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Forest Service Outlines Steps To Allow E-bikes On Colorado's Forest Trails

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - U.S. Forest Service's Chad Schneckenburger believes the interest in e-bikes has gone up significantly in the last few years. That's given more Coloradans access to more parts of our state along motorized bike trails, or trails that allow vehicles with motors.

"They do allow people who might not have had the ability to bike as much, people who might be a little bit older or physically disadvantaged," Schneckenburger explained.

The U.S. Forest Service recently issued new internal directives on how to manage e-bikes on forest trails, which in turn, outlines how people could apply to allow e-bikes on their local trails, so long as it passes the environmental survey and call for public opinion.

Bob Hufnagel of Rebel Sports in Frisco, Colorado believes more bikers riding around is always a good thing, but that introducing more areas for e-bikes needs to come with a lot of forethought on what it could do to the traffic and the kinds of interactions between the folks currently using the trail.

"There are some trails that are very busy, and you will have people who are out walking their dogs, and then you are going to have people riding an electric bike at 20 miles per hour on the same trail," Hufnagel said. "That is where you are going to have a conflict with people. it's hard to support both of those on the same trail."

e-bike interview
(credit: CBS)

All trails need to go through qualification before they allow the e-bike riders on them, but Hufnagel was worried there could be some people who are able to access trails they may not be able to handle thanks to the assistance of e-bikes.

"They are going to be 20 miles out in the backcountry on trails that are not marked and if the battery stops working on the bike for whatever reason or they crash...they can get into some problems. And the bike is kind of heavy to carry out if you have a mechanical problem," Hufnagel said. Still, he agrees the more people who are interested in getting out in the wilderness or along trails in town the better.

Schneckenburger believes while the Forest Service is actively trying to inspire new locations for e-bike riders, trails that suddenly allow for motorized bikes to go on them will not be overcrowded.

"We aren't expecting a drastic increase in use out there just because there may be an allowance for e-bikes on trails that were formerly non-motorized," Schneckenburger said. He referenced the majority of the people they see on e-bikes tend to be former bikers who can jump back in thanks to the added power of the motor.

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