A pilot period to allow e-bikes on certain regional and open space trails in the plains is in effect. E-bikes are prohibited on all other county open space trails.
E-bikes on Open Space
Pilot Study Research Results & E-bike Recommendations
Parks & Open Space staff will hold a series of open house meetings and public hearings to present findings, staff recommendations, and collect public feedback regarding the use of e-bikes on county-managed open space properties.
After a year of public outreach about e-bikes in 2018, the Boulder County Commissioners directed staff to allow e-bikes on certain trails on a pilot basis in 2019. During the course of the year, staff has conducted research including surveys of trail users, a county-wide telephone survey, a bicycle speed observation study, and a literature review of recreation conflict and e-bike research and policies in other jurisdictions.
Staff recommends allowing class 1 and class 2 e-bikes on Boulder County trails on the plains where regular bikes are allowed, including regional trails and trails on open space parks, with the exception of three trails as requested by the City of Boulder: The Boulder Canyon Trail (due to prohibition of motorized uses on a parcel owned by City of Boulder), Coalton Trail and Mayhoffer-Singletree Trail (because these two county trails lead to city-owned trails where e-bikes are not allowed, and there is no option to leave the trail).
In the Open Space Element of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan, passive recreation is defined, in part, as non-motorized. Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff will also present options for amending the definition of passive recreation in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan Open Space Element to include e-bikes.
Parks & Open Space staff will also increase education and outreach efforts on trails where e-bikes are allowed, including trailhead displays about sharing the trail with hikers, runners, bikers, equestrians, and trail users with dogs. In addition, the department will direct Boulder Mountain Bike Patrol and Volunteer Ranger Corps to properties where e-bikes are permitted so they engage with parks visitors about proper trail etiquette. Staff will also add caution signs along trails in areas with limited sight-distance.
- Literature Review of Bicycle and E-bike Research, Policies & Management (Final Draft)
- E-bike Pilot Study Report
- Countywide Telephone Survey: E-bike Questions
- Public Comments Received During Pilot Period
Public comments will be accepted until Nov. 13 at noon. All comments will become part of the public record, are immediately visible after submission, and will be shared with the Planning Commission, Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee, and the Board of County Commissioners.
2019 Pilot Period
During to the pilot period that runs until Dec. 31, 2019, class 1 and class 2 e-bikes are allowed on the following parks and trails:
- Coal Creek Trail
- LoBo Trail (except on the Cottonwood and Cotton Tail Trails)
- Rock Creek Trail
- US 36 Bikeway
- Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm
- Harney Lastoka
- Lagerman Agricultural Preserve
- Legion Park
- Meadowlark Trail (between Coalton Trailhead & Coal Creek Drive)
- Niwot Trails
- Pella Crossing
- Twin Lakes
E-bikes are prohibited on all non-designated trails which includes the following parks and trails:
- Boulder Canyon Trail
- Coalton Trail
- Mayhoffer Singletree Trail (north of Coal Creek Drive)
- Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat
Foothills & Mountains
What is an E-bike?
E-bike Definition & Classes
E-bikes, also known as electric bicycles, powerbikes, pedelecs, or booster bikes, are bicycles with an integrated electric motor that does not exceed 750 watts of power.
- Class 1: Low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
- Class 2: Low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
- Class 3: Pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph. Note: class 3 e-bikes are prohibited on all open space trails.
Individuals with mobility disabilities may use e-bikes and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) on all trails that are appropriate for use. Learn more →
Department of the Interior (DOI)
A recent order by the Trump Administration will change all regulations currently in place on land regulated by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Secretary Order 3376, signed on August 29 by U.S Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, directed all DOI lands to maintain a consistent regulation of e-bikes and increase recreation opportunities for all people by exempting e-bikes from the definition of motorized vehicles. Under the new proposed policy, class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes are allowed everywhere conventional bikes are permitted on all National Park Service, National Wildlife Refuge, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation lands. Each agency has 30 days from August 30, 2019, to develop a public proposal guiding implementation
Regulation by the Department of Agriculture
United States Forest Service (USFS) is under the administration of the Department of Agriculture. Under the Travel Management Rule (TMR), the USFS defines motor vehicles as “any vehicle which is self-propelled, other than: (1) a vehicle operated on rails; and (2) any wheelchair or mobility device, including one that is battery-powered, that is designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion, and that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area.” 36 CFR 212.1. Under this classification schema, e-bikes do not qualify as an Other Power-Driven Mobility Device (OPDMD) given that they are self-powered, not solely designed for use by a person with a mobility impairment and are not suitable for indoor use as a mobility tool. As such, under the TMR, e-bikes are regulated as motor vehicles and are thus only allowed on roads, trails, and other lands that have permit motorized use. Administrative units and ranger districts may introduce new opportunities for riding e-bikes as they update their motor vehicle use map (MVUM). However, any changes to management require environmental analysis and public participation prior to changes. E-bikes are currently allowed on the summer trail-systems in a number of ski areas across the country under the terms of their special use permit with the USFS.
E-bikes are classified as bicycles and have the same rights of the road as traditional bicycles. In 2017, HB17-1151 Electrical Assisted Bicycles Regulation Operation was passed. The bill changed Colorado bike law, specifically C.R.S. § 42-4- 1412, to allow Class 1 and 2 electric assisted bicycles on multi-use trails unless explicitly prohibited by the managing land agency. The bill gives local governments the authority to allow or prohibit the use of specified classes of electrical assisted bicycles on pedestrian paths and bike paths.
Local governments have the authority to authorize the use of e-bikes on bike or pedestrian paths. Under the current Rules and Regulations, e-bikes are prohibited except where such use is specifically designated.
Individuals with Mobility Disabilities
Individuals with mobility disabilities are allowed to use Other Power-Driven Mobility devices (OPDMDs), which can include e-bikes, on all trails open for pedestrian use unless a particular trail has been designated as inappropriate for use by OPDMDs based upon the assessment factors found in 28 CFR § 35.137(b)(2) of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A current list of trails where OPDMDs are allowed is available on the Accessibility on Open Space page.
Decision Making History
On Nov. 8, 2018, the Board of County Commissioners approved a one-year pilot period starting Jan. 1, 2019, to allow e-bikes on certain trails, specifically the regional trails and the plains trails minus the Boulder Canyon Trail, the Coalton Trail, the Mayhoffer Singletree Trail north of Coal Creek Drive, and trails at Walden Ponds.
The decision also calls for staff to study the mechanism by which the county might make such a policy permanent if so decided at a later date following robust discussion with the public and the Planning Commission who will help design the pilot study in coordination with the Board of Commissioners in order to collect the data necessary for that decision.
Please see the following documents for more details.
- E-bike Recommendation Memo to the Board of County Commissioners – Nov. 8, 2018
- E-bike Recommendation Memo to the Board of County Commissioners – Aug. 22, 2018
- E-bike Recommendation Memo to Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee – June 28, 2018
- Public Comments Received Outside Formal Public Engagement
- Phase II Survey Results
- Phase I Public Comments
- Initial Public Comments
Other Past Public Meetings
March 5, 2019
The Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission held a joint study session on March 5 concerning the E-Bike Pilot Study for Open Space Trails. The meeting was open to the public, but public testimony was not be taken.
Dec. 19, 2018
Staff met with the Planning Commission on Dec. 19, 2018 and introduced the history and process of e-bike outreach in Boulder County, outlined a process for considering a revision to the passive recreation definition, and solicited Planning Commission input on design of the pilot study to ensure they get the information they will need for consideration of this question.