Town of Snowmass opts out of state law by banning e-bikes on trails |

Town of Snowmass opts out of state law by banning e-bikes on trails

As a number of Colorado municipalities gear up to allow electric bikes on bicycle and pedestrian paths and trails, per a House bill recently signed into law, the Snowmass Town Council on Monday passed an emergency ordinance banning e-bikes within these areas.

The current state law, under which Snowmass Village abides, does not allow the use of an electrical motor or bicycle on pedestrian or bike paths.

On April 4, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1151, which "broadens the definition of a bicycle to include a motorized bicycle," Snowmass Town Attorney John Dresser said. The law will go into effect Aug. 9.

"It changes the law 180 degrees," Dresser said before the three elected officials at the meeting. Town Council members Alyssa Shenk and Bill Madsen were absent.

Town staff advised the council to prohibit e-bikes on pedestrian and bike paths within the village because many of these trails, or at least portions of them, are easements that property owners granted to the local government for "non-motorized use only."

Dresser explained to the council that if the town violates the provisions of these easements, it would run the risk of losing them.

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"If you don't pass this, the only thing you're going to do is open a door for someone who has an easement on this property and doesn't want (motors) there and says, 'You blew it. You allowed motorized vehicles on there; I'm taking my property back, find someplace else for your trail,'" Dresser said.

Regarding the use of e-bikes, Dresser said, "I think everybody realizes that this is a growing phenomenon."

"We're suggesting this prohibition simply to gain the time" to determine where e-bikes may be allowed and appropriate in Snowmass Village.

While supportive of the ordinance, Town Councilmen Bob Sirkus and Tom Goode, said the town should place a sunset on the ordinance, in an effort to "to put the community at some sense of ease."

"I would like to see an expiration, a range of March 31 to April 15, so that there is some finite date that people can expect something to be happening," Sirkus said. "And that finite date is before the next bicycling season."

Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler, Town Manager Clint Kinney and Dresser, however, said it is premature to set a timeline on an issue with as many moving parts and players as the one before them.

"It's a deadline that involves input from many others," Kinney said.

The easement grantors alone, for instance, include Snowmass Village homeowners, homeowners and condominium associations, Aspen Skiing Co. and Wildcat Ranch, according to Travis Elliot, assistant to the town manager.

"I think putting dates on projects that we don't know what we're dealing with only creates challenges," Butler added. "I don't know the magnitude of the work, I don't know what the resources are for town staff to begin to devote time and energy to this inventory.

"I'm not opposed to having Clint return after he talks with staff, but for me to sit here and say, 'I'm going to support a date of March 31' … I don't think that's good governance."

With a quorum in place, the Town Council voted 3-0 to approve the emergency ordinance, without a sunset, effective immediately.