Will Breckenridge backpedal on e-bikes?
January 6, 2019
On Tuesday, Breckenridge Town Council could steer the course for shared mobility options in town, including electric scooters and the roughly two dozen e-bikes that rolled out this summer.
After council voted to ban Segway scooters in September, a memo dated Dec. 26 from assistant town manager Shannon Haynes lays out some new questions for the elected officials. Among them, would Breckenridge like to see a bike-share or any other shared mobility option in town? If so, should it be permitted to operate on town-owned property? Perhaps more directly, does council prefer not to have any shared mobility programs at this time?
The overarching discussion about shared mobility options extends to just about any form of transportation that can be shared from one rider to another. It's not limited to public transportation systems, taxis, limos, bike-sharing or non-commercial car-sharing programs, like carpooling.
Modern technology has opened an array of new avenues for shared modes of transit. Like Haynes' memo articulates, from large cities to small tourist destinations, these options are becoming increasingly popular but don't come without their pros and cons.
One of the biggest benefits might be bike-sharing and communal scooters taking some cars off of the roads, Haynes wrote. In Breckenridge, where traffic congestion and parking are two of the peskiest problems along with the town's recent clean energy commitments, anything that shifts people from automobiles to bikes is generally welcome.
Bike-sharing has demonstrated its effectiveness as a first- and last-mile strategy near transit hubs and in walkable corridors with high pedestrian traffic. Haynes noted it does have the potential in Breckenridge.
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But bike-sharing has also hindered pedestrian traffic, she added, with riders sometimes blocking or riding on the sidewalks. Haynes also suggested bike-sharing has led to theft, littering and destruction of property.
Framing the town's concerns, Haynes said that the staff, including Police Chief Jim Baird, has reviewed "the issues generally associated with bike-share and scooter-share operations" and the primary concerns are safety, clutter, litter, pedestrian impediments and riders using the bikes and scooters in areas that are off-limits.
"Of these, only safety was not an issue during the Urbike deployment in 2018," Haynes claimed, referencing Summit Bike Share, which put out about two dozen app-based e-bikes in Breckenridge this August and 70 across Summit County.
It was born of a partnership between local bike store owner Nick Truitt and the Boulder-based Urbike company. Shortly after the rollout, former Breckenridge Mayor John Warner gave them a glowing endorsement. Reached over the phone Sunday, Truitt said that he believes the town's trying to avoid recreating problems larger cities saw with the floods of e-scooters hitting their streets and sidewalks.
"It was enough that people could find them when they wanted them, but not enough that they were just sitting everywhere," Truitt said of the decision to put about 25 of the e-bikes in Breckenridge.
For Truitt, controlling the numbers is one key, but he's also heard concerns over e-bikes being used or parked on public property and that the bikes created new competition for the traditional bike rental stores.
Any fears that e-bikes are hurting traditional bike rentals aren't supported by the numbers they've seen so far, said Truitt, who added the way that people are using e-bikes isn't in line with how most rental stores do business.
He pointed to figures produced by Summit Bike Share showing that the e-bikes logged 1,988 trips from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. The most popular days of the week for them were Thursday, Friday and Wednesday, in that order. Also, the vast majority of trips lasted less than one hour — far less than a typical bike rental — and the evening and nighttime hours brought increased ridership.
Truitt said people are using e-bikes to get to work, to restaurants and around downtown Breckenridge. As for illegal parking, he believes that with some careful planning that hitch has a fix.
"That's kind of what we're trying to work on now with the town, is how do we create these (drop-off and pickup) locations that are convenient for people," Truitt said as he described strategically placed bike-share stations, almost like the town has bus stops, electric vehicle charging ports or other areas reserved for specific types of transportation.
"One parking spot for a car can house 10-15 bikes," he added.
Before asking its members to consider developing a mobility vision, Haynes told council in the memo that shared-use options may have a place in Breckenridge's long-term transportation plan.
This could mean creating goals for the percentages of travelers utilizing each particular type of transportation, the number of trips using each type or assigning a staff member as the town's "Mobility Czar," Haynes suggested.
Her memo said town staff will return with a proposed ordinance, or ordinances, depending on council's conversation. The work session meeting begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Breckenridge Town Hall, 150 Ski Hill Road.
Public comments are generally not accepted during council's work session meetings but are taken shortly after the regular meeting begins later in the night at 7. For the complete meeting and work session agendas, go to TownOfBreckenridge.com, mouse over the "Your Government" tab and click on "Town Council."