E-bikes now allowed on City’s paved natural trails

Samantha Ye

After a successful one-year pilot program, Fort Collins joins many of its neighboring communities in approving the use of Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on the paved natural area trails.

These e-bike classes both have a maximum motor assist speed of 20 mph. The only difference between Class 1 and Class 2 is that Class 2 provides assistance regardless of whether the rider is pedaling. 

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“Broadly speaking, we believe e-bikes provide a healthy and sustainable mobility solution for our community and one that moves us closer to our climate action and transportation goals,” said Tessa Greegor, FC Bikes program manager. 

City Council approved a pilot program last April allowing e-bikes on paved trails to test public perception and safety. Since the program was due to expire April 30, Council’s last meeting approved making the changes permanent with a 6-1 majority vote. 

During the pilot, the City found only 1.2% of trail bicyclists were using e-bikes, and most e-bike owners, roughly 64%, were 50 years old or older. E-bikes are being used for recreation and fitness and are replacing car trips, according to the draft pilot review.

Multiple survey questions indicated trail users still felt safe on the trails, and the majority were not experiencing conflicts with e-bikes. Within a six-month range, one person out of 427 people experienced an e-bike related crash on the paved trails. 

When it comes to speed, most people are not operating at top speeds, Greegor said. The average speed for all bikes on the paths was about 12 mph, with a range of 1-24 mph. The average for a small sample of 16 e-bikes was 15.62 mph with a range of 10-23 mph. The City has a courtesy speed limit of 15 mph, which is technically unenforceable. 

Moving forward, the City will continue its safety education efforts and keep monitoring the use of trails. Rather than rule enforcement, educating the public about safe biking has been the most effective path, Greegor said.

Councilmember Ross Cunniff, the only vote against the new ordinances, said he would still like to see enforcement options.

One of the compelling aspects to me of e-bikes is it opens up the recreation and transportation options for more (people) in our community. It’s enabling more people in our community to participate in healthy exercise and (for) greater age groups.” -Wade Troxell, mayor of Fort Collins

“I’ve observed at least one case where (a biker) didn’t slow down (despite City signage) and got into a crash serious enough that the ambulance had to come take them away,” Cunniff said. “So, I’m skeptical that we don’t have a problem that we need to address with some kind of enforcement or some kind of feedback to the users.”

Council floated ideas such as radar speed signs to let riders know how fast they’re going. It may go into further options during the budgeting process.

The access e-bikes provide to people with mobility issues and their ability to replace car trips were the main positives for councilmembers.

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“One of the compelling aspects to me of e-bikes is it opens up the recreation and transportation options for more (people) in our community,” Mayor Wade Troxell said. “It’s enabling more people in our community to participate in healthy exercise and (for) greater age groups.”

Other council business: COVID-19 updates

With Larimer County extending stay-at-home orders and the state doling out mask-wearing recommendations, City staff provided an update to some of the local measures the City has been taking

City provides clarifications on wearing masks

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis asked constituents last Friday to wear masks at all times when outside of their homes, according to CPR

The recommendation caught the City off guard, staff said, and it inspired concerns from residents who were seeing City workers around town without masks. 

Cloth masks — the kind of masks normal residents are encouraged to wear — are meant to protect people from the person wearing the mask and to minimize face touching. These masks are most effective in closed spaces, staff said, so workers in parks or other outside spaces may not benefit from wearing masks. 

Given the scarcity of masks, the City is working with an unspecified group to produce up to 500 masks a day starting Wednesday, staff said. 

Normal residents should only wear cloth masks and leave surgical and N95 medical masks to anyone in medical systems, according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment

City negotiates extending the use of the Northside Aztlan Community Center

The original order opening up the building to house people experiencing homelessness was only set to last until April 10. City staff said they are now working with the center to extend the program. 

Larimer County extended its stay-at-home order from April 17 to April 26 on Wednesday. 

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.