Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

14 Aug 2016

How the City of Durango could regulate the risks of electric bike riders on the Animas River Trail

Posted by Adam Howell


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Electric bikes have a unique ability to help riders get to places faster with less effort required in pedaling up hills, resulting in them sweating less during their commute.

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In Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River Core Trail has signage and a center line painted on its surface at strategic places, as well as signage on sign posts off to the side.

Those benefits are gradually growing the popularity of e-bikes, while their high price tag and prohibition on local trails remain as speed bumps to their mainstream use.

E-bikers represent a very small portion of commuters in Durango. I would guess that they make up around 1% of all commuter traffic on City roads and trails, even before the Durango City Council criminalized them a few months ago.

As the owner and rider of an e-bike in Durango, I feel that certain types of e-bikes should be legal to ride on the Animas River Trail, the main arterial hard-surfaced trail that’s running through town.

Alas, many people have safety concerns about the speed and mass of these bikes, as do most of the City Council, who banned e-bikes on local trails at the request of two City Boards.

Even if e-bikes were allowed on the Animas River Trail, riders would still be prohibited from taking them on any sidewalk in the Central Business District according to City of Durango Charter.

From a safety perspective, my own e-bike commuting on the Animas River Trail has progressed after close calls that taught me where on the trail I need to keep my speed in check.

Signage is posted at strategic points along the Yampa River Core Trail to help prevent conflicts between commuters.

Signage is posted at strategic points along the Yampa River Core Trail to help prevent conflicts between commuters.

E-bikes have a potential to create unsafe situations, due the greater ease of riding faster with less effort. I would like to think that now that I’ve ridden fast down the river trail (around 20 miles per hour) and been in a situation where I’ve scared a family after coming around a blind corner, I will never put myself or others in that situation again.

At the same time, most people have no idea at all when I pass or approach them, that I am riding an e-bike. With how similar my e-bike resembles a cruiser bicycle, and its quiet motor when I pedal past people, my e-bike just blends in with the crowd of other people on the trail.

Bicyclists without motorized bikes can create similar hazardous situations if they’re going too fast in certain places on the Animas River Trail.

Should non-motorized bikes be banned as well? Of course not.

I’d like to think that people could learn for themselves when to reduce their speed on the Animas River Trail, but certain features like signage painted on the concrete, lane stripes, and speed bumps would all make the trail safer for everyone using it.

Sections of the Animas River Trail where roots or erosion have caused asphalt to rise or sink have inadvertently created a speed scrub for e-bikes. I’m not saying that I enjoy the bumpy asphalt sections of the Animas River Trail behind River City Hall, or between Hwy 160 and Santa Rita Park. I’m just saying that bumpy sections have the tendency to slow people like me down when riding over it with an e-bike.

E-cyclists should also just find a way to get a speedometer installed on their bikes to help them understand what 15 miles per hour feels like.

A few ideas that I’ll be advocating for at the City of Durango’s September 19th joint board meeting on e-bikes:

  1. E-bicycles should be defined as a type of bicycle with an electric motor as well as functioning rotational pedals that can actuate the bike’s movement.
  2. Allow e-bikes on the Animas River Trail (hard-surface) with speed limit signage and speed bumps placed at strategic locations where blind corners create a limited sight distance. Examples where speeds should be strategically scrubbed through speed bumps and signage are behind Albertsons, around Santa Rita Park, under the Main Avenue bridge, and behind the Powerhouse Science Center.
  3. Speeds limit on the Animas River Trail should be set to 15 mph, and shall prohibit any e-bike with a potential top speed that is greater than 25 mph.
  4. Speed bumps should be painted on the Animas River Trail at strategic locations in bright colors and allow for smaller wheels to roll over them.
  5. Speed bumps on the Animas River Trail should be shaped to allow for snow plows to easily slide over the top of them.
  6. E-bike riders should pass on the left after giving an audible warning to those they are passing.
  7. City officials should encourage the use of speedometers on e-bikes.

Joint board meeting between Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board and the Multi-Modal Board:

Monday, September 19, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. at the Durango Community Recreation Center. Email comments to: rec@durangogov.org

Legalize e-bikes on the Animas River Trail in Durango, Colorado

This petition is now closed.

End date: Dec 31, 2016

Signatures collected: 3

Signature goal: 350

3 signatures

Latest Signatures
3Linda JohnSteamboatNoSep 08, 2016
2Morgan LommeleBoulder, COnoAug 15, 2016
1Adam HowellDurangoYesAug 14, 2016

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