From Darkness To Light

18 Nov 2018

Electric bicycles on hard-surface trails to be voted on following hearing with City Council

Posted by Adam Howell

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A vote on whether to allow electric bicycles on hard-surface trails is expected to immediately follow a public hearing at a Durango City Council meeting on Monday.

City Council might change an existing ordinance in such a way that would lift the current ban on motorized vehicles on specific hard-surface trails in the city.

A staff proposal to allow Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on the Animas River Trail, the Florida Road Trail, the Goeglein Gulch Trail, the Smart 160 Trail, and the Three Springs Trail was collectively and unanimously approved in October by three City boards at one meeting.

Public comment was given at the joint board meeting, and all of it was in favor of allowing electric bikes on the specified hard-surface trails.

Electric bike prohibitionist Chris Paulson did not attend the meeting.

The approved motion was then given to the Durango City Council for final approval.

City of Durango staff and board members decided that allowing electric bikes on the specified hard-surface trails was acceptable after conducting a year-long trial period.

During the pilot program, the City asked for feedback from the public on what they were observing, and what affects or impacts these electric bike users were having.

At the joint board meeting following the trial period, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz reported that there were no conflicts between electric bike riders and other trail users.

“Our park rangers are out in the open space on the Animas River Trail, and in our trail systems and in our parks, and they made a lot of observations about the ebikes being used on city trails, and what they found on the Animas River Trail in particular where we have a very high degree of presence: they didn’t see any problems. They didn’t have any sort of altercations between community members, bikes or pedestrians related to the ebike issue. So they didn’t see any problems associated with the pilot program,” said Metz.

“Right after we did the safety improvements on the Animas River Trail we got some positive emails from the community, saying that overall they liked those safety improvements. They were very supportive of it, and thanked the City for doing that work. But really, during the pilot program it was largely quiet,” said Metz. “We didn’t have a lot of communication from the community in writing expressing concerns or anything really about the pilot program.”

Electric bicycles were generally not permitted on natural surface trails under the trial period, with the exception of one trail: the snowcat commuter connector on Chapman Hill linking Florida Road to Fort Lewis College.

After the trial period, Chapman Hill staff reported that they had not seen ebikes on the commuter connector, according to Metz.

“The reason we excluded it is because we didn’t see a lot of use of Chapman Hill with electric bicycles, and I didn’t see that there was a lot of public need for that.”

People that are interested in observing or participating in the City Council’s public hearing regarding ebikes on hard surface trails should know that the meeting starts on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Adam Howell is a writer who is on the City of Durango’s Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.

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