Colorado County Supports E-Bikes on Designated Trails

Boulder County Commissioners voted 2-1 to support a recommendation from Boulder County Parks and Open Space that would allow certain e-bikes on plains trails where regular bikes are permitted.

by Kelsey Hammon, Daily Times-Call / November 15, 2019
Shutterstock/mezzotint

(TNS) — The path for e-bikes on Boulder County, Colo., open space became a little more clear Wednesday night, after Boulder County Commissioners voted 2-1 to support a recommendation from Boulder County Parks and Open Space that would allow class 1 and 2 e-bikes on plains trails where regular bikes are permitted.

Commissioners Elise Jones and Deb Gardner voted in favor of the recommendation, with Matt Jones casting his vote in opposition.

Matt Jones said he feared permitting the bikes could lead to a “slippery slope” for motorized vehicles on trails, while Elise Jones and Gardner said the e-bikes were what constituents wanted and provide opportunity for those who can’t use traditional bikes. The policy will next go before the Planning Commission for final approval.

Wednesday’s meeting followed public hearings, as well as a year of work from Boulder County Parks and Open Space officials. Throughout that time open space conducted phone surveys, a speed observation study, and a literature review of recreation conflict, e-bike research and policies in other jurisdictions. They presented their findings and discussed a yearlong pilot program, which permitted e-bikes on some trails starting this year.

Nearly a dozen residents, who spoke during the public hearing, provided opposing views on the topic.

Many concerns expressed Wednesday were that e-bikes would be disruptive to other trail users looking to find the solace in nature. Donna George, of Boulder, asked commissioners to protect the county’s open space and passive, non-motorized recreation.

“Addressing a new technology does not mean you need to allow it on open space lands, after all hydraulic fracking is a new technology, are we going to allow that on our open space land?” George said. “Where is the discussion on the original intent on passive recreation for open space and the benefits of quiet, slow-paced recreation and wildlife viewing?”

Others said the bikes are a huge benefit, so long as people use proper trail etiquette.

Sherri O’Hara, of Longmont, described herself as a longtime e-bike user. She said the pilot study from Boulder County Parks and Open Space was illuminating to e-bike usage in the county.

“The data is really showing, that so far in Boulder County, having e-bikes on the trail has been a non-issue — there has not been increased conflict or damage to the trails, they are quiet,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara said during the pilot she traversed many Boulder County trails and received no negative feedback from trail users about her e-bike, only curiosity about how she liked the machine. She added that like a regular bike rider, she is sure to use proper and polite trail etiquette, which she said is paramount to harmony on the trail.

Others who spoke in favor said e-bikes have provided benefits to those who are aging or injured and might not be able to ride a regular bike.

Robert Besen, of Superior, described himself as a “boomer and older citizen” and said he has knee issues. E-bikes allowed him to be able to enjoy riding hundreds of miles, he said.

Still others expressed criticism that e-bikes are really masquerading as motorcycles on trails. Linda Parks, of Boulder, said e-bikes belong on pavement, where riders have to follow traffic lights and speed limits.

Other issues that surfaced were possible deed restrictions. Dinah McKay, of Boulder, said a Twin Lakes property, where a trail loops around Davis Reservoir 1 and 2, was deeded by the homeowners association to Open Space and contains a restriction on motorized vehicles. While the state does not consider e-bikes motorized, Open Space does. Boulder County Parks and Open Space addressed the deed issue during its presentation and Tina Nielsen, Boulder County Parks and Open Space special projects manager, said contacting the homeowners association to discuss a potential solution will be among the next steps for moving the e-bike policy forward.

On Dec. 18, Open Space officials will meet with planning commissioners to discuss comprehensive plan language, which will allow for motorized vehicles, specifically e-bikes, on the designated county trails.

The recommendation also noted there will be some plains trails excluded from e-bike usage, including Boulder Canyon Trail, Coalton Trail and Mayhoffer-Singletree Trail. These trails have portions in city property, where e-bikes are not allowed.

©2019 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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