Steamboat considers changing e-bike rules on city trails
The public is encouraged to submit public comment on if, where and what type of e-bikes should be allowed
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After opening the door to change tubing regulations last month, the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is now taking a look at the rules governing electric bikes on city trails.
City policy currently allows certain electric-assisted bikes, commonly called e-bikes, on the Yampa River Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail. Riders are allowed to use Class 1 e-bikes, which are pedal-assisted bikes that can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour. E-bikes are not allowed on other city trails, including those on Emerald Mountain. Because this policy was approved by resolution, not by ordinance, police cannot enforce the rule.
According to a memo presented at Tuesday’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, city staff recommended changing that policy because Class 1 e-bikes are regularly being used on other trails, including those on Emerald Mountain, and Class 2 e-bikes are frequently seen on the Core Trail.
In August, the Department of Interior directed its agencies, including the National Parks Service and Bureau of Land Management, to exempt e-bikes from their definitions of motorized vehicles. This allows e-bikes on trails where other bikes are allowed.
The BLM manages the southern side of Emerald Mountain, which includes the Ridge, Beall and Rotary trails. In Tuesday’s meeting, BLM Park Ranger Gary Keeling said the BLM hasn’t “really advertised” that trails are open to e-bikes, but when someone asks, they tell them e-bikes of any class are allowed. According to the memo, the BLM and the city have agreed that “it would be beneficial to have the same management plan in place to address the use of e-bikes on Emerald Mountain.”
The U.S. Forest Service is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is not impacted by the order. The Forest Service classifies e-bikes as motorized vehicles and allows them only on Forest Service roads and trails open to all vehicles.
“It’s the beginning of the discussion, and we’re looking for the community’s input to help shape policy and what the community would like to see,” said Craig Robinson, the city’s Parks, Open Space and Trails manager.
He added that the city plans to create a forum for public comment on engagesteamboat.net next week.
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.
“That’s an interactive discussion that can occur, and we’ll be monitoring that site and providing responses there, as well,” Robinson said.
In the meantime, Robinson said people can submit comments via email or phone call about whether they’d like to see a change to e-bike policy and where and what type of e-bikes should be allowed on city trails. Emails should be sent to Robinson at email@example.com or Open Space and Trails Supervisor Jenny Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents can also call Parks and Recreation at 970-879-4300.
Robinson said Parks and Recreation plans to collect public comment to bring before the Parks and Recreation Commission again, likely in December.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission appeared to be interested in more education about where e-bikes are allowed, as opposed to more rules and enforcement.
In introducing the topic, Robinson said the city has received “few documented complaints” about the use of e-bikes. Robinson’s memo noted two accidents involving e-bikes reported to police and complaints of rented e-bikes going too fast on trails and sidewalks and e-cyclists not audibly signaling when passing pedestrians.
Commissioner Calder Young expressed apprehension at regulating an activity that is relatively new.
Commissioner Bill Conway, who is director of tennis at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, said e-bikes are popular with tennis center users.
“It does a lot of good things for us at the Tennis Center,” he said. “It alleviates a lot of parking (issues). They can be closer to the building. We’re also starting to see the older demographic become far more healthy, just because now they’re not driving to the center.”
Public comment was in favor of e-bike-friendly policies.
Tim Price said ego is the biggest component of e-bike complaints from trail users.
“It’s not people having issues with riders going too fast or things like that,” he said. “It’s people having issues with getting passed by somebody who they don’t think deserves it, which I think it’s pretty arrogant to decide who deserves what on our trail systems.”
Hazen Kreis rents out Class 1 e-bikes at Wheels Bike Shop. In public comment, he said that customers want to “get a dirt experience” on e-bikes. He said opening up some single track to them would “be very good for me, obviously, but certainly for the customer as well.”
Routt County Riders President Kyle Pietras said the organization is in favor of Class 1 e-bikes on “trails, certainly on bike paths and around town.” He added that the organization will “be along for the ride to help shape the future.”
To view the Parks and Recreation Commission’s discussion on this topic and documents presented at the meeting, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas.
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Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021