Summit County, Breckenridge say they’re open to exploring the question of E-bike use on local rec paths
By Bob Berwyn
*Editor’s note: This story was updated late Tuesday with new material from a joint discussion between the Breckenridge Town Council and the Summit County commissioners.
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Breckenridge Town Council and Summit County commissioners Tuesday grappled with the emerging question of how to regulate electric-assisted bicycles on the town and county’s rec path system.
The discussion came after county staff asked Breckenridge to “continue, and advertise,” the existing ban on E-bikes for the sake of consistent regulations.
Town council members discussed E-bikes at an afternoon work session, when a straw poll showed they were evenly split on the issue, with one council member, Eric Mamula, on the fence.
“We’re luke warm about it” said Breckenridge Mayor John Warner, adding that the main thing is that everybody wants a consistent policy.
“I’ve had an injury in the past. I’m an example of someone who could benefit from (E-bikes),” said Council member Mark Burke. It’s assisted, it’s not powered, you have to pedal. Why is the county commission opposed to the EABs.” he asked.
“Our only concern so far is that we have consistent rules, we’re wide open to this,” said county manager Gary Martinez. “My own personal view – it’s a done deal, we’re going to get over-run by this.”
County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said he has questions about how the use of E-bikes could change the recreational experience on the recpaths
Advocates of the technology say the pedal-assisted bikes can enhance recreational opportunities by making the experience more accessible to people who otherwise couldn’t cycle around the county — especially at the high elevation.
“The biggest danger on the rec path is people from Iowa wobbling as they’re pedaling uphill,” said council member Jeffrey Bergeron. “E-bikes could help them track straighter,” Bergeron said, suggesting that the technology could enhance safety on the paths.
Commissioner-elect Dan Gibbs, familiar with state-level discussion on the emerging technologies, said there may at some point be legislation address the use of small motorized and motor-assisted modes of transportation, including light-weight go-karts.
“This is here to stay. We’ll see more of it, it’s unrealistic to think we’re going to police this,” Gibbs said.
That raised a question by Warner as to where the line would be drawn with new technologies.
Council member Burke responded that those questions should be addressed as they come up. E-bikes are here now, so now is the time to make a decision, he said.
According to a memo from town open space and trails planner Scott Reid, the county says allowing an exemption to the current blanket ban would set a bad precedent that might lead to other users with emerging technologies to request additional exemptions. Rec path congestion and safety are also part of the equation, according to Brad Eckert, with the county’s open space and trail department.
So far, there has been no enforcement of the ban on E-bikes, according to Summit County Sheriff John Minor, who said his department doesn’t see it as a big priority.
The question has garnered statewide attention recently, as Boulder and Fort Collins have outlawed E-bikes on rec paths, while Denver considers them to be bicycles and allows them on pathways. Aspen and Pitkin County are also discussing the issue for the rec paths in their communities.
Locally, a few sport shops have started renting E-bikes, including Lone Star Sports, in Breckenridge, and Podium Sports, in Frisco. The new technology has proved popular with customers and opens up a new market, said Podium general manager Brian Eggleton, who emphasized that the industry is in a period of trying to educate the public and decision-makers about the emerging technology.
Eggleton said the E-bikes broaden recreational access for people who might not otherwise be able to get out and cycle. He said the bikes are also useful for commuting and short-trip errands. To make good decisions about the use of E-bikes on rec paths, elected officials and planners need to understand some of the basic E-bike technologies that are currently out there, he added.
Basically, Eggleton said pedal-assisted bikes should be allowed on the local rec path system, but added that the heavier versions with a throttle on the handlebars might not be appropriate. Podium rented both types last summer, but Eggleton said the shop may discontinue offering the heavier models next year.
According to Reid’s memo, planners solicited input from the town’s sustainability committee, which gave the following recommendations:
“1) Allow EAB’s on the recpath system prior to 9:00 am and after 4:00 pm to encourage commuter EAB use, but discourage additional recpath congestion during the day. 2) Evaluate and improve bike storage options on the Summit County and Town public transportation systems. 3) Consider widening the recpath in the future to accommodate more users and reduce congestion. 4) Bring this topic to Town Council for consideration.”
The E-bike discussion is scheduled for about 4:15 p.m. but times can vary. Click here to access the town council agenda where you can read the entire memo.
Read a Denver Post editorial on the topic here.
Read about similar issues in Aspen.
Filed under: Breckenridge town council, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | bicycle regulations, Breckenridge Colorado, Breckenridge news, E-bikes, electric bike regulations, Electric bike rentals Summit County, electric bikes, Lone Star sports, Podium Sports, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News