The Boulder City Council voted 7-0 on Thursday, June 1 to repeal the city’s prohibition on riding electric bikes on certain open space trails.

Councilmember Rachel Friend abstained due to a conflict of interest. Councilmember Mark Wallach was absent.

The decision will allow Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks to designate certain trails, covering roughly 34 miles, as permissible for class one and two e-bikes.

With the ban lifted, city officials are planning to allow e-bikes on all trails east of Broadway where regular bikes are already allowed, as well as the Boulder Creek Trail. Councilmembers also requested that city staff include Chapman Drive, which connects Boulder Canyon to Flagstaff Road, and trails near Wonderland Lake.

Councilmembers said they saw the change as way to make cycling more accessible, especially among older adults.

“I think this really does allow more of us to keep enjoying our trails even as our bodies need some extra assistance,” said Councilmember Nicole Speer. “Not all of us have the types of bodies that allow us to keep doing in our 80s what we were doing in our 20s.”

“This is a good step forward for differently abled bodies,” Mayor Aaron Brockett said.

The issue has been a divisive one among community members. In a rare split with the city, the volunteer Open Space Board of Trustees voted 3-2 earlier this year against the city staff proposal. The reaction from the cycling community has also been mixed.

In a public hearing before council’s vote, Wendy Sweet, executive director of the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, said the nonprofit wanted the city to launch a pilot e-bike program to evaluate potential consequences before making permanent changes. With that off the table, it is pushing for measurable data to guide implementation. “What will success look like? What will failure look like? What metrics will you use to determine this?” Sweet said, noting her organization generally supports e-bikes on open space land.

Most residents who spoke were against ending the prohibition. Among other reasons, they’re concerned e-bikes would create conflicts with hikers and birders on the trails.

“There have been several public comments before me suggesting that e-bike usage on city open space will displace other visitors, will lead to more visitor conflict, will have harmful impacts on wildlife, will negatively impact trails,” Sweet said. “But the vast majority of e-bike pilot programs and studies to date do not show these concerns to be valid.”

The changes could take effect later this summer. City officials plan to “employ trail design best practices to mitigate speed and conflict potential on multi-use trails” and survey open space visitors “to track trends and changes in public sentiment over time,” according to a city staff memo.

You can learn more about the debate leading up to the vote by reading out previous coverage.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bike riders don’t all have good trail manners. Hikers often have to step aside to let them pass. And who needs the extra noise?

  2. To Marcia; ebikes are almost silent. The sound is actually more safe where regular bikes sneak up on people going just as fast. Also, ebikes are heavier so harder to navigate on narrow trails meaning they have have to go slower than reg bikes in most cases. I also hike. This changes nothing at all. Embrace change.

Leave a comment
Boulder Reporting Lab comments policy
All comments require an editor's review. BRL reserves the right to delete or turn off comments at any time. Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *