Skip to content

Breaking News

News |
Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks proposes opening some trails to e-bikes

Community asked to weigh on city's proposals

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks has advanced a proposal that would allow e-bikes on Boulder Canyon Trail, seen here on Tuesday, as well as some other trails within the city. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks has advanced a proposal that would allow e-bikes on Boulder Canyon Trail, seen here on Tuesday, as well as some other trails within the city. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

When Margee Sullivan injured her spinal cord, she began using an e-bike far more frequently.

“My e-bike allows me to ride places I cannot otherwise access,” Sullivan said.

For that reason, she’s supportive of a Boulder Open Space and Mountain parks proposal that would allow class-1 and class-2 e-bikes on 34 miles of its trails.

The proposal includes the Boulder Canyon Trail, which is partially within city limits and partially in unincorporated Boulder County, as well as the city’s “Plains” trails, including trails east of Broadway within city limits, east of the North Foothills and U.S. 36 corridor to the north and Colo. 93 to the south of city limits.

This represents about 22% of the city’s 156-mile open space trail network. Boulder currently prohibits e-bikes on all of those trails.

Among other things, opening up some of the city’s OSMP trails to e-bikes would improve access and ensure that interconnected trails have similar rules, according to Boulder Principal Planner Marni Ratzel.

“It’s looking at what the needs of the community are — taking a look to see if it makes sense to allow e-bikes and have consistent regulations,” Ratzel said.

“In general, the public doesn’t know when you’re traveling along the trail who owns and manages that land,” she added.

This can lead to confusion for those traversing the regional network of trails since Boulder County in 2019 agreed to allow class-1 and class-2 e-bikes on trails where traditional bikes are allowed, with some exceptions.

Additionally, amend Boulder’s e-bike policy would allow some flexibility. If e-bikes are a desired use on a trail located on land managed by Boulder OSMP, the city must dispose of land by selling, transferring or giving it to another public agency, according to the current ordinance.

While the proposal that would allow e-bikes on 34 miles of open space land is the one currently supposed by staff, the city also came up with two other alternatives: one that would allow e-bikes on all OSMP multi-use trails and another that would allow them on OSMP trails that are part of the Boulder County regional trail network.

Boulder does allow those with disabilities to use e-bikes on its trails, Ratzel confirmed.

But she acknowledged that the topic is a nuanced one. For example, Ratzel said the city has heard from older adults, who may not consider themselves disabled but who have mobility constraints that make e-bikes much easier to use.

For others, a motorized e-bike makes traveling by bicycle manageable.

Boulder resident Marina Vance said she supports the idea of opening more trails to e-bikes, given that she’s unable to bring her toddler along on a bike ride unless she’s using an e-bike with a bike trailer.

“I don’t have the strength to pull him and the trailer using a regular bike,” Vance said. “On trails that allow bike trailers, it would be nice if they also allowed e-bikes. We don’t go faster than many road bikes.”

The proposal also is supported by Community Cycles, a nonprofit cycling advocacy organization and bike shop in Boulder

“E-bikes are a really great tool for commuting longer distances without a car,” Executive Director Sue Prant said in an email. “Sometimes that means you need to use an OSMP trail, especially in the case of South Boulder Creek and Boulder Canyon trails.”

For the same reason, Community Cycles supported opening up Boulder County trails to e-bikes, Prant noted.

Since purchasing class-1 e-bikes, which can go up to 20 miles per hour, Tom Myer and his wife have started commuting to work and taking their bikes to buy groceries and meet friends for drinks.

From Myer’s perspective, it makes sense to allow e-bikes like his on trails.

“I certainly go much slower than road cyclists who can get up to 30 mph or higher,” Myer said. “The trails give me access to bikeways that are much safer than (the) shoulder of the roads in Boulder.”

Still, some have reservations about the idea.

For example, Scott Upton argued that Boulder should consider building more trails for mountain bikes before opening up the trails to e-bikes.

“Otherwise, they’re just putting more pressure on an already small network of trails,” Upton said.

“I think e-bikes are an amazing, amazing replacement for cars. I wish more people would commute on them or use them to get groceries,” he added. “I just think we need to be more careful on singletrack.”

All perspectives are important and part of why the city has opened up a questionnaire and intends to use public input to determine how to proceed, Ratzel noted.

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks staff will conduct drop-in office hours at the OSMP Hub, 2520 55th St., on July 20 from noon to 2 p.m. and July 26 from 4 to 6 p.m. People can learn more about the preliminary proposal and view a map of the trails included on the project webpage at

The questionnaire is open until Aug. 8 at

The OSMP Board of Trustees will weigh in on the proposal this fall. The City Council has ultimate approval authority, with a vote tentatively set for the end of this year or early next.