Safety was central to arguments both for and against allowing bikes with electric motors on Durango’s city trails Monday night.
Many cyclists said they prefer commuting on the Animas River Trail because it is much safer than negotiating highways or busy city streets.
“In traffic, with semis, I don’t feel safe,” Corey Sue Hutchinson said.
Pedestrians echoed similar concerns about sharing the trails with bikes, both with and without motors on city trails, because of their speed.
“There is a real fear factor, too, for the pedestrian,” Chris Paulson said.
Three city advisory boards heard these concerns from a crowd of about 50 at the Durango Community Recreation Center on whether city trails should be open to electronically power bicycles, or e-bikes.
E-bikes come in many forms. Some are fitted with motors that kick in only when the rider pedals, and others are equipped with throttles.
This spring, the Durango City Council added e-bikes to the list of prohibited vehicles for safety reasons. This was a clarification of city rules because all motorized vehicles have been banned on trails for years.
“It’s the law we’ve always had in place,” Councilor Dean Brookie told the crowd.
The city decided to revisit the issue after hearing requests from the community.
The open forum brought out many e-bike supporters who talked about their experience on pedal-assisted bikes that give the rider a boost when the terrain is tough. The electronically assisted bicycles don’t go faster than 20 miles an hour unless the rider can pedal faster than that.
The Parks and Recreation, Multimodal and the Natural Lands advisory boards will discuss the issue in individual meetings to put in place a process on how to decide whether or not e-bikes should be allowed.
The boards may form a subcommittee to help shape the policy that will be recommended to the City Council in 2017.
“We want to go to council when we are ready as boards and the community is ready,” Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said.
Cyclists and residents raised a broad array of issues for the boards to address, not all directly related to e-bikes.
Signs indicating narrow sections of trail and encouraging etiquette and striping to create lanes would make the trail safer, residents on both sides of the issue said.
“There’s many users on the trail, but there is not a common etiquette,” Jo C Soignier said.
E-Bike proponents also made the case that they can help older riders stay on the bicycles longer and equalize riders of different skill levels.
Mary Handrick told the boards there is almost more metal in her body than in her bike. While she could get a disability placard from the Division of Motor Vehicles to ride her bike, she would prefer the city to legalize the electronic-assist technology, she said.
“A lot of us need those bikes,” she said.
Many in favor of e-bikes made the point that it’s the riders not the bike who make reckless decisions.
“Encourage us to be good citizens, and I think you will find we will be,” e-bike rider Anne Markward said.
However, Soignier and others would rather keep e-bikes on the streets, than the trails.
“The trail to me is a very sacred space that warrants protections for nonmotorized use,” Soignier said.
Garrett Alexander, manager at Durango Cyclery, encouraged city officials to look at managing e-bikes on hard and soft trails separately – making sure they enforce the rules.
“There has to be someone to actually follow through and regulate,” he said.
email@example.comA quote in this story has been corrected. Jo C Soigner wants to see the trail protected for nonmotorized use.