The City of Colorado Springs announced last week that they will be starting a one-year pilot program allowing Class-1 e-bikes on the city’s trails starting May 31. A newly imposed 15mph speed limit will follow the pilot and is applicable to all bikes, electric or not, on any trail under the city’s management.
Up until the pilot program, Class 1 e-bikes had only been allowed on the city’s paved bike paths. Only Class 1 e-bikes will be allowed on natural surface trails, and Class 2 e-bikes will be allowed on city bike paths and “urban trails.”
The city says that the decision was made following stakeholder meetings and a community survey last fall with 1,600 participants. E-bike use has increased in Colorado Springs in the past few years, which prompted the city to look into further implementation. They first allowed Class 1 e-bikes on urban trails in February 2018.
“We’re at a point, now, where we’re ready to test what expanded e-bike access looks like in our community,” said Scott Abbott, regional parks manager in a press release. “During the year-long pilot program, which is a result of listening to the community and extensive research, we will evaluate usage and how it impacts the trail system and the overall user experience. We want to make sure the new policy is working and is the right decision for our community.”
Colorado Springs isn’t yet sure about how they’ll apply and enforce the speed limit, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Parks manager Scott Abbott told the Gazette that they would like to educate before they enforce though, and may collaborate with the police department, if needed.
To the north of Colorado Springs, Jefferson County had a 1-year pilot program for Class-1 e-bikes on the county’s open space trails, and e-bikes were granted permanent access after the pilot ran in 2018, though that county did not enact a speed limit.
Since this is a city allowance, and not a county program, the pilot is due to run only on the city’s bike trails, however that includes popular systems like Palmer Park, Ute Valley Park, North Cheyenne Canyon and others.
We’ve reached out to Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, but have not heard back yet.
Interview with Colorado Springs Parks and Rec Parks Manager Scott Abbott
Was the speed limit seen as necessary because of the e-bike pilot program or were there other reasons?
You know, yes, no, and maybe to all of it, right? What we did after our survey came through and certainly what we’ve been doing for a few years is really extensive research, whether it’s countrywide, all on the Front Range, just gathering information from all kinds of municipalities who are also going through this whole new learning – some are pilot programs, some are just, you know, putting out rules and regulations regarding the technology.
Part of the speed limit thing was adopting some of those ideas from Denver, Parker, and Fort Collins. They had a great pilot program with what they call a courtesy 15 mile an hour speed limit. I think Boulder, I’m not quite sure if it was the city or the county did a small section of speed, the count, maybe along their urban trails, where they did not see speeds reaching above 15 miles an hour. All of that went into, “you know, it’s a good starting point.” And I think for the most part, the urban trail corridor, that’s a that’s a reasonable limit.
Now, that being said, this is a pilot program, one of the pieces of our pilot program is we’re going to do something similar to the studies that we’ve seen, and that is, we’re going to look at the speed. So we’re going to have operation set up where we’re speed gunning folks and kind of getting an idea of what are the speeds out there. We really don’t know.
So it sounds like the department felt that this was necessary to have as a basic common courtesy rule?
Yeah, and we did hear a lot about that out of our surveys we gave, you know, it wasn’t just a survey that had ABC pick a choice, we did give areas for people to physically comment and write. So we could really gather their feelings about all of this in the Pikes Peak region. And speed came up quite a bit that bikes are already out of control and speeding fast.
I ride a bike. I don’t know how fast I’m going on my single track. I’m not paying attention to that. I’m really interested to see what the speeds are. Now take our downhill trails that are areas that we have cordoned off specific mountain bike use, we’ll certainly make exceptions in those areas.
And what are those trails?
So, we have a mountain bike only trail called The Chutes. And that’s an area area that’s been specifically built to accommodate higher speeds and really cool features. We also have an area in Ute Valley Park that is, you know, cordoned off and fenced in for that specific type of downhill experience. But everywhere else, we really need to try to keep a reasonable limit on speed, for the danger in the experience of everybody else involved.
Will Parks and Rec be enforcing the speed limit during the pilot?
No, not at all. Now, I can’t say that 100%, but the goal of our pilot program is to study. So, a huge effort to educate people to make sure that we’re interpreting this that trail has and kiosks with rules and regs, that’s always our first go-to and we would much rather stay there. We’d much rather stay in the education area. So you know, the hope is education. The feeling of etiquette while people are out there, the ability for us to all get along. That’s where we would rather stay.
I’m sure this is likely another conversation you’d have to have with Medicine Wheel but does having to have a speed limit on the city’s trails for mountain bikers create a bigger conversation for more mountain bike specific trails in Colorado Springs?
You know, as always, that’s always on the tip of conversation for sure. And we know it’s such a growing population along the Front Range as a whole. The ability for us to have more trail options to spread the use out would help In the future. there are some land management agencies that do have those directional trails, I think JeffCo has started to dip their toes in the water. And I think everybody likes to use those pilot programs to get the feel. And so for this whole e-bike allowance, and for the the speed limit monitor, it’s kind of that feel. How does this feel? And we’re going to pilot this and then come back and possibly make some recommendations post-pilot program, but we kind of won’t know those things until we get to the to the end of next year’s pilot program.
I know this is gonna be a growing conversation, not here, not only in the Springs, but all around, that technology is continuing to fine tune itself. And, again, the biggest piece, I’ll just reiterate that is education first, and the ability for everyone to have a reasonably great time and out there.
Updated with interview with Colorado Springs Parks and Rec.