Electric Avenue? Not so fast, say Pitkin County trails officials | AspenTimes.com

Electric Avenue? Not so fast, say Pitkin County trails officials

Tom Clapper and his dog Ufee go for a stroll on the Rio Grand trail Wednesday afternoon.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Electric bicycles might be growing in popularity, but Pitkin County isn’t ready to allow them on its public trails just yet.

The county is eyeing ways to update rules and regulations for its open space and trails properties some 22 years after the original laws took effect.

On Wednesday, officials with the county’s Open Space and Trails Department briefed commissioners on proposed updates to Title 12, which the county implemented in 1993.

The updated laws address uses on county-owned open space and trails — including trail etiquette, dog poop and commercial activities, among others.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on amending Title 12 at its first reading, suggesting a few tweaks before it goes to a public hearing May 12.

Open Space and Trails Ranger John Armstrong told commissioners that he’s not looking to ticket people violating Title 12 rules. Rather, he considers “outreach, education, compliance and enforcement, in that order” to be his mantra.

One violation of Title 12 would be the use of an electric bike on the trails. Commissioners honed in on that part of the policy, which makes an exception for people with disabilities.

“Your ban on electrically assisted bicycles, I view that analogous to (Aspen Skiing Co.) banning snowboards (on Aspen Mountain) for years,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley. “I think that electric bicycles deserve more consideration than you’ve given here.”

Dale Will, head of Open Space and Trails, said the county is taking it slow when it comes to electric bikes. He noted that in Europe, electric bicycles can hit speeds of up to 150 or 200 miles per hour.

“We don’t want to discriminate against people who want to use electric bikes in a safe way,” he said. “But we’re not sure the (Rio Grande) trail would take additional numbers at high speeds. It’s something we’re approaching very carefully.”

The meeting focused primarily on the popular Rio Grande Trail. Commissioner Steve Child said allowing electric bikes on the trail could induce more people to commute to Aspen on the Rio Grande Trail as opposed to using a vehicle.

“I think that we should consider them for commuting purposes on certain trails,” he said. “That might be OK, and I think the main issue has to do with speed. Somebody on a racing-type bicycle can go on the Rio Grande Trail faster than someone on an electric-assisted bike who’s taking their time and going to work.”

Commissioners Rachel Richards and George Newman, however, weren’t as receptive, and encouraged a slower approach to the idea.

“We’re going down a slippery slope,” Newman said. “As soon as you start thinking about electrically assisted bikes, you open up Segways and who knows what the next generation of mobility will be. …. At this point, I don’t see it as a benefit for commuters.”

The updated policy proposal is available at http://co- pitkincounty2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/3725.


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