Quandary: Why you can’t pedal with power on Summit’s recpath
Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to Quandary@summitdaily.com.
I want to purchase an e-bike because now, at age 76, I have a hard time pedaling up big hills such as the recpath from Frisco to Copper or Vail pass. I understand presently they are not legal on the Summit County recpaths, but people are riding them anyway and bike stores are selling and renting them. What is the penalty if caught? Who is responsible for changing the law and what are the chances for change? I don’t want to spend $2,000 if I am not allowed to use the bike. Thanks, Max Stappler
Max, I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit in you. Old Quandary is also an early adapter of technologies under $10. Once I have to break an Andrew Jackson to buy something though, I start asking lots of questions.
Currently, Colorado state law does allow for the operation of Class I and Class II e-bikes — Class I means the motor kicks in when you do, Class II means the motor is always running, even if you’re just sitting there watching the goats run by — on bike or pedestrian paths. However, when the law went into effect in August of last year, the powers that be decided to allow local governments to create their own rules. For Summit County, your feet are the only motor allowed on the recpath. Given the level of athletes riding around this county, sometimes even old Quandary feels like a Vespa in a world of Ferraris up here, but those are the rules Max.
If you do decide you’re a rule-breaker, and take a 1-horsepower monster for a spin on ye olde recpath, there could be consequences. Power-pedaling is a petty offence punishable by a maximum $300 fine and life in prison — OK only half of that is true; the fine is real the jail time doesn’t exist. Basically, if you decide to get an e-bike and ride it on the paths, know that initial $2,000 might only be a chunk of the change you have to shell out for your new hobby.
However, there may be hope on the horizon for you, my motor-minded friend. On April 24, the Open Space and Trails Department met with the Summit Board of County Commissioners to recommend allowing e-bikes on the recpath, according to Michael Wurzel, resource specialist with open space and trails. The bad news is this will be an extensive process. Since a portion of the recpath runs through U.S. Forest Service land, the county needs to amend its use permit with the Forest Service to be able to allow for e-bikes. The review period for this can take six to 12 months, and during that time the current rules will still be in effect — meaning you’ll still be a rebel with an engine if you decide to take your e-bike for a romp in the interim.
If the shine of the pedals and hum of the engine is just too much for you to wait on, know there are other neighboring communities that might be more open to your joy-riding ways. For information about regulations in nearby communities or on Summit’s rules, visit SummitCountyCo.gov/ebikes.
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