E-Bikes in Colorado Springs: Task Force Aims to Chart a New Course

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The debate over the rightful place of electric bikes (e-bikes) on Colorado Springs trails is about to enter a new chapter. After a stalled effort in 2021, the city’s parks department is convening a task force to determine a new policy for these increasingly popular vehicles. This move comes as e-bikes become a common sight on trails, despite regulations prohibiting their use.

Uncharted Territory: Navigating the Rise of E-bikes

Lonna Thelen, manager of the city’s Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program, recently addressed the parks board about the upcoming task force meetings. This initiative aims to address the growing interest in e-bikes and their current unauthorized presence on many trails frequented by hikers and mountain bikers. Currently, only Class 1 e-bikes, which provide pedal-assist, are allowed on designated urban paths like the Pikes Peak Greenway.

E-BIKES IN COLORADO SPRINGS

Diverse Voices, Shared Goal: Finding Common Ground

Scheduled to begin this month, the task force will comprise individuals and representatives from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. “The goal,” explains Thelen, “is to quickly identify one or two potential directions for e-bikes and define the parameters for those directions.”

This follows a previous attempt in 2021 to introduce a pilot program allowing e-bikes on specific trails for a trial period. However, legal concerns surrounding TOPS, the program funded by sales tax proceeds designated for parkland, led to the program’s cancellation. Opponents argued that TOPS’ charter, approved by voters in 1997, prohibits motors on its properties, including the electric motors of e-bikes.

Voter Input and Policy Revisions: A Potential Path Forward

Last year, park officials hinted at the possibility of putting a question to voters seeking a revision of the TOPS charter to pave the way for broader e-bike access. This potential solution is likely to be discussed during the task force meetings.

Thelen emphasized that the meetings will also involve reviewing policies implemented in other jurisdictions, with several Front Range counties already establishing regulations for e-bike access and limitations. Beyond legal considerations, she highlighted other crucial factors, including conservation easements, resource protection, and accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Balancing Interests: Seeking Solutions for All

Local advocacy groups have expressed their stances on the issue. The Trails and Open Space Coalition supports allowing Class 1 e-bikes on trails shared with regular bikes, while Medicine Wheel, a prominent mountain biking group, advocates for a more cautious approach, identifying specific “appropriate” areas for e-bike use.

A survey conducted before the proposed 2021 pilot program revealed contrasting opinions. Some saw e-bikes as providing access to outdoor experiences that were previously out of reach, while others raised concerns about safety, environmental impact, and the overall trail experience.

Following the task force’s work, Thelen assures the public that the city “will work to create a process to involve the public, allowing all voices to be heard.” This collaborative effort seeks to establish a sustainable and inclusive policy for e-bikes in Colorado Springs,

FAQs

1. What are the current regulations for e-bikes on Colorado Springs trails?

Currently, only Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on designated urban paths, not on natural trails.

2. What are the main concerns regarding e-bikes on trails?

Safety, environmental impact, and disruption of the trail experience for other users are key concerns.

3. What is the goal of the e-bike task force?

The task force aims to develop a new policy for e-bikes on city trails, considering legal constraints, user needs, and environmental protection.

4. Will there be public input on the proposed policy?

Yes, Thelen assures that the city will create a process for public input after the task force completes its work.

5. How can I stay informed about the e-bike policy development?

Follow the City of Colorado Springs Parks department website and social media pages for updates and opportunities to participate in the public input process.

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