An influx of e-bikes on Maroon Creek Road over the past two years is prompting Pitkin County officials to consider a fee-and-reservation system for all cyclists to and from Maroon Bells.
Pitkin County commissioners are scheduled to hear about four proposed plans on Tuesday to regulate e-bike and regular bike traffic on Maroon Creek Road, located just west of Aspen and the route to the popular Maroon Bells.
“We’re not trying to stop e-bikes from going all the way to the Maroon Bells,” Pitkin County Public Works Director Brian Pettet said Monday. “But it’s a growing problem. In the last two years in particular, we are seeing an increase in numbers. »
Between May and October, Maroon Creek Road is closed to regular vehicular traffic between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., as the popularity of the Maroon Bells previously made parking and the drive to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area too congested.
Tourists must purchase a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus ticket or make paid parking reservations before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. The road is closed at the T-Lazy 7 Ranch in the winter.
On summer weekend days, the number of e-bikers on Maroon Creek Road can average 350 or more per day, he said. Drivers from the RFTA – which ferry tourists from Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Bells and back from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – wrote letters concerned about public safety.
Additionally, e-bikes have allowed a different kind of rider to hit the roads in Pitkin County, Pettet said.
“This technology has enabled anyone, regardless of physical strength or knowledge of bicycle rules and safety, to travel throughout Pitkin County on roads and trails,” Pettet wrote in a memo to commissioners. . “The security problem is not limited to Maroon Creek Road. However, Maroon Creek Road has seen the greatest impact from e-bikes compared to other county roads.
In an attempt to combat the problem, a group including representatives from Pitkin County, the City of Aspen, RFTA, Forest Service, Aspen Skiing Co. and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association has developed four proposals .
The first and most extensive would impose an online reservation system with a limited number of reservations per day and a pricing system for tourists. Residents would receive a free pass and be allowed to make unlimited reservations, according to Pettet’s memo.
Under the plan, local e-bike rental business owners would be assigned a fixed number of daily bookings that would vary based on fleet size and customer base in 2021, which would likely trickle down to tenants. Out-of-town cyclists who bring their own bikes should also make a reservation and pay the fee. All riders would have to watch a bike etiquette video before being allowed to make a reservation, and reservations would be checked at the Highlands docking station by representatives of the company that now runs the reservation system for bus.
The second plan offers an unlimited reservation system and a fee for tourists. Again, local bikers would get a free pass and be entitled to unlimited reservations. According to Pettet’s memo, those who rent from e-bike companies and outsiders with their own bikes would have to pay a fee to make a reservation, while everyone would watch the video.
The third proposal essentially only regulates e-bike rental companies, which would again receive a set number of reservations per day based on the size of the fleet and customer base in 2021. These tourists would have to pay to make a reservation and also be required to watch the biker etiquette video, and reservations would be checked at the docking station.
Locals and foreigners with their own bikes would not have to make reservations, pay fees or watch video under this plan.
Finally, the latest plan contemplates no reservations or fees in favor of a mandatory biker etiquette training program for all Maroon Creek Road bikers.
“It really is an educational effort,” Pettet said.
The training would include a short online video and would be mandatory for anyone renting an e-bike. Owners of e-bike fleets were handing out passes signifying the rider had watched the practice, according to Pettet’s memo.
“Local and out-of-town cyclists could complete this online training and pick up the pass in Highlands or (Pitkin) County,” the memo reads.
The number of reservations per day and the amount of the fee have not yet been determined, Pettet said. The county wants whatever program is self-funding and not looking to make money from it, he said.
If the county moves forward with a plan, officials plan to form a subcommittee with representatives from commercial e-bike rental companies to help fine-tune the details of the plan, Pettet said.
Additionally, the county allocated $50,000 for an engineering survey of Maroon Creek Road to try to identify areas along the uphill traffic lane that could be extended to a bike path in an attempt to make the road safer. for cyclists, he said. The study would also look at the cost of such an effort, which would likely be expensive, Pettet said.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, an e-bike enthusiast who frequently rides Maroon Creek Road in the summer and winter, said Monday the number of e-bikers has increased markedly in recent years.
“I would say last summer was probably the worst,” he said. “Five years ago, I was really on my own. I wouldn’t see other e-bikers.
Over the past two years, however, DiSalvo said he’s seen groups of cyclists without helmets or proper gear “goofing off” while riding Maroon Creek Road.
“I’ve seen a lot of 10-pack e-bikers,” he said. “You can tell when they are renting. You can tell who knows what they are doing.
Stewards are to hear about the new Maroon Creek Road bike proposals at 1 p.m. The public can only attend the meeting virtually. Instructions for connecting to the meeting are available at PitkinCounty.com/1001/events-agendas and by clicking Tuesday’s business session agenda.