Cruisin’ into the future

 Uncategorized
Jun 142011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

As gas prices rise and the weather warms, you may hear the phrase “on your left” mixed with a power-drill-like buzz the next time you are passed on one of Fort Collins’ local trails.

City leaders are considering measures to change local ordinances that prevent electric-assist bicycles on Fort Collins’ multi-use paths including the popular Spring Creek and Poudre Trails.

“It is picking up momentum,” said Fort Collins Director of Park Planning Craig Foreman.

These bikes generally combine standard pedal-bicycles with a low-power motor, assisting users as needed while still allowing for traditional riding.

Comments and concerns from groups across the city are being compiled for a council work session on June 28. At that time, all views of the issue will be considered, putting the city leaders one step closer to a decision, according to Marty Heffernan, director of Cultural, Library & Recreational Services.

“We are on the forefront of the issue,” Heffernan said, noting that not a lot of outside research is available regarding e-bikes.

Supporters have been fighting for e-bikes for years and, under Colorado law, each city is permitted to make its own decision regarding e-bikes on public trails.

More than a dozen supporters attended the May 17 City Council meeting and stated their case during the public comment section.

Josh Kerson, the manager of Small Planet E-Vehicles, said e-bikes are being used by the elderly for “social recreation” and can create opportunities for groups that normally cannot enjoy Fort Collins’ trails.

Allowing these bikes on city multi-use paths gives disabled groups and the elderly a chance to “resume exercise habits and use bicycles in a more utilitarian way,” he said.

If allowed on trails, e-bikes would allow easy access across town for work, school or leisure across all age groups –– all without sharing the lane with speeding cars, supporters said.

“I saw an 11-year-old girl shopping for an e-bike recently,” Kerson said. “She said she never wanted to have to buy a car.”
Concerns include the environmental impact, safety and the amount of noise generated by the motors –– often compared to a hand-held power drill.

CSU students appear indifferent and unaffected by the potential change, as long as rules are followed.

“It gets people on bikes. If they follow speed limits and the right-of-way, I don’t foresee any problems,” said Scott Hendrick, a senior construction management major and CSU cyclist.

The June 14 City Council meeting will likely hear more testimony in support of e-bikes, and Kerson is planning demonstrations for additional boards and commissions. In the meetings following the June 28 work-session, a highly anticipated decision is likely.

“We are really hoping Fort Collins holds their word and makes the right decision,” Kerson said.

Staff writer Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

What’s up next?

Will E-bikes be permitted on Fort Collins’ trails?

Follow City Council’s decision this July.

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