Snowmass Town Council approves of class 1 e-bikes on paved paths, trails

Erica Robbie
Snowmass Sun
Batteries on e-bikes, pictured, can be set on different power levels to assist the rider. Following Pitkin County's lead, the Snowmass Town Council on June 4 approved on first reading an ordinance allowing class 1 ebikes on paved paths and trails within the village.
Anna Stonehouse/Snowmass Sun

Following Pitkin County’s lead, members of the Snowmass Town Council on June 4 expressed their support for allowing one class of e-bikes on paved paths and trails within the village.

With a quorum in place, the three council members present approved on first reading an ordinance that would change the town’s law to permit class 1 electric bicycles. Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler and Councilman Bill Madsen were absent.

The ordinance reiterates that class 2 and 3 e-bikes will remain prohibited on all bike and pedestrian paths and trails in Snowmass Village.

The town of Snowmass also will continue to ban the use of class 1 e-bikes on any non-paved areas.

Municipalities throughout Colorado have grappled with the issue of e-bikes after a state law that passed last summer redefined class 1 and 2 e-bikes as bicycles rather than motorized vehicles. The change in Colorado law allowed these classes of electric bicycles on pedestrian and bike paths, which was prohibited before.

Further, the e-bike “phenomenon,” town attorney John Dresser called it at the June 4 meeting, is quickly gaining popularity.

Local jurisdictions, including Pitkin County and Snowmass Village, have articulated a desire to keep e-bike laws consistent across governments, as many trails overlap.

“It would be very good of us to follow Pitkin County’s lead,” Town Councilman Tom Goode said June 4. Pitkin County commissioners May 30 supported the use of class 1 e-bikes on paved paths and trails throughout the county. The Aspen City Council has not yet made a decision.

Although supportive of the change in ordinance, Snowmass town councilwoman Alyssa Shenk wondered if allowing electric bicycles on paved areas would enable riders to feel more inclined to venture onto non-paved and dirt paths and trails.

“I feel like people have total disregard and don’t seem to care,” Shenk said, adding that the long-term effects of e-bike use on mountain trails — “in terms of damaging the trails, multi-use and animals” — is unknown.

Shenk said many people in the past week have asked her how the town will monitor trail mis-use.

Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney assured Shenk that enforcement is in place and said the town would “make sure it doesn’t happen to the best of our ability.” He also suggested an educational campaign as a possible solution.

Dresser said the town also could impose stricter penalties and higher fines for people who abuse Snowmass’ trail policies.

“If you’re worried about compliance, that is one method,” Dresser said.

Seemingly more comfortable with the ordinance as proposed, Shenk said, “I just think it’s important to protect our trails,” to which her follow councilors and town staff agreed.

The e-bike ordinance will go to a second reading at a Snowmass Town Council meeting June 18, where all five elected officials are expected to be present.


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