All 4 commissioner candidates support e-bikes on Eagle Valley Trail
November 1, 2016
EAGLE COUNTY — All four county commissioner candidates say they would support updating the county's rules on e-bikes to allow them on the Eagle Valley Trail.
The pedal-assisted, electric motor bicycles, which have been growing in popularity in recent years, are currently not allowed on the trail entering and leaving Vail, and with that trail representing the only way in and out of town besides the interstate, e-bike users are on an island in Vail, legally speaking.
Having that in mind, county trails manager Ellie Caryl said the problem is uniquely Eagle County's.
"It's a local, customized conversation, Caryl said.
Caryl said e-bikes have gained popularity quickly and the county simply hasn't approached the issue yet.
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"(E-bikes have) really taken off in the last two years," she said.
Caryl says county officials will likely take up the issue in the coming months, and with an election currently underway, with just whom the conversation is occurring has yet to be determined. But all four candidates running for both of the open seats say they support the use of e-bikes on the Eagle Valley Trail, especially in that crucial Dowd Junction section.
Running against incumbent Jill Ryan, Michael Dunahay said he will support anything that will cut down on cars on I-70, including e-bikes on the Eagle Valley Trail and possibly even small, slow, gasoline scooters.
"We'd have to talk about (the scooters)," he said. "But definitely e-bikes."
Ryan said she supports the concept of allowing e-bikes on the trail, as well.
"But we'd have to look at it from all angles, and public safety is one of those," Ryan said.
Anyone who has ever braved I-70 on a bicycle knows the dangers involved. Kathy Chandler-Henry, the incumbent commissioner in District 2, said she want to make sure the county isn't keeping e-bikers off the Eagle Valley Trail unnecessarily.
"If there's a way to use it safely, and it sounds like there is, I'm all for that," she said.
Her opponent, Rick Beveridge, called it a no-brainer.
"If my kids could ride their e-bikes or their bikes safely up the valley — I live in Eagle — or down the valley, if they could ride to Glenwood Springs, or they could ride to Edwards for activities or whatever, I'm 100 percent in support of that," Beveridge said. "Talk about saving the environment — that would be vs. Mom and Dad trucking up and down the valley 10 times a day … I think it's common sense."
E-BIKES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
When it comes to saving the environment, e-bikes have recently become part of the conversation. A group of more than 30 local stakeholder groups representing towns, businesses and schools has been hard at work on a climate change action plan to mitigate the effects of climate change here in Eagle County, and began presenting the draft plan to the public this summer.
The focuses include residential, commercial, transportation, waste diversion, power supply, education and outreach. Specific goals include expanding the Energy Smart Colorado — a federally-funded program to provide energy efficiency services to residences in the central mountain region — getting waste out of the landfill and getting more electric cars and bikes on the road.
While that goal to get more electric bikes on the road seems to contradict the laws currently in place — which say you can't then use that bike to get into Vail unless you take I-70 — Ellie Caryl, with ECO Trails, says that's just a part of the plan that has yet to be hashed out.
"It's all aligning," she said. "Some things get ahead of other things, while other things get behind. It all needs to catch up to each other."
Caryl says she plans on getting the community involved in the e-bike conversation when the county takes it up in the coming months.
"I'm probably going to ask for some assistance, and we'll get some other people involved," she said.
To offer your opinion on the matter, reach out to ECO Trails by emailing Caryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.