The Park City Council held a discussion regarding electric bicycles on May 29, and later this summer will consider adoption of a pilot program to regulate their use.
The city commissioned a study regarding electric bicycles, or "e-bikes," from a transportation consultant firm called Fehr & Peers last fall. The firm's findings were presented to the council at the recent meeting, including a summary of how other mountain towns around the country have dealt with the issue.
Electric bicycles or "e-bikes" are a kind of moped-bicycle hybrid. They have pedals which can power the e-bikes like regular bicycles, but they also have small motors that can supplement the pedaling power, or even replace it entirely.
They are "classified according to the power that their electric motor can deliver and the control system, i.e., when and how the power from the motor is applied," wrote city staffer Heinrich Deters in a report released in anticipation of the City Council meeting. "As such, the classification of these e-bikes varies greatly across countries and local jurisdictions."
Utah defines an "electric assisted bicycle" as having a motor less than 1,000 watts and a maximum speed of 20 mph on level ground, when solely powered by the motor. It requires a driver's license to operate one. Local municipalities are permitted to enact further regulations.
E-bikes are becoming more popular in the Park City area and in the United States in general. Many communities, like Park City, have not enacted laws or regulations guiding their use. One "peer city" Fehr & Peers identified as a possible model for Park City is Boulder, Colorado.
Boulder is a few months into a one-year pilot program, the firm reported, that permits e-bike usage on "paved, multi-use paths" and bans their usage on "sidewalks and natural paths."
City staff made the following recommendations regarding e-bike usage in Park City at the May 29 meeting:
- limit e-bikes to a maximum speed of 20 mph and maximum of 750 watts
- permit e-bike use on hard surface, multi-use paths at least 8 feet wide
- prohibit e-bikes on backcountry trails and sidewalks
- require e-bike riders to hold a valid driver's license
Deters reported that local shareholders such as Deer Valley Resort and the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District all support the city staff's proposals.
Charlie Sturgis, executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, told The Park Record that while the foundation's board has not had an official discussion about e-bikes, he thinks they have a real chance to contribute positively to the community.
"Number one, if it keeps a car parked in a driveway, we're for it," he said. "Two, if it allows people to get out and enjoy the fresh air or maybe get to work, or some people who maybe have health problems who wouldn't normally be able to get out on a bike can get out on a bike, then we certainly support that."
"I think they're completely appropriate. Once again, like any toy that we have out there, it's up to the pilot to be using it responsibly," Sturgis said. "Enjoy it, have fun with it, be courteous and do the right thing."
"The one thing we're sure we absolutely don't support is the use of them on the single-track trails in and around town," he added.
City staff expects to return to the council with the exact language of its proposal later this summer. It would then decide whether to implement e-bike regulation on a trial basis, like Boulder's pilot program, or to enact regulations on a permanent basis.