A new survey suggests Colorado Springs trail lovers are split on whether or not to allow electric-powered bikes in popular parks and open spaces.
That’s according to a preliminary analysis by Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, the mountain biking group that launched an online poll in February.
Cory Sutela, the nonprofit’s executive director, said of the 662 respondents a little more than half counted themselves as mountain bikers, with most others registering as hikers and runners.
“The overall results mirror what we hear from other mountain bike clubs across Colorado and across the country,” he said, “which is pretty close to a 50/50 split between people saying there should be more access vs. people saying there should be lesser or no access.”
The survey was meant to be a local conversation starter around e-bikes, the cycling industry’s fastest-growing sector. While the charged-up wheels are limited to pavement in the Springs, other Front Range communities in recent years have moved to allow them on beloved dirt paths.
Ron Ramsey, a local retiree who says e-bikes have extended his and his wife’s cycling days, has seen the conversation as long overdue. Around the time he and El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder met with top parks officials to implore trail access, Medicine Wheel launched its survey.
Ramsey considered himself pleasantly surprised by the results.
“I think it shows positive support for e-bikes,” he said. “I just don’t think they really tapped into the demographic that can benefit from e-bikes. If they had, I think they’d see a lot more support than even 50/50.”
Ramsey was among onlookers who saw a conflict of interest in a “purist” mountain biking group conducting the survey. That’s a criticism Sutela has refuted; Medicine Wheel, he said, was simply collecting viewpoints, something he has faulted the city for not doing.
“We are trail advocates. We are not purists,” he said. “I see us as a neutral and convening group.”
Medicine Wheel has made its stance known on e-bikes, that they “must be regulated separately from human powered bikes, and not grouped together with the same access everywhere.”
Fears of user conflicts were regularly brought up in the survey. Meanwhile, proponents said e-bikes could grant access to people with disabilities and older people.
A third of respondents said they would pay more taxes or fees for land managers to monitor and regulate e-bikes. While parks departments elsewhere have tracked data to make decisions on e-bikes, local decision-makers have cited a lack of resources to do that here.
Others’ data “gives us even more information to base our next steps,” Kurt Schroeder, the city’s parks maintenance and operations manager, said in a previous interview.
Sutela said it would be “irresponsible” to move forward without the city doing its own data-driven approach.
Said Ramsey: “Even though I support a study, I don’t think they have an effective way to initiate it.”
Stakeholders were to discuss e-bikes at a March 31 meeting that was canceled. That has not been rescheduled, “but the parks department does want to have that conversation before moving forward,” said city spokeswoman Vanessa Zink.