Spoke Talk: E-Bikes growing in popularity
What is an e-bike? Well, “e” is short for electric; it’s a bike equipped with an electric motor to lessen pedal resistance and assist the rider, and with falling prices and improving technology, their popularity is increasing.
The e-bike class 1 through 4 system of categorization appears to be becoming the standard, but definitions still vary between land managers and even between different documents guiding the same land manager.
• Class 1 e-bikes are pedal assist only. The electric drive system on the bike must be activated through a pedaling action and is limited to 20 mph.
• Class 2 e-bikes are “throttle on demand,” meaning the electric drive system can be activated using a throttle. Class 2 bikes have the same top speed as Class 1.
• Class 3 e-bikes are known as “speed pedelec” and have a throttle element capable of powering the rider as fast as 20 mph on motor power or as fast as 28 mph if the rider is also pedaling.
• Class 4 e-bikes are grouped with mopeds and motorcycles. The electric drive system can be activated through pedaling or throttle, and bikes may exceed 28 mph.
How might these bikes impact cycling in Routt County? We, as the local bicycle advocacy organization, get more and more questions about electric bicycles. We answer as best we can, but ultimately, it is the land manager (city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service) who are responsible for setting, communicating and enforcing e-bike policies.
Some Steamboat residents often live up hills that might negate riding home, and e-bikes make such hills a bit easier. Errands become a little easier with an e-bike, as well, and older riders or people recovering from an injury might find an e-bike a welcome addition.
Locally, most trails across Steamboat are on public lands. In addition to the federal, state and local regulations, some of the public lands also have conservation easements that place additional requirements on specific properties
The U.S. Forest Service classifies e-bikes as motor vehicles, so they are not allowed in non-motorized areas. The state of Colorado has an opt in/out policy on local trails and sidewalks. A local jurisdiction may either opt in, to allow e-bikes on trails, or opt out on sidewalks.
Steamboat has a ban that applies to wheeled devices on downtown sidewalks only between Yampa and Oak strets and between Third and 13th streets. That includes bicycles and e-bikes.
Obviously, riders of any type of bike are responsible for knowing where they are permitted. Do your research, and know where you can ride. Don’t assume that all areas (especially trails) are open.
As we learn more about and get better clarification on e-bike policies, we will post them on our website.
Routt County Riders is the local source for grassroots advocacy and information for all types of cycling. If you would like to help or would like more information, contact the organization at facebook.com/rcriders, routtcountyriders.org or email email@example.com.
Alan Perkins is a Routt County Riders board member and volunteer.
Editor’s note: The city of Steamboat Springs issued a news release July 20 reminding residents and visitors that city trails are currently non-motorized, which means that motorized vehicles, including electric bikes, are not allowed on any city trails, including Howelsen Hill, Spring Creek, the Yampa River Core Trail and all secondary trails within the city limits. Electric bicycles are allowed on city streets and should be driven in the bike lanes when possible.
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