Breckenridge Town Council not on board with potential e-bike share program
Members cite safety, business impacts as primary concerns
A majority of Breckenridge Town Council members were skeptical of an e-bike share program that was presented at the Tuesday, Jan. 11, meeting, expressing concerns about how the bikes would be used.
Town Sustainability Administrator Teddy Wilkinson said town staff thinks the program is aligned with several town goals, including environmental stewardship and sustainable practices as well as its goal to have more boots and bikes in town than cars.
Wilkinson said the town was awarded a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s multimodal options fund for $420,000 for a feasibility study and subsequent implementation of an e-bike share system. He said the town has about $370,000 left from the grant for implementation and that the start-up could cost around $575,000, with annual operating costs of between $187,000 and $262,000 a year.
Representatives from Alta, the firm that conducted the feasibility study, presented their findings and suggestions to council. The system would allow folks to take an e-bike from a designated bike hub and ride it to a destination around town. The bike then would be left for someone else to potentially use at a different hub or spot around town. The first 30 minutes would be free, and then folks would be charged $5 a minute to keep the bike after that, unless they’re in the local workforce, a student or low income, in which case they’d be charged $1 a minute.
Alta representative Libby Nachman said the purpose of the fee is to encourage the bikes to be used only for transportation purposes — like getting to and from work or running errands — as opposed to recreational use. For that purpose, folks would be encouraged to go to a local bike shop. Nachman said the system works best for one-way trips and added that she sees it complementing other transit services in town like Breck Free Ride.
The intention is for the bikes to be used only within Breckenridge, so software would signal the bikes to stop operating if they leave a certain area. The study also proposed a hybrid storage system where the bikes would have to be returned to a hub in the downtown core, but could be stored at a hub or any bike rack outside of that area, as long as it is locked up.
Mayor Eric Mamula asked what kind of feedback bike rental shops had, and Wilkinson said they were not excited about the proposed program, despite it being designed to incentivize folks who want to use a bike longer than 30 minutes to go to a shop.
“We did pitch them several different ideas and ways in which e-bike share systems have coexisted and cooperated successfully with bike shops in other places, but still a lot of them viewed it as a threat to the bottom line and to their business model,” Wilkinson said.
Mamula said the reliance on moving bikes around during the day so they aren’t all congregated in the same location is a concern because the town is “barely hanging on” with the staffing it has now. He also said it seems like another fun thing for a tourist to do as opposed to a benefit for the workforce.
“With this amount of money, I don’t want to create another attraction for people to just jump on an e-bike and ride around town. They can do that through a shop,” Mamula said. “Honestly, the money we’re going to spend on this, I would rather put into an information campaign for the Free Ride. … I don’t think this works in our town.”
Council member Kelly Owens said she doesn’t see how the proposed program would meet town initiatives to get cars off the road. While she wants to see e-bikes come to Breckenridge, she also sees the program being used primarily by tourists. She also said the idea of folks riding the bikes down Main Street is a “terrifying thought.”
Council member Erin Gigliello was supportive of the idea and said it’s an important step if the town wants people to not rely on their cars in Breckenridge. She said that in her experiences using e-bike share programs in the past, she used them to get from one place to another.
“If it is scary for more people to be biking on our roads, I think we need to address that, too,” Gigliello said. “If this is our goal at the end of the day for people to use bikes, even locals who already have bikes, I think we need to look at that.”
Council member Dick Carleton said he’s concerned by the price of the program and that he also would prefer to invest the money into Free Ride. He said he could potentially be talked into a hub-only system that’s focused on locals but that he would still have concerns.
“We are an extremely crowded, busy town during the summer, and adding a lot of bicycles to the mix seems dangerous and concerning, particularly with the tourist population that’s not as experienced in riding around,” Carleton said.
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