RFTA pedaling toward new rule on e-bikes on its share of Rio Grande Trail | PostIndependent.com

RFTA pedaling toward new rule on e-bikes on its share of Rio Grande Trail

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

RFTA's board of directors is leaning toward altering the use of e-bikes on the 20-mile section of the Rio Grande Trail that it manages.

RFTA currently allows class one and class two e-bikes. The board directed its staff at a meeting Thursday to prepare a resolution for the July meeting to change the policy to allow only class one e-bikes.

Class one e-bikes have an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and only to a speed of 20 mph.

Class two bikes don't require pedaling. The rider can just turn the throttle to move. In the eyes of the board majority, class two e-bikes are too much like motorized vehicles.

“If there’s not really a problem with class two bikes, why are we worrying about it?”

— Glenwood Mayor Michael Gamba, RFTA board member

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By allowing only class one bikes, RFTA will match Pitkin County's policy on paved trails. Pitkin County doesn't allow any type of e-bike on its extensive single-track trail system. The county manages the Rio Grande Trail from the Emma schoolhouse to Aspen. RFTA manages the trail between the schoolhouse and Glenwood Springs.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Executive Director Gary Tennenbaum urged RFTA to follow the county's lead based on safety concerns. The Rio Grande Trail is "nearing capacity" at times such as summer weekends, Tennenbaum said. Allowing class two e-bikes will add to congestion and potentially add riders who aren't familiar with cycling etiquette to the mix.

"We're starting to see more and more of it on the trails in the valley," Tennenbaum said. "We're seeing more interest in e-bike use."

RFTA board members questioned how the policy would be enforced. It doesn't have trail rangers like the open space program does. It will largely depend on voluntary compliance.

Tennenbaum said Pitkin County's rangers have an easy rule for checking compliance.

"The way Pitkin County is looking at it is if you're pedaling, you're good. If you're not pedaling, no good," he said.

Not everyone on RFTA's board was convinced the rules require tweaking. Board member and Glenwood Mayor Michael Gamba wants the RFTA staff to investigate if there have been accidents on the Rio Grande Trail involving class two e-bikes.

"If there's not really a problem with class two bikes, why are we worrying about it?" he asked.

But board sentiment was clearly toward allowing only pedal-assist e-bikes. The public will get a chance to weigh in at RFTA's July 12 meeting. If a change were made, eliminating class two e-bikes, it would go into effect immediately after the July meeting.

scondon@aspentimes.com