Vail takes up the annual topic of bike safety in town, on Vail Pass
E-bikes aren't allowed on the west side of Vail Pass, but they're there anyway
The Colorado Department of Transportation owns the Vail Pass bike path. That agency allows some types of e-bikes on bike paths.
The path in many areas sits on U.S. Forest Service land. That agency doesn’t allow e-bikes on paths.
The two agencies are set to meet July 16 in a meeting not open to the public.
With the number of bikes in Vail these days, it can be hard to enforce existing rules, much less impose new ones.
That was the basic offshoot of a Tuesday Vail Town Council conversation about e-bikes on Vail Pass and speeding bikes in the town’s resort areas.
Town landscape architect Gregg Barrie talked to the council about bike traffic on Vail Pass, as well as the prospect of mandating dismount zones in the town’s resort areas.
The problem with e-bikes on Vail Pass is part legal, and part gravity. The legal conflict is between the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation. The state agency allows e-bikes on bike paths.
But the Vail Pass bike path has significant portions that run across Forest Service property, and that agency bans e-bikes. Adding to the legal conundrum is an agreement between the state and the Forest Service’s Summit County office that allows e-bikes on the east side of Vail Pass. Barrie said that agreement may or may not be legitimate, and is one of the topics of a scheduled July 16 discussion. That meeting isn’t open to the public.
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Regardless of the rules, there are plenty of e-bikes on Vail Pass, both from individual owners and rental companies. The problem can come when downhill and uphill riders meet.
Councilmember Kim Langmaid noted that potential danger often comes when inexperienced riders don’t understand the full implications of pointing a relatively heavy bike down a steep grade.
While some council members suggested signs, Councilmember Travis Coggin said he doesn’t see any way to enforce traffic controls, or even etiquette, without shutting down the path, something the town doesn’t have the authority to do.
Coggin was also skeptical about ideas to slow down cycles, or get riders to dismount, in the town’s resort villages.
Still, the issue of speeding cycles comes up every year.
Mayor Dave Chapin owns a business in Vail Village, and said the intersection of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive has seen a “noticeable uptick” in close calls between cyclists and pedestrians. The village streets are even more tricky now that restaurants and shops have expanded operations outdoors to allow better social distancing.
“I don’t want to wait until we have something serious happen,” before acting, Chapin said. Chapin added that maybe dismount zones could be limited by time of day, or imposed on weekends.
Councilmembers said the town won’t take action without public input, but asked Barrie to ask the state and federal agencies for some kind of safety plan for Vail Pass, and, perhaps, signs about bicycle etiquette throughout town.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.