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Town and Land Trust trying to stay ahead of E-bike growth

Protecting the easements and respecting the federal lands

By Mark Reaman

Signage will be going up before biking season to let people know which local trails prohibit E-bike, or electric bikes that use motors to help pedaling. E-bikes are growing in popularity and the concern is that people will not understand where they can legally be ridden.

The Crested Butte Land Trust and Town of Crested Butte manage more than 20 miles of trails in the upper valley. The trails cross a mixture of private, public and federal property and hold various easement restrictions. Many of the trail easements prohibit any motorized vehicles.

Examples of such trails that are designated as non-motorized include the Lower Loop, the Lupine trails, the Green Lake trail, the Budd Trails system, the Woods Walk, Snodgrass and Teddy’s Trail, the Peanut Mine Trail and the Baxter Gulch Trail.

Crested Butte open space coordinator Mel Yemma informed the council that the town and Land Trust have discussed how best to address the growing E-bike predicament. “E-bikes are a hot topic and we want to stay in front of it,” she said. “We are looking primarily at signage and outreach to help educate people about where they are permitted.”

Yemma said most of the trail easements come with clear and consistent language that prohibits any motorized use. And she said those easements cross a patchwork of various properties owned by different entities. Many of the easements were negotiated before the advent of E-bikes.

“There are a lot of benefits to E-bikes but we view them as having a motor,” Yemma told the council at an April work session. “We are proposing signing the trails where they are not allowed.”

In response to a question from mayor Jim Schmidt about the American Disabilities Act requirements, Yemma said, “Devices used by individuals for ADA purposes are still allowed but, for example, the Forest Service looks at that like electric wheelchairs rather than E-bikes. There are so many places around here where E-bikes are allowed, like the Rec Path between Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, that we are fortunate. We don’t anticipate this being a big issue and no one will be out there telling people they can’t be there on an E-bike.”

Yemma emphasized that the biggest priority of the town and Land Trust was upholding the integrity of the current easements with the land owners.

Citizen Neil Windsor told the council he had looked at E-bikes in Grand Junction and the lowest of three E-bike categories that regulate E-bike speed automatically cuts out the motor-assist feature when the bike hits 15 miles per hour. “There are ways they deal with speed on trails,” he concluded.

“Our intention is to bring clarity on both sides,” said Yemma. “We want people to know where they are allowed and where they aren’t permitted. Overall we want to ensure consistency for users connecting through our properties and easements to federal lands where they are not allowed.”

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