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Electric bicycles are on the rise in Colorado

State, local leaders look to regulate e-bikes
Posted: 11:00 PM, Mar 30, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-31 05:00:59Z

DENVER -- For Erin Overturf, taking her son to daycare every day, is as easy as riding a bike. Well, an electric bike.

"Most people, unless they look really close, don't even know it's electric. They just think I'm really tough and strong," said Overturf. "We go all the way across town -- the library, the grocery store -- everywhere on that bike."

Overturf is joining the growing group of e-bike evangelists who say the battery-powered assist makes it just a little easier to get started and haul heavier loads further.

"It's basically a bike that's a lot easier and funner [sic] to ride," she said.

But the rise in popularity of e-bikes is raising eyebrows on some already crowded Colorado trails.

"I really think it will clog up the trails more," said Judy Zehring, a Lakewood cyclist who said she is mostly concerned about safety. "People that ride them on rough trails, again, I just don't think there's been a lot of education about how to ride them."

Currently, Colorado has a patchwork of rules for e-bikes at the state and local levels that are in the process of getting an overhaul.

"E-bikes have been legal in Colorado since 2009, and we're seeing more and more of them," said Dan Grunig with Bicycle Colorado, who said the state was at the forefront of the e-bike trend.

But local governments get to decide if the wheels are allowed on bike paths and natural surface trails. While cities such as Boulder and Superior have approved them, other parts of the state, such as Jefferson County, are still studying the impact. 

"Jefferson County did a study where they had a park ranger in plain clothes ride around Crown Hill Park, and then they surveyed other trail users and found most didn't realize they were e-bikes because they look and act just like a normal bicycle," said Grunig.

Now, a state bill, scheduled to be signed into law next week, will define categories of e-bikes to help with regulations.

"The bill itself doesn't regulate e-bikes. We leave that to local governments to handle that and decided where these different categories of e-bikes can be used," said Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, who co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill divides electric bikes into the industry standard categories: Class1 (the fastest growing) is pedal-assist with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour; Class 2 provides assistance regardless of whether the rider is pedaling up to 20 miles per hour and Class 3 ceases to provide assistance at 28 miles per hour.

"I regularly get passed by people on regular bikes," said Overturf, who feels her bike makes it safer for her to ride, especially on city streets when she may need help getting started quickly. "I am a total evangelist. I think they're great."

Find out more about Colorado's e-bike laws here

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