Fans of electric bicycles will have a new place to ride in June – on a trial basis.
The city of Durango will start a one-year trial at the end of June to allow pedal-assist electric bike users to ride around Twin Buttes Open Space. It’s the city’s second electric bike trial, and first on natural trails.
Electric bikes on trails have sparked debate, but Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz is confident in the department’s education-oriented approach.
“What we’re doing now is we’re getting our educational material completed,” Metz said, such as brochures, signs and online information. “We’re going to ask people to keep in touch with us during the trial period, but that’ll all be a part of this educational piece.”
Twin Buttes Open Space, about 2 miles west of downtown on U.S. Highway 160, will offer about 10 miles of mountain biking trails. While pedal-assist, Class 1 bikes will be allowed during the trial, Class 2 electric bikes, which have throttle engines and can go up to 20 miles per hour, will not.
Durango City Council directed Parks and Recreation to go forward with the project during a City Council meeting May 19. Staff also consulted with advisory boards and held a public input process earlier in the year.
Durango has debated how to manage electric-bicycle recreation for years. City Council briefly banned the bikes in 2016. Some residents were concerned about safety, others argued the bikes can allow older people to continue riding and let cyclists of different levels ride together.
“Some people said it isn’t so much about the e-bike, it’s about all the bikes,” Metz said. People were concerned about being run off the trail by bike traffic. “There was a lot of concern about safety as a whole, but on the Animas River Trail in particular because it’s such a highly used trail.”
The city launched a one-year trial in 2017 to allow Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes on hard-surface paths, such as the Animas River Trail, Florida Road, Goeglein Gulch Road and some connector trails.
Before the trial started, the department posted signage around the trails, especially in areas with poor sight distances; distributed educational materials; and painted striping to control traffic flow. At the end of the trial, the city changed its laws to allow Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles to be on the pathways.
“What we found is that really helped to make the trial successful and helped all the users have a better experience,” Metz said. “We’re trying to do the same process for the natural surface trail trial in Twin Buttes.”