Trail Talk: E-bike safety in Snowmass

Starr Jamison
Parks & Trails Manager

How are those bikers going so fast — uphill?

E-bikes, of course.

Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are becoming increasingly popular nationwide. These traditional-looking bicycles are equipped with an electric motor that can be used to assist riders in a variety of ways, whether it’s giving the cycler a boost while they pedal or allowing them to choose between using their legs or the all-around electric motor to propel them.

On June 4, 2018, Snowmass Town Council approved Class 1 e-bikes on paved trails only. As these bikes gain popularity, questions and concerns are arising about trail sharing with e-bikes.

The most important thing to remember is to operate e-bikes on local paved trails at safe speeds. This isn’t just proper trail behavior; it is absolutely crucial to maintain a high standard of safety for all trail users.

According to Rails to Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a national network of trails along former rail lines, trail-user conflicts caused by speed are believed to be more about behavior than technology.

For example, an average, healthy person cycles roughly 13 miles per hour, a Tour de France racer averages about 25 miles per hour and an e-bike can reach speeds as fast as 20 miles per hour — but regardless, all cyclists have the potential to cause speed-related conflicts, the conservancy.

While e-bikes have the potential to exacerbate trail conflicts, it is most important to educate all cyclists and trail users about trail etiquette. In order to maintain a safe experience for everyone, cyclists using an e-bike or a regular bike must respect the experiences of pedestrians, other cyclists and other trail users by using safe speeds and signaling when passing.

In short, it is user behavior, not the technology of an e-bike, which determines the trail experience.