Parks and Rec Commission to discuss electric bike rules as some press for changes | SteamboatToday.com
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Parks and Rec Commission to discuss electric bike rules as some press for changes

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

— Some cycling advocates are pressing the city of Steamboat Springs to rethink its rules that disallow electric bikes on popular commuter trails.

The bikes, which give riders an assist via an electric motor, are currently restricted to city streets, and sidewalks outside of the downtown commercial center.

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E-bikes growing in popularity

The city does not allow any form of electric bicycles on any city trails, including the Yampa River Core Trial and trails on Howelsen and Spring Creek.

Routt County Riders President Jack Trautman recently raised concerns about the city’s rules, saying they create a situation that is “far less safe” than allowing them to be on the commuter trails.

“I hope that Parks and Rec, the City Police Department, the City Council and the City Management continue to review our eBike rules and do your best to accommodate a growing trend in the use of eBikes,” Trainman recently wrote to Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet.

City officials say their hands are currently tied on e-bike regulations because of conservation easements on some of their trails, and stipulations on the grant funding that was used to build them.

“I think it really is a legal issue,” Overstreet said Thursday.

Overstreet said he has not heard of any complaints about the bikes on any local trails.

With the bikes growing in popularity, Overstreet has started to reach out to other parks and rec directors in municipalities around the country to see how they are responding to the trend.

Electric bikes come in different styles and are regulated in certain states differently depending on what kind they are.

Some only provide a pedal assist, while others have throttles and are grouped with mopeds.

Overstreet also plans to have a discussion with the Parks and Recreation Commission about the current regulations.

No date has been set yet for the discussion.

Overstreet said it’s too soon to tell if the city might change its rules in the future.

“I don’t know what ability, if any, we might have to override any conservation easements,” Overstreet said.

Some sections of the Core Trail are under conservation easements that disallow any motorized use aside from maintenance vehicles.

In addition, any grant funding the city received from Great Outdoors Colorado to construct sections of trails also came with a condition that the trail not allow motorized uses.

A parks and recreation director in California told Overstreet her state had recently passed a state law that allows e-bikes on more trails. The law essentially allowed most classes of e-bikes on the same trails that bicycles can use.

And here in Colorado, the growing fleet of bikes could also be subject to new legislation.

The Denver Post reported earlier this month that the head of the state’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry is expecting lawmakers to propose new rules this winter that would “allow increased access on urban trails for two-wheelers with pedal assist.”

“The first state that embraces this segment of the bike industry and embraces the idea of access and fee structures, they will be the leaders in this whole process,” Luis Benitez told the Post. “This is coming, and Colorado could be the first adopter at the state level.”

Do you think some categories of electric bikes should be allowed on the Core Trail? Share your thoughts below.

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


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