Laraine Martin, executive director of Routt County Riders, has been getting a lot of calls lately.
“A lot of executive directors from other mountain bike organizations are reaching out,” she said from Steamboat Springs. “They’re like, ‘Can you let us know what you guys are doing?’ There’s a similar kind of sense of wanting to do the right thing for access and the right thing for other user groups.”
Such is the plight and interest regarding electric-powered bikes in the town that calls itself Bike Town USA.
It is a debate that has intensified across the West, sparked in 2019 by a secretarial order that called on the Bureau of Land Management to allow e-bikes. Previously, Colorado defined the technology into categories, with Class 1 e-bikes thereafter being permitted on multi-use networks around the Front Range — the pedal-assisted motors limited to 20 mph joining hikers and other cyclists. A year-long pilot program is set for Colorado Springs trails starting May 31.
In Bike Town USA, the debate recently came to a head at Emerald Mountain, Steamboat’s singletrack jewel. Officials this month decided against e-bikes on the preserve as part of a study expected to take place on other trails. That was after an hours-long meeting that included “strong feelings” voiced on either side of the argument, Steamboat Pilot and Today reported.
Steamboat’s top cycling advocate has walked a fine line.
“I don’t want to give validity to one (side) vs. the other,” Martin told The Gazette. “They’re both valid perspectives.”
She called Routt County Riders’ membership “quite divided,” with one side speaking up for older riders and those with disabilities who benefit from e-bikes. Another side is “drawing a line in the sand,” Martin said. “The word ‘motor’ being involved is where they’re drawing the line.”
And while it may be against the rules to ride e-bikes at Emerald Mountain, she expected e-bikes to continue increasing there.
That’s “because of the confusion around the rules,” she said, “and the lack of education on the part of folks either riding them or renting them out.”