Steamboat considers changing e-bike rules |

Steamboat considers changing e-bike rules

By Eleanor C. Hasenbeck
Steamboat Pilot & Today
An outdoorsman tows a cooler behind an e-bike.
Special to The Daily

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After opening the door to change tubing regulations last month, the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is now taking a look at the rules governing electric bikes on city trails.

Steamboat city policy currently allows certain electric-assisted bikes, commonly called e-bikes, on the Yampa River Core Trail and Walton Creek Trail. Riders are allowed to use Class 1 e-bikes, which are pedal-assisted bikes that can reach speeds up to 20 mph. E-bikes are not allowed on other city trails, including those on Emerald Mountain. Because this policy was approved by resolution, not by ordinance, police cannot enforce the rule.

According to a memo presented at Tuesday’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, Steamboat city staff recommended changing that policy because Class 1 e-bikes are regularly being used on other trails, including those on Emerald Mountain, and Class 2 e-bikes are frequently seen on the Core Trail.

In August, the Department of Interior directed its agencies, including the National Parks Service and Bureau of Land Management, to exempt e-bikes from their definitions of motorized vehicles. This allows e-bikes on trails where other bikes are allowed.

The BLM manages the southern side of Emerald Mountain, which includes the Ridge, Beall and Rotary trails. In Tuesday’s meeting, BLM Park Ranger Gary Keeling said the BLM hasn’t “really advertised” that trails are open to e-bikes, but when someone asks, they tell them e-bikes of any class are allowed. According to the memo, the BLM and the city have agreed that “it would be beneficial to have the same management plan in place to address the use of e-bikes on Emerald Mountain.”

The U.S. Forest Service is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is not impacted by the order. The Forest Service classifies e-bikes as motorized vehicles and allows them only on Forest Service roads and trails open to all vehicles.

“It’s the beginning of the discussion, and we’re looking for the community’s input to help shape policy and what the community would like to see,” said Craig Robinson, the city’s Parks, Open Space and Trails manager.

He added that the city plans to create a forum for public comment on this week.

“That’s an interactive discussion that can occur, and we’ll be monitoring that site and providing responses there, as well,” Robinson said.

In the meantime, Robinson said people can submit comments via email or phone call about whether they’d like to see a change to e-bike policy and where and what type of e-bikes should be allowed on city trails. Emails should be sent to Robinson at or Open Space and Trails Supervisor Jenny Carey at Residents can also call Parks and Recreation at 970-879-4300.

Robinson said Parks and Recreation plans to collect public comment to bring before the Parks and Recreation Commission again, likely in December.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission appeared to be interested in more education about where e-bikes are allowed, as opposed to more rules and enforcement.

In introducing the topic, Robinson said the city has received “few documented complaints” about the use of e-bikes. Robinson’s memo noted two accidents involving e-bikes reported to police and complaints of rented e-bikes going too fast on trails and sidewalks and e-cyclists not audibly signaling when passing pedestrians.

Commissioner Calder Young expressed apprehension at regulating an activity that is relatively new.

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