City council considers allowing E-bikes on trail


A proposed ordinance allowing the use of electric bikes on the Sugar Creek Trail gained initial support from the Crawfordsville Common Council on Monday.

The council voted 5-0 on the first reading of the proposal, despite some hesitation from Councilman Ethan Hollander. Council members Jeff Lucas and Jennifer Lowe were absent.

Electric bikes, or E-bikes, are bicycles equipped with an electric motor that assists the rider with pedaling. E-bikes are growing in popularity and have been deemed useful to those who may find traditional biking difficult due to age, disability, or challenging terrain.

There are three classifications of E-bikes. Class I is pedal-assist only, where the pedal-assist cuts off at 20 mph, and the user must pedal manually to go faster. Class II is throttle on demand, pedal assist, or both. The throttle cuts of at 20 mph and the user must pedal to go faster. Class III is pedal assist only, and the pedal assist cuts off at 28 mph, and the user must pedal to go faster.

If adopted, the new ordinance would permit Class I and Class II E-bikes on the trail. Current rules prohibit any motorized vehicles on the trail.

Previously, members of park board discussed the maximum speed of Class I and Class II E-bikes, and believe the speed is within the same range of traditional cyclists. Furthermore, they believe the popularity of E-bikes would expand trail access to a wider range of community members.

If adopted, the ordinance would make a clear distinction between E-bikes and other motorized vehicles, which would continue to be prohibited from use on the trail.

Despite voting in favor on first reading, Hollander expressed his concern that Class II bikes, which allow a rider to maintain a 20-mph speed at a greater distance, could become problematic on the trail. He was not opposed to Class I E-bikes on the trail.

“As I see it 20 mph is a pretty good clip,” Hollander said. “So those bicycles (Class II) are pretty fast. As a jogger on that trail, I’ve been taken by surprise a number of times by just a bicycle, a normal bike ... I share the path with bicyclists, and that’s life, but if you add Class II bikes to that trail that would become a more common occurrence and that’s my worry.”

Councilman Mike Reidy asked if there were any statistics available related to injures on the trail.

Parks Director Fawn Johnson and Police Chief Aaron Mattingly both indicated they were unaware of any major injuries or incidents reported. Mattingly added that calls to the trail are few and far between, and that injuries can occur on a pedal-assisted bike, regular bike, or other activity on the trail.

Johnson said other cities are beginning to allow E-bikes and are changing the rules in their communities. Mayor Todd Barton added that E-bikes are allowed on the Monon Trail in Indianapolis.

Barton suggested council members take the next month to continue reviewing the ordinance before it comes up for additional readings in July. The proposed ordinance requires three readings before it can be adopted.

In other business, the council:

• Adopted an ordinance amending the city’s salary ordinance to adjust the maximum salary levels for entry-level parking enforcement employees at the Crawfordsville Police Department.

• Approved a resolution regarding an application for real and personal property tax deductions in an Economic Revitalization Area for Penguin Random House. The local book publisher intends  to make a nearly $40 million investment to build a 650,000 square foot expansion at 1021 N. State Road 47.

A public hearing also was conducted at the start of Monday’s meeting and no comments were recorded.

• Approved resolutions finding that International Paper and Kroger Pace Dairy, are in substantial compliance for tax abatement purposes.

• Approved a resolution designating an Economic Revitalization Area and approving tax abatement for Phil Ward LLC. The developer intends to construct a 64,000 square foot hotel with approximately 91 rooms on 3.75 acres of vacant land within the city’s Commerce Park along Phil Ward Boulevard. The project is estimated at $11.6 million.

• Approved a resolution designating an Economic Revitalization Area and approving tax abatement for the IRA Whiskey Co. The company plans to build a new 26,000 square foot whiskey aging facility on six acres of land along Concord Road in the city’s Commerce Park. The $6 million project will include product storage and event space.

• Continued to table a proposed ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wildlife and stray animals within the city. The proposal was initially tabled May 13 for further study.

• Adopted an ordinance prohibiting parking on the south side of Constitution Row in Crawfordsville.