Project Update: Public Hearing on Dec. 14 

City staff will present a final staff recommendation to allow e-biking on some city open space trails at an Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT) meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14. Community members can provide comment on the staff recommendation during a public hearing and can register to speak on the OSBT meeting webpage beginning Monday, Dec. 12. Sign up will also be available during the meeting.

The Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) staff recommendation would authorize Class 1 and Class 2 e-bike use as a passive recreational activity permissible on open space trails and allowed on certain designated trails. OSMP intends to allow e-bikes on the following trails: 

  • City “Plains” trails located east of Broadway within the City of Boulder limits and east of U.S. Highway 36 north of Boulder and Colorado Highway 93 south of Boulder

  • The Boulder Canyon Trail, which is a regional trail located west of Broadway, and has a segment on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks’ lands. The trail is maintained by City of Boulder Transportation and Mobility Department within city limits and by Boulder County in unincorporated Boulder County.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, the OSBT will consider the final staff recommendation and provide City Council with the OSBT’s recommendation. The opportunity for public comment is at the Dec. 14 meeting. The Boulder City Council is expected to consider e-bike access on city-managed open space later this winter.

OSMP presented findings on e-bike evaluation on Nov. 9

Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) provided an update on the e-biking evaluation to the Open Space Board of Trustees on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The meeting was the first of three steps for the OSBT to consider a staff recommendation for e-biking on open space trails.

  • On Wednesday, Nov. 9, staff gave a presentation on community engagement results and additional staff analysis considered to help develop a preliminary staff recommendation for e-bike use on some city trails. Read a memo prepared for the Open Space Board of Trustees and the presentation given at the meeting. Watch the board meeting.
  • On Wednesday, Dec. 14, a final staff recommendation will be presented. The OSBT also will host a public hearing and invite community members to provide testimony on the final staff recommendation at the December meeting.
  • On Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, the OSBT will consider the final staff recommendation and provide city council with the Board’s recommendation.
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Preliminary staff recommendation

Include Class 1 and Class 2 e-biking as a passive recreational activity permissible on open space and allowed only on certain designated trails.

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The public input indicates there is majority support of the community for authorizing e-biking as a passive recreational open space use. Primary objectives of allowing e-biking on open space are:

  • Improve access for community members of more ages and abilities of visitors
  • Provide consistent visitor experiences across interconnected trails
  • Offer more adaptive management approaches by considering alternatives to disposal
  • Support broader city climate goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

How the staff recommendation would be achieved is to amend the BRC to authorize e-biking on open space trails through a legislative finding by City Council that e-biking is a passive recreational activity. Staff supports the approach of rule-making authority of the city manager to designate which trails are appropriate for e-biking based on criteria from the VMP.

If the staff recommendation is approved, the OSMP department intends to proceed with a rule-making process to manage e-biking use on trails identified in Alternative B as multi-use Plains trails that allow biking and the Boulder Canyon Trails.

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E-Biking Preferred Alternative B: Map with Plains Trails and Boulder Canyon Trail highlighted, and summary of reasons staff support alternative B.

View the Alternative B graphic as PDF.

Results of Community Input

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.

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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.

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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 BeHeardBoulder.com.

  • 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

About E-Bikes

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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.

Project Overview

In spring 2022, Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) began an evaluation to consider e-biking on city open space trails. Over summer 2022, OSMP invited community input on whether to amend alternatives under consideration. This input helped guide the development of the preliminary staff recommendation for consideration by the Open Space Board of Trustees and City Council in Fall 2022 and Winter 2023.

Timeframe Steps
Apr. - Jun. 2022

Alternatives Assessment

  • OSBT update on background and process
  • Staff evaluation, identification of alternatives, and development of preliminary proposal
Jul. - Aug. 2022

Community Engagement Window

  • 7/13/22: Staff presentation to OSBT on preliminary proposal and engagement window
  • 7/11/22 - 8/8/22: Online questionnaire to gather feedback on preliminary proposal and other alternatives
  • 7/20/22 & 7/26/22: Staff available during office hours at OSMP Hub to assist with completing the questionnaire
Aug. - Oct. 2022 (We are here)

Analysis of public feedback

  • Staff analysis of input gathered from community members
Nov. 9, 2022

Open Space Board of Trustees Meeting

  • Written memo and staff presentation to share community feedback
  • Gather board input on a staff preliminary preferred alternative
Dec. 14, 2022

Open Space Board of Trustees Meeting

  • Public Hearing on the staff final recommendation
Jan. 13, 2022

Open Space Board of Trustees Meeting

  • Consideration and action on the Final staff recommendation and Board action on a recommendation to Council regarding e-biking on city open space
Mar. - Apr. 2023

Council Consideration

  • Council consideration, public hearing, and action regarding e-bike use on city open space trails.

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.