Spoke Talk: Routt County Riders e-bike position | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Routt County Riders e-bike position

Routt County Riders Board of Directors
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Here at Routt County Riders, we love bikes. Road bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, townie bikes, whatever gets you outside and enjoying our beautiful valley. We would love to see more of our fellow community members on bikes. For these reasons, we have been following the surge in popularity of electronic-assist bikes, or e-bikes, with great interest. 

It is important to define what e-bikes are. They are not motorcycles. Class 1 e-bikes provide an additional 1 hosepower boost of power to your pedal strokes, so long as you are traveling less than 20 mph. Recent academic studies show that these e-bikes are identical to traditional mountain bikes in terms of trail wear and tear. Class 2 e-bikes operate with a throttle assist rather than a pedal assist. Class 3 e-bikes add more power and operate up to a brisk 28 mph. 

Recent policy discussions, from the federal level down to the Steamboat Springs Parks & Recreation Commission, show that land managers are considering opening up trail networks to e-bikes. Class 1 e-bikes have been authorized in trail networks busier than ours without degrading the trail experience for other users. 

We recommend that the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service develop a pilot program under which e-bikes will have increased access to local trails. We recommend that these land managers consider the following criteria:

  • Impermanence: This should be a pilot program rather than a permanent program. Our first responsibility is to ensure a positive experience for traditional trail users and nonmotorized bicycles. Studies suggest that the trail experience for other users will not be affected. However, land managers should reserve the right to cancel the program if our local experience differs.
  • Selectivity: Not all trails are suitable for e-bike use. Trails should be opened case by case, considering sight lines, congestion issues, steepness, technical difficulty and difficulty of extraction in the event of an incident. Violations should be enforced by signage or social pressure, resorting to formal law enforcement if necessary.
  • Classification: We feel that e-bikes must be managed as a separate classification of trail users than traditional mountain bikes. Mountain bike access should not change. Soft trails should be open to Class 1 e-bikes only, with Class 2 exceptions allowed for disabled trails users. Class 1 and 2 e-bikes should be permitted on paved trails, like the Yampa River Core Trail. Class 3 e-bikes should be permitted wherever motorcycles are allowed to travel. All e-bike users should follow the rules of the road and trail.

As long as they are properly regulated, we welcome Class 1 e-bikes to local trails. The fewer folks at home on the couch, the better.

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