After nearly two hours of discussion and more than a dozen comments from the public, the Park City Council made some small tweaks to the city’s e-bike ordinance.
Heading into Thursday’s city council meeting, staff proposed a year-long pilot program allowing pedal-assist, class one e-bikes on all trails in Round Valley, along with including seniors 65 and older in the current ordinance allowing people with mobility disabilities to use e-bikes on any trails in Park City.
Public commentary was mixed—some people spoke to a perceived increase in danger and how trails are already at capacity and overused, while others told stories of how e-bikes have allowed them or family members who are less physically able to enjoy riding again. Representatives from local bike shops also expressed much of their sales come from e-bikes, and tourists don’t understand why they can’t use them on trails.
Councilmember Steve Joyce echoed concerns from the public that perhaps Round Valley wasn’t the best location for a pilot program.
“If you get somewhere like Round Valley, where it's kind of wide open in a lot of the areas, you're basically just going to pedal as fast as you can with your pedal-assist," Joyce said. "And if you've got a strong enough bike, you're going to fly.”
Councilmember Nann Worel says she expects to see e-bikes on Park City trails in the future, but the council only discussed amending the city ordinance for the first time earlier in August.
"I don’t think that we have all the information that we need to make an informed decision to implement a program--even a pilot program--at this point in time," Worel said.
Mayor Andy Beerman said the council was missing the mark in postponing a pilot program, as the state legislature has alluded to completely deregulating e-bikes and potentially allowing all classes of them on any trail.
“As mayor, I will go down there and fight for our community and do everything I can to block it," Beerman said. "I cannot guarantee you I'll be able to stop it because I was very clearly told by legislators that Park City is in their crosshairs. We’re a bunch of elitists up here that don't account for people that aren't as fit, that are older, and we need to address this, or they're going to do it for us.”
Mountain Trails Foundation Executive Director Charlie Sturgis stressed a focus on educating the community and trail users on trail etiquette, to increase safety and improve the experience for everyone.
“It's not the toy, it’s the pilot," Sturgis said. "Every gun is safe until you pick it up, so I don't think that, once again, we have a bunch of people here who are probably really, super responsible riders, but if you think that we don't have bad behavior out there and we don't think it necessarily will increase disproportionately by the percentage of users that might increase, you might be kidding yourself. So, what I would say, we have to be in front of it on the educational side of it."
The council decided to amend the city ordinance to include e-bike access for people 65 years and older and to implement tags for them and e-bike users with mobility disabilities, to prevent harassment from other bike riders. Council also directed staff to launch an in-depth survey gauging community interest in e-bike use on trails and to form a task force to further explore a pilot program.