Steamboat Parks and Rec Commission wants to add a new trail allowing e-bikes

Commission also wants to allow class 2 e-bikes on neighborhood connector trails in a trial period extension

Nicole Miller and Tim Price ride Specialized e-bikes up Steamboat Ski Area in 2017.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation commissioners indicated on Wednesday, Jan. 11, that they will recommend the city continue its trial period for electric bicycles on commuter-focused trails and add Sailors Way to the list.

The group did not want to extend allowing e-bikes on Emerald Mountain trails but indicated an openness to adding an e-bikes only trail to the network in the future, though that wouldn’t be a priority.

The recommendations discussed Wednesday will be brought back to the commission in February. Once approved, the recommendations will go to Steamboat Springs City Council for final consideration.

“I just think (e-bike usage) continues to change, and I don’t feel like we know enough yet to be able to say let’s set it for good,” said Commissioner Ben Berend. “I like the trial period.”

Based on discussions, the commission will recommend the city makes no changes regarding which e-bikes are allowed on the Yampa River Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail. Currently, both class 1 and class 2 e-bikes are permitted on these trails. Each class of e-bikes stops receiving assistance when it reaches 20 mph.

The main change might be that the Parks and Recreation Commission wants to extend which e-bikes can be used on neighborhood connector trails including Bear Creek, Blue Sage, Butcherknife, Fox Creek and Tamarack Sneak trails. While these trails were limited to just class 1 e-bikes previously, commissioners expressed a desire to open these up to both class 1 and class 2.

The key difference between the two is that class 1 e-bikes require the user to pedal for the electric motor to kick in, while class 2 e-bikes have a throttle.

Members also agreed to add the Sailors Way trail to the list where class 1 and class 2 e-bikes are allowed. This trail, formerly called the Lower Spring Creek Trail, passes near Steamboat Springs High School, and commissioners agreed it was an important part of the neighborhood connector trail network.

“I think it would be pretty hard not to include Sailors Way when we’ve got all the other trails around there and connected to it for access for people commuting or going to school,” said Commissioner Josh Welch. “It takes people off the roads through downtown and the neighborhoods that don’t have sidewalks and have cars parked everywhere.”

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

The commission noted that Sailors Way should be considered a slow zone, though exactly what that entails was not fleshed out. In the recommendations, the commission plans to suggest City Council designate other slow zones in areas that see a lot of different trail users.

The commission also wanted to stress to council the importance of adding sidewalks and other multi-modal connections to encourage e-bike use there and not on trails primarily designed for recreation.

There wasn’t any desire to extend e-bike usage to Emerald Mountain trails, which is in line with responses from the community survey that showed just 29% of respondants would support that move.

The survey did show support for an e-bike only trail on Emerald, which commissioners said they supported but added that it shouldn’t be considered a priority and might be something that can be pursued by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. or by an organized e-bike user group.

Class 3 e-bikes, which stop receiving assistance at 28 mph, are not allowed on city trails, and the commission did not express a desire to change that policy.

Commissioners will consider adopting formal recommendations in a resolution at their Feb. 8 meeting.

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