Mountain Trails survey seeks opinions and answers on trial use |

Mountain Trails survey seeks opinions and answers on trial use

E-bikes are parked outside of the McPolin Barn along SR-224 after members of city and county council biked from the Old Town Transit Center and the Summit County Library, respectively, to kick-off the city's new entirely electric bike share program Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst

The Mountain Trails Foundation wants to hear from its users. So on Thursday, the organization shared a questionnaire with its members asking 18 questions about users’ trail use habits and opinions, including information on e-bike use.

Electric bicycles, known colloquially as e-bikes, utilize a small electric motor to assist riders with pedaling up inclines and reduce the amount of effort needed to reach a high speed. The Summit Bike Share is an example of a fleet of e-bikes. The vehicles have caused controversy ranging from the ethics of pedal assistance to the speed at which they operate.

The organization is asking “what people think, who owns them, what are your reasons for thinking E-bikes should not be on single track trails,” said Charlie Sturgis, executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation.

The survey also asked the opposing question of why the bikes should belong on trails.

Sturgis said Mountain Trails has received emails about “what’s right and what’s wrong” regarding whether e-bike should be allowed on trails, with a broad array of reasons for both.

“Do people hate e-bikes on the trails because it’s aesthetically uncool? Is it a safety factor? Is it cheating?” Sturgis said.

Similar questions have been debated around the country. Last year, Colorado reclassified certain types of e-bikes as bicycles, not motorized vehicles last August. Pitkin County commissioners gave their constituents time to consider what they wanted by putting a moratorium on e-bike use until its populace could be polled, the Aspen Times reported.

In spring, following the survey’s conclusions, the commissioners voted to lift a ban on pedal-assisted e-bikes on paved trails.

Generally, e-bikes are prohibited from any area that prevents use of motorized vehicles. In Park City, trails 5 feet wide or more are fair game for e-bikes, while single tracks of a lesser width are prohibited.

Park City also has a speed limit of 15 miles per hour for e-bikes, which can reach speeds of up to 28 mph.

Sturgis said, other electric vehicles are also pushing the conversation around motorization.

“It’s going to get worse, because now there’s motorized scooters — and where do you fit a drone into this process?” He said. “If it’s a non-motorized easement, should (electric vehicles, including drones) be allowed in Round Valley, or up on the mountain — and are they aesthetically pleasing?”

Motorized expansion

At the Park City Paddleboard Festival in June, Dustin Fowler, a resident of Lehi, gave a demonstration on the use of one-wheels, electric transportation devices that use a motor to power a single thick, rubber tire in the center of a platform resembling a plank, which the rider stands on like a skateboard. One-wheels can sell for upwards of $1,000.

Fowler had recently taken fifth place in the Vail Mountain Games’ one-wheel competition in Vail, Colorado, where 75 contestants raced around an obstacle course.

Like e-bikes and drones, Fowler said the use of one-wheels on trails is a contentious issue.

“Some people still frown on them because they think they are dangerous,” he said. “I think once you learn how to ride one of these, it’s easier than riding a bike. And not only that, your hands are completely free, so you can multi-task.”

Fowler works in heating and air conditioning, and said he will occasionally use a one-wheel on a job site for hauling material and tools. He said the device is useful in situations where parking is limited, or the car containing the tools is parked far away.

“Everything just becomes simpler,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh, you need that? I’ll go get it.’ ‘Gofer boy’ isn’t such a bad job anymore.”

His one-wheel, has an extended battery life, allowing him to travel 15 miles on one charge. It also allows him to travel at speeds of over 20 miles per hour, which he recognizes as a reason that electric personal vehicles are so hotly contested.

Fowler said he and a group of riders will occasionally get together to ride recreationally, and have drawn similar attention.

“We’ve gotten yelled at by people who are riding their bikes and we go past them up a hill,” he said. “Draper Bike Park is a good example, because we can go up those hills faster than a lot of those mountain bikes can climb them.”

In his eyes, the laws governing non-motorized vehicles are not intended to discourage the use of devices like one-wheels at Draper Bike Park or elsewhere.

“When they say it’s no motor vehicle, in my mind I think about it as, ‘They aren’t coughing on my exhaust, and the sound of this thing isn’t deafening in their ears, I’m not an intrusion,” he said. “In fact, if you talk to (bikers at) BMX courses, they like it because we pack the trail. The smooth, flat tire, as it goes over stuff, smooths it and packs it and makes it into an even surface.”


The results of the survey, which is available on Mountain Trails’ Facebook page, will be tallied after two weeks.

The survey also included questions about the type of trails users wanted, what people thought of dogs on the trails, and if trails should be user-type specific and directional.

“We’re trying to stay in touch with the community in a way that we can quantify, not just react to every squeaky wheel that says ‘Dogs are horrific,’” Sturgis said, adding that while the organization cannot make or enforce rules, it can make suggestions to lawmakers based on what it finds.

“When you sit down in front of councilors and say why you want something a certain way, it’s nice to have something to back it up.”

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