The city may allow electric bikes on the Animas River Trail and a few other trails for a one-year trial period.
Several city advisory boards are holding a meeting on Thursday to get feedback on a draft plan before it is reviewed by the Durango City Council.
City law prohibits e-bikes, bicycles with motors, but they are growing in popularity and residents have requested the city change the rules. Older riders and those with disabilities laud e-bikes because they allow them to keep up with others and handle more difficult terrain.
The city is proposing the one-year trail period before the council would consider changing city law to allow e-bikes.
“We felt it was more prudent to have a trial to see how it works,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.
The city plans to allow only class one e-bikes, those with motors that run while the cyclist is pedaling and cut out when the rider reaches 20 mph.
Enforcing new e-bike rules has been an ongoing concern for residents and Metz expects Durango Police Department officers and city park rangers would help with enforcement, but education will be key.
“The way we are the most successful with getting the community to comply is simply with good education,” she said.
As part of the changes, the city also plans to address safety concerns by ramping up education to encourage courtesy, installing new yield signs and striping the trail in areas where it is difficult to see oncoming trail traffic.
“I think the biggest concern is safety of all trail users,” she said.
The draft plan also recommends speed limits. From Memorial Park to Cundiff Park the speed limit would be 10 mph and from Cundiff Park to Dallabetta Park the speed limit would be 15 mph.
The city tracked the speed of trail users to come up with proposed speed limits. Riders exceeding the suggested speed limits seemed unsafe, Metz said.
“It seemed very fast and too fast for the conditions,” she said.
Cyclists are welcome to ride the trail, but they need to be aware that it is congested and ride more slowly.
“If you want to go fast you need to be on the roads,” she said.
In addition to allowing e-bikes on the river trail, e-bikes would be allowed on the Florida Road Trail and Goeglein Gulch Road Trail. They would also be allowed on a Chapman Hill snowcat road that provides a link between Florida Road to Fort Lewis College, and the trail between Jenkins Ranch Road and Ball Lane.
The city plans to uphold the ban on e-bikes on soft surface trails in the city’s open space because most of the areas are protected by conservation easements that do not allow motorized vehicles.
If the trail period for e-bikes is approved the city would take comments on the regulations during the year. At the end city advisory boards would evaluate the rules and make another recommendation to city council on whether e-bikes should be allowed going forward.