Steamboat Parks and Rec Commission to extend e-bike trial period, improve education

Steve and Brenda Dawes riding up Blue Sage Drive on pedal-assist bikes in 2018. Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission continues to zero in on a more permanent e-bike policy and has extended the policy trial period for two more years.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

In early 2021, Steamboat Springs City Council issued a trial period for e-bike allowances at the recommendation of the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission.

On Wednesday, July 13, the commission addressed the trial period, focusing specifically on e-bikes used as transportation as opposed to recreation, and opted to extend the trial period while expanding education about e-bike usage.

The No. 1 consensus from the meeting was the overall goal of educating e-bike riders on rider safety and how to ride more appropriately in public spaces. 

Celine Wicks, principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School, stressed the surprising number of children who arrive to school on e-bikes and how they often do so in a potentially dangerous manner. 

“What my concern is, is really the education piece,” Wicks said. “A lot of those students were arriving without helmets on and a couple kids on a bike, things like that.”

One of the more prominent areas of concern is Butcherknife trail, as it is a popular route for students to take to school as well as the general public to enjoy. In 2020, Steamboat Springs City Council increased the space where people may ride e-bikes, allowing class 2 e-bikes on the Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail, as well as class 1 bikes on Blue Sage, Butcherknife, Tamarack Sneak, Bear Creek and Fox Creek to the overpass over a one-year trial period.

Police have recorded a total of 16 e-bike related incidents in Steamboat that range from thefts to collisions with vehicles and public complaints. A lot of these concerns relate to the Butcherknife trail.

E-bikes at a glance

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 mph.

• Class 2 e-bikes activate the electric drive system via a throttle and have a maximum speed of 20 mph.

• Class 3 e-bikes activate the electric drive system when the rider pedals, without a throttle, but has a higher maximum speed of 28 mph.

E-bikes are limited to motors under one horsepower. Machines with motors larger than one horsepower are considered mopeds or motorcycles.

Sameta Rush, a member of the commission emphasized a major concern of e-bikes on the trail.

“We call them e-bikes, but they have motors. I’m sorry, these trails were designed for multi-use that did not allow motorized use,” said Rush. “You cannot separate out just by saying it is an e-bike and not taking into consideration this bike has a motor.”

Data on e-bike related injuries was not available because the coding system is not yet in place to separate e-bike incidents from conventional bike incidents.

After much deliberation, the commission determined it would be best to extend the e-bike trial period for another two years with a check-in after one year. Additionally, it will implement further education and signage.

A map shows where e-bikes are permitted on trails within the city limits of Steamboat Springs.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy image

The major additions to the trial include increasing signage at Butcherknife and other trails in close proximity to schools, identifying caution zones, increasing education and including e-bike guidelines in all student handbooks. 

The commission also plans to look into the potential for surveillance and registration on e-bikes, but cannot confirm the jurisdiction on either of those until speaking with the city. 

Commission member Calder Young believes that extending the trial period is necessary because the popularity of e-bikes is still growing and the commission does not have enough information on the topic to enforce permanent policies.

“We can’t identify trends,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out where the problem areas even exist at before we implement a policy that’s just a blanket policy that covers any and everything.”

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