Project Update: E-Bikes Allowed on Certain Open Space Trails beginning July 1, 2023

The Boulder City Council on Thursday, June 1, approved an ordinance that would allow class 1 and class 2 e-bikes as a passive recreational use on certain open space trails. The ordinance takes effect in 30 days on July 1. Read our guide to learn more about the types of e-bikes allowed on Open Space and Mountain Parks trails beginning July 1, 2023, and where you can ride them.

City Council members also provided direction for Open Space and Mountain Parks staff to initially implement the staff preferred management alternative to designate and manage Plains Trails east of Broadway that currently allow bikes and the Boulder Canyon Trail for e-biking with the addition of Chapman Drive Trail, Foothills South Trail and the Wonderland Lake Trail. View a map of where e-bikes will be allowed PDF.

E-Bike Map on OSMP (Alternative B+)

City Council Materials

June 1, 2023 Council Meeting

Agenda Item 5A – Second Reading of proposed ordinance regarding e-bikes on open space

May 4, 2023, Council Meeting

Agenda Item 3D – First Reading of proposed ordinance regarding e-bikes on open space

April 6, 2023, Council Meeting

Information Item - Update on Open Space & Mountain Parks e-biking evaluation

Project Background Information

During summer 2022, OSMP gathered community input on whether to allow e-biking on open space trails. An online engagement questionnaire provided community members with an open participation opportunity to give feedback. Additionally, OSMP staff conducted an on-site intercept survey at a subset of open space trails to gather a representative sample of current OSMP visitor attitudes, preferences, and concerns regarding allowing e-bikes on open space.

Overall Support for E-bikes on OSMP. Online engagement questionnaire showed 72% support and onsite intercept survey showed 63% support.

View the overall support graphic as PDF.

Community Input Conclusions

  • There is support for allowing e-biking on some open space trails by a majority of respondents from both the engagement questionnaire (72%) and intercept survey (63%).
  • For the engagement questionnaire, most respondents who supported an e-bike alternative indicated support for Alternative B.
  • From the intercept survey, many respondents who supported an e-bike alternative indicated support across all three alternatives.
  • E-biker speed and concern for user conflict among activities emerged as themes across both surveys to consider in developing an approach for managing trails for e-biking use if it is allowed.
  • For the on-site survey, potential negative impacts to trail conditions emerged as the second issue of highest concern, after speed.

For more information check out the Community Input Comparison and Key Findings PDF.

Differences between the Online Questionnaire and Intercept Survey datasets

View the about the datasets graphic as PDF.

An objective of both the online engagement questionnaire and on-site intercept survey was to gather opinions and preferences regarding allowing e-biking on open space trails. The two survey instruments and their modes of administration (online and on-site) were designed to support complimentary, though not identical, datasets to help understand community sentiment toward e-bikes.

Engagement Questionnaire Key Findings

OSMP posted the online questionnaire on the City of Boulder Be Heard Boulder engagement web page. The questionnaire opened on July 11 and closed on Aug. 8. It generated a robust community response. Over 2,330 responses were submitted, making it the most popular engagement questionnaire to date on

  • The majority of respondents (72%) supported one of the alternatives allowing e-bikes on open space over the status quo (No-Change).
  • About 47% of respondents indicated hiking and 36% indicated biking as their primary activity.
  • Approximately 44% own an e-bike and 63% have ridden an e-bike in the last 12 months.
  • Familiarity with e-bikes was a strong indicator of support for e-biking, with 95% of those who own an e-bike and 85% who have ridden an e-bike selecting an alternative over the status quo. That said, just over half (53%) of respondents who don’t own an e-bike and 48% who have not ridden an e-bike also supported an e-biking alternative.
  • Of the 72% of respondents who expressed support for e-bikes, 52% of them indicated a preference for Alternative B.
  • Respondents who supported Alternative B selected that it increases access for people with different abilities (62%), and for an aging population (59%) as their top two reasons why.
  • Approximately 28% of respondents indicated a preference for the status quo of not allowing e-biking on open space trails. Of the respondents who shared why, 74% expressed e-biker travel speed was the top reason. The second ranked response was “I do not agree that electric-assist is non-motorized” and selected by 49% of those who shared why they chose the status quo.
  • Around 58% of respondents thought that they might change their visitation behaviors if e-bikes were allowed on trails. About 54% of these respondents thought they would visit trails more often if e-bikes were allowed.
  • The majority of respondents were from Boulder County, with about 60% of all respondents being from the City of Boulder.

For more information check out the Engagement Questionnaire Results PDF.

Intercept Survey Key Findings

A total of 431 visitors completed the survey during a 9-week period in summer 2022 at 12 OSMP locations during various daylight hours. The results are presented in an interactive report that allows results to be explored dynamically.

  • The majority of respondents (63%) selected one of the alternatives over the status quo (No-Change) as their overall "most preferred option".
  • Respondents who overall preferred Alternative A (26%) also supported Alternatives B and C. Many respondents supported all three Alternatives, even if they preferred one specific alternative.
  • Approximately 52% of respondents indicated hiking as their primary activity.
  • Respondents across all alternatives expressed a range of opinions about the likelihood of different outcomes or concerns about the potential impacts of e-bikes.
    • In general, concerns were lower among those who preferred Alternative A (most permissive for allowing E-Bikes) and highest among those who preferred No-Change.
    • The same pattern was generally observed for the likelihood of outcomes, where those who preferred Alternative A indicated that on average they believed the likelihood of positive outcomes was higher and the likelihood of negative outcomes was lower. This pattern reversed for those respondents who preferred No-Change.
  • Around 28% of respondents, or just over one quarter, thought that they might change their visitation behaviors if E-Bikes were allowed on trails.
    • Of the 28% who thought their visitation behaviors might change, most thought they would visit trails that allow e-bikes less often if e-bikes were allowed.
  • The majority of respondents were from Boulder County, with just over 50% of all respondents being from the City of Boulder.

A Digital Report provides an opportunity to explore and interact with the results. For more information check out Intercept Survey Results.

Compendium of community comments PDF

An e-bike is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor not exceeding 750 watts of power.

An e-bike is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor not exceeding 750 watts of power. E-bikes are treated by state statutes and local ordinance as bicycles. Local ordinance 7941 and State law (CRS § 42-1-102(58)) exclude e-bikes from the definition of a motor vehicle.

E-biking is an activity where participants are propelled by human power and low-powered electric-assist power. There are two classes of e-bikes being considered for use on open space lands.

  • Class 1: Low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

  • Class 2: Low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Timeframe steps
Spring 2022

Alternatives Evaluation:

  • Develop criteria
  • Evaluate alternatives
  • Identify preliminary proposal
Summer 2022

Community Engagement

  • Online questionnaire
  • Onsite survey
  • Office hours
Fall 2022

Additional Analysis

  • Nov. 9: Results and Preliminary staff recommendation
  • Board request for additional information
Winter 2023

Board Consideration

  • Dec. 14: Public Hearing & Final Staff Recommendation
  • Feb. 8: Board recommendation to City Council
Spring 2023

Council Consideration

  • April: Information packet on background and planning process
  • May: First reading of proposed ordinance
  • June: Second reading and public hearing on proposed ordinance

Current city regulations prohibit e-biking on open space trails but allow e-biking on multi-use paths that are managed by other city departments. Boulder Revised Code (B.R.C) 7-5-25 No Electric Assisted Bicycles on Open Space requires disposal to allow e-biking on OSMP-managed trails by transferring the trail to another city department. An amendment to the B.R.C. that would allow e-biking as a passive recreational use may provide flexibility and alternatives to disposal of Open Space.

E-bikes can be ridden in city bike lanes, on city multi-use paths and on city sidewalks outside dismount zones. E-biking also is allowed on most Boulder County Parks & Open Space trails in the plains.

Passive recreation is identified as an OSMP purpose in the Boulder City Charter. However, the charter does not define all passive recreational uses; it provides examples by use of the phrase “such as” and mentions hiking, photography, or nature studies, and if specifically designated, bicycling, horseback riding, or fishing.

Passive recreation is defined in the Visitor Master Plan as non-motorized activities that:

  • Offer constructive, restorative, and pleasurable human benefits that foster an appreciation and understanding of Open Space [and Mountain Parks] and its purposes

  • Do not significantly impact natural, cultural, scientific, or agricultural values

  • Occur in an Open Space and Mountain Parks setting, which is an integral part of the experience

  • Require only minimal facilities and services directly related to safety and minimizing passive recreational impacts

  • Are compatible with other passive recreational activities

E-biking as a passive recreational activity

The OSMP staff analysis of e-bikes interpreted the intent of the non-motorized component of the VMP definition of passive recreation to prohibit gas-powered recreational activities such as ATVs and motorcycles as those were the types of activities that had a presence or were of concern on public lands at the time the VMP was developed. Staff also determined that there are no significant differences between how the department would manage or maintain facilities/trails for e-bikes verses traditional bikes, or that e-biking differs from biking in relation to the Visitor Master Plan (VMP) criteria for passive recreation.

In 2017, the General Assembly removed e-bikes from the definition of “motor vehicle.” However, OSMP staff recognizes there could be some debate about an interpretation of the electric battery of an e-bike as meeting intent of non-motorized activity. In support of the determination that e-biking meets the criteria included in the VMP for passive recreational activities, Council could choose to make a legislative finding that e-biking is a passive recreational activity allowed on open space trails.