While some worry about damage to trails, others say that e-bikes are an alternative to vehicles.
(TNS) — The first of three open house-style events meant to educate the public on and collect information regarding e-bikes and their place in Boulder County, Colo., open space kicked off Tuesday afternoon as residents took free spins around the Gerald Stazio Softball Fields.
"It was pretty fun," Boulder resident Mason Walker said.
Walker said he had been riding his mountain bike near the fields and stopped by to try out one of the e-bikes, a bicycle outfitted with a battery-powered motor that can help a person ride using less energy.
"They are a little more difficult to move," he said. "It was nice to get up the hill, but I don't think it would replace a regular mountain bike."
The e-bike is currently not allowed on county open space, but Walker said he didn't have a problem with the bikes being used on trails.
Tina Nielsen, special projects manager with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, said that the county has received about 300 comments in recent weeks both for and against the bikes. She said that it's possible the county will make an exception to allow their use on open space.
"We were flooded with comments," Nielsen said. "There are people who feel it's a good thing because it gets people out of the car. There are people who feel it's a danger, or they are concerned that people will be going faster, and (e-bikes) are heavier and will damage trails."
The bipartisan House Bill 1151 that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law last year made Colorado a permissive state by default for e-bikes. Specifically, the law says a person may ride Class 1 or Class 2 electric-assist bicycles on bike or pedestrian paths where bicycles are authorized to travel, unless a local jurisdiction prohibits the e-bikes.
The law defines Class 1 e-bikes as those that only provide assistance when the rider is pedaling and stops running when the bike reaches 20 miles per hour. Class 2 e-bikes are those that operate continuously, even when no one is pedaling, but switch off when 20 mph has been reached. The law leaves Class 3 bicycles — those that have motors that switch off at higher speeds — completely up to local jurisdictions, with an assumption they are not permitted.
Boulder resident Angela McCormick attended the open house at the Boulder County Recycling Center following the test ride and said she is in favor of some type 1 bikes being permitted anywhere on open space, but not the more powerful type 2.
"I don't really support the type 2 up in the foothills," she said. "Those trails are more prone to erosion, and they are harder to maintain."
Niwot resident Diane Paolini said that she opposes any e-bikes on any trail, because she fears that police won't be able to stop people using the bikes irresponsibly, and enough conflict exists on the trails between cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians without adding another set of travelers.
"It's one of the few places where you can just be a human," she said. "If you throw in electric motors, it changes the whole dynamic."
Most of the people at the open house seemed to be in favor of the bikes being allowed, at least to some extent, on county open space.
Some of the people who have commented online against e-bikes on county trails have expressed the sentiment that people who aren't physically fit enough to make it to the top of a steep trail have no business being there and using an e-bike is effectively "cheating."
Mike Hall, of Specialized Bicycles, said that he rides mountain bikes and likes to take his girlfriend with him. However, she doesn't ride at the same skill level as he, so an e-bike is a way for them to go together and still enjoy themselves.
"If you put someone on an e-bike, it equalizes the fitness difference," he said. "Someone without pro-level fitness doesn't have to keep up with someone who has pro-level fitness."
He added that e-bikes, while they certainly can be used for off-road activities, will mostly be used for vehicle replacement as the somewhat nascent technology advances and becomes more affordable.
Kenny Fischer, founder of Fatte Bikes, said that he has heard concerns about people abusing e-bikes, but he thinks that comes down to who is riding the bikes. He added that he sees e-bikes as being more of a way to keep people from driving their cars so much than a way to zoom up the side of a steep trail, which he said won't work.
"If a rider is going to ride like a jerk, it reflects on everyone," he said. "But that rider could be a jerk on a regular bike."
As for whether an e-bike is cheating?
"Only if you're in the Tour de France," he said.
©2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.