Discussion of allowing e-bikes on soft/natural trails (mtb trails) in Durango CO

ilanarama

Member
A couple of years ago the city did a 1-year trial allowing e-bikes on one major in-town bike path, and subsequently opened all paved paths to e-bikes. This past summer new signs were added at the trailheads of our mtb trails stating "NO E-BIKES - NO PEDAL ASSIST". But after the fiat ruling to allow e-bikes on federal lands (our city mtb areas are on a combination of city, county, and BLM lands) the city held a study session and meeting last night to discuss e-bikes on mtb trails. The study session (open to the public but no comment allowed) seemed to point to a general consensus of doing the same thing as before, choosing a single trail network as a test case to allow pedal-assist e-bikes. After the study session, they opened it up to public comment.

I would say that the speakers ran about 2:1 in opposition to allowing e-bikes on mtb trails. (I spoke in favor.) I noticed a few things, though, about the antis:
  • A lot of people began their comments with, "I've never ridden an e-bike, but..." And so many of them went on to suggest nonsensical issues, such as the man who pointed out that if you have someone going downhill at 15mph and someone else is climbing the hill at 5mph, the uphill person has time to stop, but if the uphill rider is going 15mph on an e-bike they will have a big crash! (In my own comment I said that in this scenario 1) someone who can only climb this hill at 5mph won't manage 15mph with pedal assist, and 2) the downhill rider is the one who should be yielding right-of-way anyhow.) Other e-bike advocates pointed out that generally speed-related safety issues are a downhill thing, and bikes go downhill fast with or without motors. Another one I heard was, "I've never ridden an e-bike, but these are basically electric motorcycles! They don't belong on our trails! Trails are for human power only!"
  • A handful of people from the bike industry (shop owners etc) spoke, and to my surprise all but one opposed e-bikes on trails. One mentioned how easy it was to remove all the limitations from a stock bike, "and then you have an electric motorcycle with fake pedals that goes 40mph!" (Which, these trails are too curvy and technical to go 40mph, even if you had the speed.) Another said that people who don't have the skills needed to ride these trails will use e-bikes, and then they're just going to try to alter the trails to make them easier. (Which is not an issue confined to e-bikes.) I got the same vibe as I did back when I got my ham radio license a couple of years before the requirement for Morse Code was dropped, and all the old guys complained because they had to learn Morse, so kids today ought to as well, even though very few people actually used it any more.
After the meeting, I went to one of the people on the evaluation committee who I know, and suggested that perhaps before making a decision, everyone on the committee who had never ridden an e-bike ought to do so. (The one bike-shop owner who spoke in favor would probably happily give them all a free demo day!) My friend thought that was a great idea, so hopefully the decision will be made with a bit more understanding and information than "I've never ridden an e-bike, but..."
 

phoenixtoohot

Active Member
Colorado, and especially Durango, have a very elitist bias against e-bikes. I was in Cortez for 4 months this summer, and traveled around Colorado. I went into a hard core MTB shop in Dolores, and asked if he was going to carry e-bikes. Answer, no way man, their batteries explode and would burn my shop down. The same attitude of MTB riders who have never ridden an e-bike. All about bias and presumptions.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
Thanks for posting this. It was very informative.

This however just reinforces what I've been posting in all regulation related threads. The average person has NO CLUE what an ebike really is. Some of the comments I've heard on my rides are absolutely ridiculous. The top two are: "They make too much noise" and "They spin the wheels and rut up the trail".

Sadly, I've discovered that in most cases, arguing with these uninformed people is useless. They believe what they want to believe and there is no changing their mind.

Your idea of having the committee members try an ebike is a great one. IMO, any public official involved in ebike regulation or enforcement should be required to do so.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Nice effort.
The bias is mind boggling. But then the 'sheeple' will follow pretty much anything these days, good bad or indifferent. [shrug]
It's ALWAYS about the FEELZ. 🤣
 

ChezCheese:)

Active Member
I recently attended a park stewardship meeting for a park which has pedestrians, mtn bikers and horse riders. It seems the mtn bikers were putting in "rogue" trails with enhanced jumps etc, especially through steep terrain. This was thought to be dangerous to hikers and it was suggested that new, difficult biking trails could be put in an area farther away from the trailheads, since the majority of pedestrians aren't going that deep into the park. The mtn biker representative scrarched his head and said, "Mtn bikers aren't going to like that. I know it is counterintuitive, but mtn bikers don't actually like to pedal." That got a big laugh, but I suspect it is true, because for a lot of mtn bikers, it's all about the downhill ride, which is mostly coasting.
 

Cowlitz

Well-Known Member
It isn't just there. I've posted a link to a hiking site (on a thread that's been hijacked into a discussion on hub drives) where various experts, who have never ridden an ebike, are saying that ebikes will be going 35mph uphill on single track, rough, mountain trails.

After a couple of us pointed out that we can't do that....I too mentioned 5 to 9 mph on PAVED hills, they countered with the argument that eventually the technology will advance so ebikes will do that speed.

They even have the ability to estimate speeds of bikes by merely looking at the bike going by!

They sound almost hysterical.

What it comes down to is they don't want more people on trails and will lie to stop it.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
It isn't just there. I've posted a link to a hiking site (on a thread that's been hijacked into a discussion on hub drives) where various experts, who have never ridden an ebike, are saying that ebikes will be going 35mph uphill on single track, rough, mountain trails.

After a couple of us pointed out that we can't do that....I too mentioned 5 to 9 mph on PAVED hills, they countered with the argument that eventually the technology will advance so ebikes will do that speed.

They even have the ability to estimate speeds of bikes by merely looking at the bike going by!

They sound almost hysterical.

What it comes down to is they don't want more people on trails and will lie to stop it.
Everybody wants to be the last one in.
 

ilanarama

Member
An update on this, for anyone interested: Last night was the first follow-up meeting of the city and advisory board, in which the city made a brief presentation of their proposal to build a new system of directional trails for e-bikes (in an area which has been donated to the city but is not yet open to the public) rather than opening up our existing multiple-use mtb trails. The room was somewhat less crowded than it had been at the November meeting, but: every single person who spoke (including me) during the hour-long public comment period supported allowing e-bikes on city soft-surface trails. My general takeaway of the sentiment:
  • Class 1 e-bikes should be allowed everywhere any bike is allowed. (Many people stated they felt that pedal-assist only should be allowed, not throttle-controlled.)
  • A separate system doesn't address current needs, and in any event this area might not be developed for many years, while people are currently actually riding their e-bikes (illegally and unnoticed) on the trails anyway.
  • Much support for making Horse Gulch, one of our in-town trail systems, a test case, if there is reluctance for initially opening all trails to e-bikes. (I like this idea a lot, partly because this is my most convenient and most-used trail system! Not that I own an e-mtb right now, just a townie, but I am likely to get one soon.)
  • Lots of bicycle-industry people spoke again, and this time in contrast to the first meeting, they all supported e-bikes on trails. One man pointed out that although the top speed can be hacked, that isn't going to make it any easier to go up a steep technical trail, and the battery will deplete sooner. Another mentioned his recent ride with one of our local pro riders and said, "well, I was on an e-mtb and he wasn't, but he still dropped me, so it's not as though the assist makes me faster than a fit rider, it just means I don't have to work as hard." Another said that they are selling and renting mostly to older people; in general the emphasis was on e-bikes allowing older and less fit riders to continue enjoying the trails. One cited the Jeffco study showing that during an e-mtb trial there were no additional user conflicts or trail degradation issues.
  • It was reiterated that the board should not make decisions on e-mtbs until they all get a chance to ride one and assess them with actual knowledge.
  • Most people shared personal experiences, how e-bikes have improved their lives, allowed their elderly parents/less-fit spouses to ride with them, allowed them to continue to ride as they age, and so on. It was really delightful to hear all the personal and heartfelt stories!
Anyway, it was a good meeting, and even though I'm sure the advisory board will continue to get comments in email opposing opening the soft-surface trail system, I think we are headed for a positive outcome for e-bikes here.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Well now having been out for three 13 mile loops on my new eMTB in our local southern-california region, and in talking to dozens of people in the area, the vast majority of everyone not only doesn't care if you're on a ebike, but they're riding everywhere regular bikes are anyway. It's becoming well accepted that as long as you're not being a crazy idiot or maniac, are courteous to other riders and hikers, no one is complaining. Hopefully the actual rules and laws will get modified and relaxed so people can enjoy their time out on whatever it is they choose to ride. This is for class1 mountain bikes, not over-watted ratbikes.

Good news on the Colorado front. 👍