What is an e-Bike? Well, “e” is short for electric; it’s a bike equipped with an electric motor to lessen pedal resistance and “assist” the rider. With falling prices and improving technology, their popularity is increasing.
The e-bike categorization of class 1-4 system appears to becoming the standard, but definitions currently still vary between land managers and even between different documents guiding the same land manager.
- Class 1 e-bikes are pedal assist only. The electric drive system on the bike must be activated through a pedaling action and is limited to 20 mph.
- Class 2 e-bikes are “Throttle on Demand”, where the electric drive system can be activated using a throttle and has the same top speed as Class 1.
- Class 3 e-bikes are known as “Speed Pedelec” and have a throttle element capable of powering the rider up to 20 mph on motor power, or up to 28 mph if the rider is also pedaling.
- Class 4 e-bikes are grouped with mopeds and motorcycles. The electric drive system can be activated through pedaling or throttle and may exceed 28 mph.
How might these bikes impact cycling in Routt County? We, as the local bicycle advocacy organization, get more and more questions about electric bicycles. We answer as best we can, but ultimately it is the land manager (City of Steamboat, Routt County, BLM, USFS) who are responsible for setting, communicating and enforcing policy on e-bikes
Some residents in Steamboat often live up a hill that might negate riding home. With an e-bike, it makes that hill just a bit easier. Errands become a little easier with an e-bike. Older riders or people coming back from injury might find an e-bike a welcome addition.
Locally, most trails around Steamboat are on public lands. In addition to the federal, state and local regulations, some of the public lands also have conservation easements that place additional requirements on specific properties.
The US Forest Service classifies e-bikes as motor vehicles. So, e-bikes are not allowed in non-motorized areas. The State of Colorado has an opt in/out policy on local trails and sidewalks. A local jurisdiction may either opt in to allow them on trails or opt out on sidewalks. Steamboat Springs has a ban that applies to wheeled devices on downtown sidewalks only between Yampa and Oak and between 3rd and 13th. That includes bicycles and e-bikes.
Obviously, riders of any type of bike are responsible for knowing where they are permitted. Do your research and know where you can ride. Don’t assume that all areas (especially trails) are open. As we learn more about and get better clarification on e-bike policies, we will post them on our website.
Routt County Riders is the local source for grassroots advocacy and information for all types of cycling. If you would like to help or would like more info, please contact us at facebook.com/rcriders, routtcountyriders.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Perkins is a Routt County Riders board member and volunteer.