Police holding off on enforcing electric bike rules in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Police holding off on enforcing electric bike rules in Steamboat Springs

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.

— While municipalities around the country consider changing their rules governing the use of electric bicycles on trails, the Steamboat Springs Police Department has not been enforcing the city's current rules that prohibit the bikes on popular commuter trails such as the Yampa River 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," Police Chief Cory Christensen told the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday. "We specifically didn't enforce any e-bike issues because we haven't decided where we're going with that yet."

Under the city's current rules, electric bicycles are not allowed on the Core Trail unless they are completely powered off.

The rules are in place because a significant part of the Core Trail is under conservation easements that disallow any motorized vehicles.

Motorized vehicles also cannot use any trails that received funding from Great Outdoors Colorado.

But with electric bicycles growing in popularity, local cycling advocates have asked the city to reconsider its rules.

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Christensen said it would be helpful to get some guidance from the commission about how to treat electric bicycles on all local trails.

Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet said the Great Outdoors Colorado board is taking a new look at e-bike rules.

"It is something that is booming across the state on their lands," Overstreet said.

Routt County Riders President Jack Trautman told Steamboat Today in July that because the electric bikes are currently restricted to city roads, riders are in a less safe situation.

He urged the city to discuss the rules and consider accommodating the bikes on more commuter trails.

Chief discusses ranger program

Chief Christensen on Wednesday also updated the commission on the performance of the city's new river ranger program.

The city had three rangers patrolling local trails and parks this summer.

Christensen said the rangers made 16,787 contacts with citizens, with a large majority of the contacts being educational or informative.

The police chief categorized 10,640 of those contacts as customer service oriented.

Visitors were welcomed to Steamboat and given directions or reminded of rules.

Christensen said 929 of the contacts were animal related and were generally about off-leash dogs.

The rangers issued seven citations and gave 94 warnings.

Christensen said it was a very low number of citations given the amount of people the rangers reached.

"I feel really good about these numbers," he said. "I love that we're reaching a lot of people."

Though Christensen said the ranger program was well received by many residents and visitors, he concluded it was not as impactful as he would have hoped.

Christensen said the program had little impact on preventing any litter from entering the Yampa.

With thousands of people using the river on busy holiday weekends, he added it was difficult for a team of only three people to enforce rules in an impactful way.

"I think we learned some things, and I don't think it was as impactful as we thought it was going to be," Christensen said.

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