Rio Grande Trail e-bike debate remains unresolved
October 5, 2010
ASPEN – Four entities with jurisdiction over the Rio Grande Trail between Aspen and Glenwood Springs are continuing to research the issue of allowing electric-assist bicycles on the route.
Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs all maintain parts of the trail. The use of e-bikes – a hybrid between an electric-powered bicycle and a pedal bike – became an issue this summer when a business began renting them in Aspen. The trail was posted as off-limits to the bikes at the trail entrance near the Aspen post office.
The bicycles offer an electric boost to the rider, but must be pedaled to operate.
There are questions about whether an agency that received federal funds – for transit in general or construction of the trail in particular – must allow the bikes, Pitkin County commissioners were told Tuesday. Staffers hope to have an answer, and a recommendation, by late October, said John Armstrong, county open space and trails ranger.
The goal, he said, is one policy that will be in place throughout the length of the trail, but Commissioner Jack Hatfield suggested he’d be OK with the county having its own prohibition, even if the bikes are allowed on the trail outside the county’s boundary.
“I don’t think they’re what we want on our trails – that’s only my opinion,” he said.
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The bikes are seeing use in some communities by commuters, Commissioner Rachel Richards countered.
“There’s a lot of aspects to it we don’t know,” she said. “We have an aging population and we’re trying to get people out of their cars.”
Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper suggested the towns of Basalt and Carbondale be asked what they think about use of the bikes on the trail, as well.