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Colorado study finds familiarity breeds acceptance of e-bikes on trails

Published January 24, 2017
Jefferson County rangers to discuss e-bike study at a forum in Golden on Wednesday.

GOLDEN, Colo. (BRAIN) — When it comes to electric bikes on trails, familiarity may breed acceptance, according to a study by the Jefferson County Open Space department.

Park rangers tested visitor awareness and acceptance of e-bikes last month at Crown Hill Park, a small but popular urban park in the Denver suburbs near Lakewood and Wheat Ridge. They plan to conduct similar studies at two other parks this spring.

"There are attitudes and beliefs about e-bikes that, once a person tries an e-bike, a lot of them sort of melt away," said Mary Ann Bonnell, visitor services manager, who oversaw the Crown Hill study.

Bonnell will discuss the study at the department's twice-yearly Trail Talk forum on Wednesday. The public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Jeffco Open Space office, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Suite 100, in Golden.

With 28 regional parks in the Denver suburbs, boasting 230 miles of trails, the Jefferson County Open Space system is enormously popular. "We are the gateway to the Front Range for the Denver metro area," Bonnell said.

For the Crown Hill study, three "ghost riders" — non-uniformed park rangers — rode e-bikes along its two main loop trails while others asked park visitors how they viewed e-bikes.

The visitors were asked if they had seen an e-bike that day. Nearly two-thirds said no, even though the e-bike riders would have passed nearly everyone who had been on a trail.

"We had people say, 'No, I didn't see one today,' and an e-bike would be going past them as they said that," Bonnell said.

Rangers also offered e-bike demos to visitors, but asked them to answer a questionnaire about whether they support e-bikes on trails. Visitors answered the same questions before and, crucially, after taking a test ride.

"Seventy-one percent of the people who demo'ed said the test ride changed their perception of e-bikes," Bonnell said. "That attitude changed pre- and post-demo."

Haibike provided the bikes for the ghost riders and the demos. The rangers used urban/hybrid e-bikes at Crown Hill, not Haibike's better-known e-mountain bikes.

Bonnell said the agency plans to conduct similar studies this spring at Apex Park, which features a lot of singletrack and is popular with mountain bikers, and on the Clear Creek Trail, used by many commuters.

She said the research could lead to new regulations for e-bike use on Jefferson County Open Space trails.

For more information, visit jeffco.us/open-space/meetings-agendas/trails-talk.

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