Breckenridge officials see path for e-bikes (but not scooters) in town’s future
January 9, 2019
They can see a bike-sharing program using town-owned property. And they think shared mobility options could alleviate some traffic congestion in Breckenridge. But the town's elected officials can't fathom allowing e-scooters.
"My reasoning is I feel like scooters are far more likely to end up being parked and used on our sidewalks, and I think our sidewalks during peak times are just too crowded and they can't handle it," said Councilman Dick Carleton. "And it kind of scares me to have the scooters in the road."
Breckenridge is working on crafting new policy for shared mobility options and doing it in pieces, said assistant town manager Shannon Haynes.
In a Tuesday discussion framing the town's "philosophy" for shared mobility options — any mode of transportation that's shared from one person to another — Breckenridge Town Council came to a consensus on a number of line items.
Among them, officials were agreeable to using town-owned property as collection points for a bike-sharing program. A majority of council also favored capping the numbers one way or another and preventing e-scooters from roaming the town's streets and sidewalks altogether.
Based on Tuesday's conversation among council members, staff will return with a proposal, or proposals, incorporating their wishes into an overarching transportation plan. Other discussion topics gravitated to where e-bikes can be ridden, as well as their pricing and safety.
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Much of the focus went to Summit Bike Share, which rolled out about 25 e-bikes in Breckenridge this summer through a partnership between local bike store owner Nick Truitt and the Boulder-based UrBike company.
"I think this is a good deal for these e-bike people," Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said. "I think we can license them, require best business practices and keep their license short. … so if they don't comply — if (e-bikes) are left all over the place blocking egress — we'll go to another company."
Seeing problems other cities have had with shared mobility modes, Breckenridge Town Council wasn't opposed to permitting e-bikes even though its members were wholly committed to preserving Breckenridge's sidewalks for foot traffic.
"We're so set up for bikes, but our town isn't set up for an influx of scooters," Councilwoman Erin Gigliello said as she echoed her colleagues' statements against making e-scooters part of the plan.
E-bikes might have survived Tuesday's discussion, but the August e-bike rollout didn't come without its hiccups, like causing clutter, impeding pedestrian walkways and people riding e-bikes where electric vehicles are prohibited, town staff said.
But staff also see e-bikes as having the potential to aid Breckenridge's traffic control efforts, as they've noticed the bikes are getting used — sometimes at interesting hours of night.
Statistics from the company confirm this. Anecdotally, Haynes said she's noticed there will be no bikes in her neighborhood at night only to find some parked by the bus stop at 7 the next morning.
"That's so true," Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence said. "And haphazardly parked, like it was parked there by someone that was drunk."
A former chief of police, Haynes emphasized that people shouldn't ride any bike under the influence before conceding that the e-bikes are showing ridership after the town's free busing system has stopped for the night, further suggesting e-bikes could be that "first and last mile" of travel in town.
In terms of pricing, Summit Bike Share rents out the e-bikes at $4 an hour, and council members said they worry that might be too high of a price to encourage the frequency of use they'd like to see.
Council also talked about keeping e-bikes from leaving Breckenridge, especially on the paths and trails where they're not allowed. Gigliello asked if geofencing — a mechanism where the bikes lock up after leaving a specific area — might be an option. Beyond that, Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe was disturbed she's seen so many riders without helmets. In response, Holman said the town might be able to build that into the new rules.
Reached via email, UrBike's director of operations, Alec Brewster, said the company's software can provide "some level" of geofencing that prevents riders from ending trips outside of a designated boundary.
"This means that rider's trip will still be active," he said, explaining that the rider would keep getting charged until returning to that area. However, "a more preferable method" of containing e-bikes would be designating parking spots and posting preferred locations.
Still, upgrades for both the company's e-scooter and e-bike fleets can cable-lock assets to posts and the. It's "a premium product," Brewster said, but it could help keep walkways clear.
As for pricing, Brewester said they are willing to work with the town, and the company has a variety of methodologies that are "highly customizable" for the franchise owner.