we can tie the e-bike program into that mix.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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