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E-bikes are here to stay; Aspen’s challenge is safety

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E-bikes are right here to remain; Aspen’s problem is security


Using electrical bicycles has surged in Aspen over the past two summers to ranges unimaginable in 2019 — and it’s simply the beginning.

The surge has been a dream come true for bike store homeowners and distributors banking on the brand new market to spur revenues. E-bikes have additionally delighted individuals who in any other case wouldn’t or couldn’t pedal solely on their very own, in addition to getting old cyclists battling sore knees or drained lungs.

However e-bikes have created one thing between a headache and a nightmare for public land managers and bus drivers liable for maintaining folks protected. Maroon Creek Highway, gateway to the gorgeous Maroon Bells, is floor zero for the administration challenges.

“We’ve had some close to misses up there,” stated Brian Pettet, Pitkin County director of public works. “Some folks on e-bikes deal with it like a glorified bike path.”

Dangle round lengthy sufficient on any given day alongside the street and it’s straightforward to see what he means. On Thursday morning, a bunch of 5 riders out of the blue stopped in the correct lane whereas heading uphill. A pair even hopped off their bikes momentarily, apparently unaware {that a} bus or different automobile may quickly come barreling across the nook in that lane. A Forest Service employee heading downhill stopped momentarily and instructed them to maintain shifting.

The widespread points embrace cyclists drifting over into the oncoming lane, using two or extra abreast and never sporting helmets, however the greatest drawback with e-bikers on Maroon Creek Highway is obstructing the visitors lane, in response to Shelly Grail, recreation supervisor for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service.

“Individuals are taking selfies, stopping in the midst of the street,” she stated.

Like Pettet, she stated too many riders regard the street as a glorified bike path as a result of automobile use is restricted. Nevertheless, full-sized buses roll by each quarter-hour and exceptions to restrictions are made for personal automobiles with permits and other people with reserved area within the campgrounds.

“Bikes typically are one thing we’re attempting to handle higher,” Grail stated. “E-bike use is 70 % of the bikes up there.”

Pitkin County and the Forest Service work cooperatively to handle Maroon Creek Highway. They’re a part of a “working group” that additionally contains the town of Aspen, Aspen Chamber Resort Affiliation, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Aspen Snowboarding Co. The group positioned bike counters on the street this summer time. In June, there have been 3,685 journeys up and down. That’s a median of 123 journeys per day, although it’s skewed extra closely towards weekends at about 300 journeys per day, in response to Pettet.

As with all leisure person group, a lot of the issues are created by a number of of the folks. Many e-bikers are following correct street protocol.

Carol and Curt Schreur of Scottsdale, Arizona, rode their high-end, electrical street bikes single file on Thursday. Whereas taking a break on the high of the street, Carol stated her knees began getting cranky and “the enjoyment was going out” of biking for her 4 months in the past. They’re avid riders so she determined it was time to spend money on an e-bike. She researched manufacturers and fashions and purchased an S-Works mannequin, high of the road from producer Specialised. She has logged 500 miles in three months.

“I used turbo (the very best setting) developing the final mile and a half,” she stated. “You’re getting an excellent exercise, positively. This factor is pedal help. It doesn’t pedal for you. Should you give up pedaling, the motor cuts out.”

Curt nonetheless rides a conventional, high-end street bike, however he rented an e-bike for his or her journey in Aspen. He acknowledged he’s hooked.

“My imaginative and prescient was after I retired, I used to be going to purchase my dream Italian street bike,” he stated. “Effectively, now I’m going to purchase a pleasant e-bike. I’ll spend eight, ten grand doing that.”

Carol stated e-bikes will preserve them engaged within the sport and using collectively.

“For me, I simply need the trip and I would like to have the ability to benefit from the trip,” she stated. “We by no means have been e-bike snobs.”

David Berkey was on his first e-bike trip on Monday. The avid bicycle owner from New York state has ridden Maroon Creek Highway quite a few instances however by no means skilled it fairly like on the e-bike.

“I’m a street biker by nature and a mountain biker,” he stated. “I used to be actually suspect of the entire thing as a result of I’m a purist. I’ve ridden up this street many instances on my street bike. It is a completely totally different expertise.

“You do really feel such as you’re a Tour de France rider coming uphill at 20 miles per hour,” he added. He made it to the highest in about 25 minutes or half the time it takes him on an everyday bike.

Berkey was along with his spouse, Karen, who wasn’t beforehand a bicycle owner, and one other couple. Karen took an immediate liking to the e-bike as a result of it permits her to trip together with her husband. The group raved about Silver Metropolis Cycles in Aspen for taking the time to elucidate guidelines of the street, how you can correctly function an e-bike and for strongly encouraging helmet use.

Derek and Ryan Attema took a gamble and began the e-bike rental enterprise final summer time regardless of the pandemic. Because it turned out, they made the correct alternative on the good time as a result of folks clamored to get exterior in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown. They don’t have a store. As an alternative they use a small bus to ship bikes to the place their clients need them.

Derek stated their 20 e-bikes are booked almost day-after-day in the course of the coronary heart of summer time. He ordered 10 extra and expects to take supply this week.

“Individuals simply hate them as a result of they’re new and totally different. They’re right here to remain.” — Derek Attema, Silver Metropolis Cycles on e-bikes

He acknowledges there are issues with some e-bikers. As a result of he operates a cell enterprise, Derek is on the street lots and witnesses what numerous bikers are doing. He stated he cringes when he sees e-bikers on the street once they might be on a parallel path. (There have additionally been horror tales this summer time from Aspenites who witnessed clusters of e-bikers using on metropolis sidewalks.)

Attema stated he feels the issue with e-bikers on roads as an alternative of paths has eased this summer time in comparison with 2020. Town of Aspen has erected higher directional indicators on paths and a few rental retailers are giving higher directions. However there’s nonetheless the problem of inexperienced cyclists.

“Seventy-five % haven’t been on a motorbike in 10 to fifteen years,” he estimated of his clients. “We actually attempt to push security.”

Whereas they can’t power clients to put on helmets, his workers strongly suggests the lids.

Attema sees parallels between e-bike use now and snowboarding within the Nineteen Eighties or Nineteen Nineties.

“Individuals simply hate them as a result of they’re new and totally different,” he stated. “They’re right here to remain.”

Attema stated he believes Maroon Creek Highway has been particularly busy this summer time as a result of the Woody Creek Tavern has been closed. The tavern is a well-liked vacation spot for e-bikers cruising down the Rio Grande Path. The tavern is getting ready for reopening underneath new possession quickly.

Maybe the particular person in Aspen with the broadest perspective on the e-bike invasion is Michael Hutton. He has lived within the Aspen-area for about 50 years and labored within the legendary Sabatini’s bike store when mountain biking was rising. He’s additionally personally ridden nearly each type of bicycle. He believes there’s a place for e-bikes, so long as they’re ridden safely.

As a RFTA driver on the Maroon Bells route, he witnesses the nice, the unhealthy and the ugly of using. E-bikers are usually much less skilled than conventional bike riders, so that they make errors, he famous.

“They have a tendency not to pay attention to the foundations of the street,” Hutton stated.

Below Colorado regulation, riders are presupposed to “single up” to permit a automobile to cross, he stated. He agreed with Grail that the most important drawback is folks stopping within the lane. For a bus driver, that may be harrowing.

“Ultimately, any individual’s going to get damage,” he stated. “We clearly want extra training. That’s the start line, I believe.”

The largest drawback for bus drivers is attempting to get round riders on the uphill journey, Hutton stated. On the downhill, riders are usually going quick sufficient to maintain visitors flowing and buses on time.

He has consulted with Bicycle Colorado to get concepts on how the state of affairs might be improved. He believes options embrace higher signage on protocols (“Keep to the Proper”), enforcement by the sheriff’s workplace or another entity, and wider shoulders on the uphill straightaways of Maroon Creek Highway. If there have been a handful of locations the place the street was wider, it will give bus operators and different drivers the alternatives to soundly get round uphill riders, he stated.

Hutton didn’t draw back from a subject few dare to broach. He believes riders might be charged a charge to lift cash to fund options.

“I’m not towards a charge,” Hutton stated. “It exhibits a caring perspective of, ‘Hey, I’ll be a part of the answer.’”



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