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There are new rules dictating what types of micromobility devices are allowed in Boulder and where those devices legally can go.

Boulder City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved on second reading a micromobility traffic ordinance that expands the types of micromobility devices that are allowed, dictates where those devices can be used and where they must be dismounted and provides some guidance to ensure safety. Councilmember Mirabai Nagle was absent.

The city already allows bicycles and e-bikes to be used on multi-use paths, streets and bike lanes and on sidewalks except in dismount zones. Now, human-powered vehicles such as skateboards also can be used on residential streets and in the bike lane on all other streets as well as on multi-use paths and sidewalks where they already could go.

In perhaps the most significant change, e-scooters are now allowed on multi-use paths, on residential streets and in bike lanes on all other streets as well as on the sidewalk if no bike lane is present. Previously, the city banned e-scooters in its public rights of way and it discussed banning all commercial e-scooter companies from operating in Boulder during a January 2020 study session.

Micromobility devices refer to small vehicles such as bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters that operate at lower speeds and are driven by users personally. However, Boulder Revised Code already has definitions for bicycles and e-bikes so those are not included in the newly approved definitions.

The city also developed new dismount zones in the downtown Boulder and University Hill areas. Dismount zones are no longer tied to land use zoning, which makes more sidewalks accessible for bicycles.

Senior Transportation Planner David “DK” Kemp said staff opted against a suggestion from Community Cycles, which would have implemented a time-of-day restriction for the dismount zones, primarily because Boulder wanted to keep the rules clear and to ensure pedestrians feel safe at all times.

In other safety efforts, Boulder will require those using devices such as e-scooters and skateboards to use lights at night, either on the device itself or on the person, and will implement new signage that emphasizes that all devices yield to pedestrians and electric ones yield to human-powered ones.

Now that it’s received approval, Boulder will embark on a communications campaign called “Which Wheels Go Where” to help spread the word about where various modes of transportation are allowed.

Mayor Sam Weaver said he still worries there might be some confusion about what’s allowed where, and he felt the regulations might be fairly hard to enforce. Boulder Police Department representatives confirmed this, noting that enforcement is based largely on complaints from people in town.

Still, the mayor and the rest of the Council were complimentary of the staff’s work on the micromobility traffic ordinance. Councilmember Aaron Brockett said the Council asked staff to take on the work necessary to update the regulations and “you just did.”

“What we’ve got now is just the perfect balance,” Brockett said, particularly calling out the work to reconsider the city’s dismount zones.

The public hearing, rescheduled from March 16, did not draw much attention. A Boulder Chamber representative was one of two people who spoke largely in favor of the ordinance.

“The bottom line for us is that we’re trying to expand the range of transportation and mobility options that residents and workers in Boulder have access to at any time so that they have different alternatives in how they can move,” Director of Public Affairs Andrea Meneghel said in a conversation Monday.

The transportation landscape is changing and Meneghel said the Boulder Chamber is interested in people having access to more modes of transportation, particularly as they begin to return to work in person.

However, according to Meneghel, transportation and mobility were issues in Boulder long before the pandemic, especially in terms of the “first and final mile challenge” or those with difficulty getting to transit and to their final destination.

“Putting things like e-scooters and e-bikes out there so they can make those connections, I think strategically it’s going to help areas like Gunbarrel, East Boulder,” he said. “And we’re going to do it in an environmentally friendly way.”

It’s not the last conversation to be had on micromobility in Boulder. The city in March issued a request for proposals for a shared micromobility program for electric bikes and scooters.

There are a number of ways the program could be handled, including a partnership with a private company for equipment while maintaining Boulder Bike Sharing as the operator. Boulder Bike Sharing is the independent nonprofit organization that for the past decade has operated the Boulder B-Cycle bike sharing system. The city has contracted with Boulder Bike Sharing to offer a bike sharing program as a means of reducing vehicular travel and emissions.