Our view: Share the road 2.0
Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are increasing in popularity, and with that comes new challenges. This summer, it’s common to see people zipping around town on their pedal-assisted bikes, and more and more, we’re seeing teens and tweens riding these bikes with what we would describe as total disregard for the motorists and pedestrians around them. Many are riding Class 2 and 3 e-bikes that seem too big for them and not wearing helmets, and they’re biking way too fast.
This biking behavior has us concerned that one of these cyclists is going to be seriously injured in a crash or bike-motor vehicle accident, especially during our busy summer months when traffic is heavy.
In an effort to prevent a tragic incident, we would like to see a greater emphasis placed on education and safety surrounding e-bikes for our younger riders and visitors renting e-bikes while they are in Steamboat Springs.
When it comes to bike safety, the most elemental rule is wear a helmet. It’s up to parents to ensure their children do not get onto any bike without a helmet, and we encourage more education on e-bike rules before a child even gets on a bike that has the capacity to go up to 28 miles per hour. Keep in mind that as your child commutes across town on an e-bike, they will likely be in a position where they should be riding on the road and with the flow of vehicular traffic. Are they of an appropriate age to negotiate this type of complex decision making? If not, they are probably not ready to ride an e-bike alone in the city.
At issue: There are more e-bikes in use around Steamboat Springs, and we’ve seen some riders ignoring basic safety rules.
Our View: People are sharing the road with an increasingly diverse set of users and vehicle types, so everyone needs to be more careful and aware of safety and rules.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
To take it a step further, we’d like the city to consider adding an age limit for Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes or requiring some type of permit process for younger e-bike riders that includes education and testing on e-bike rules and use.
For those unfamiliar with e-bikes, there are three classes. A Class 1 e-bike is a low-speed, pedal-assisted bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle but ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. Class 3 e-bikes have motors that cease to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph.
In addition to asking parents to be more vigilant when it comes to supervision of e-bike use, we think it would be great if bike rental businesses could increase their education efforts and provide users with a list of city rules pertaining to e-bike use. This could be as simple as creating a one-pager outlining local e-bike guidelines and making it part of the rental process by handing it out to anyone renting an e-bike.
And as a refresher, e-bikes are allowed on city streets and roads but not sidewalks. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are allowed on the Yampa River Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail, and Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on neighborhood connector trails, including Bear Creek, Blue Sage, Butcherknife, Fox Creek and Tamarack Sneak. E-bikes are not allowed on any Emerald Mountain trails, and Class 3 e-bikes are not allowed on any city trails. There is also a 15 mph speed limit for e-bikes on all trails where they are allowed.
This editorial is not intended to vilify e-bike users. We view e-bikes as a great transportation alternative, and if users follow the rules and put safety first, they’re a welcome addition.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that not all responsibility lies with cyclists. Motorists need to share the road and be on the lookout for bike riders and hikers traveling along local roadways, especially in the summer when traffic increases, and there are numerous road projects underway throughout the county. Slow down, don’t text, keep your eyes on the road and understand that bikers and pedestrians have the same rights as motorists so be patient.
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