By Gloria Dickie
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Boulder’s adoption of an e-bike pilot project gained some traction tonight at the Open Space and Mountain Parks Board of Trustees meeting, with the director of OSMP coming out in support of the motorized bicycles on paved, multi-use paths.
In August, Boulder’s Transportation Department introduced the idea of a one-year pilot program for e-bikes, also known as electric-assisted bicycles, as part of an update to the department’s master plan.
E-bikes allow riders to travel at speeds nearing 20 mph and require less exertion than an average bicycle, often making it an ideal form of transportation for an aging demographic, and those with disabilities.
“I think electric bikes have changed,” said Mike Patton, director of OSMP. “The city is very interested in greenhouse gases [and] this is an alternative transportation mode. Conceptually, I support it.”
Allyn Feinberg, OSMP board member, noted City Council had seemed receptive to the idea of expanding the e-bike’s range, which is currently limited to bike lanes on city streets.
However, while many of OSMP’s trustees supported the pilot program, they found their use on OSMP trails violated the charter, which does not allow for non-passive recreation.
“I don’t believe we can manage e-bikes, officially, on open space,” Patton said. “We’re not going to determine how fast they’re going, whether they’re too large or too small — it becomes a management issue.”
Instead, board members recommended reviewing the possibility of transferring some paved, multi-use trails to the Transportation Department.
But not all the trustees were convinced of the value of an e-bike pilot program.
Frances Hartogh pointed out that under the American Disability Act, those with physical limitations could already operate e-bikes on OSMP trails. Thus, she questioned whether e-bikes were an issue of transportation need or preference, and the value of one person’s recreation over another.
Despite Hartogh’s reservations, OSBT passed a motion recommending OSMP staff begin investigating the possible transference of identified, paved, multi-use paths on OSMP land that principally serve a transportation function.