The proposal would include five trails: the Burke-Gilman, the Elliott Bay, the Duwamish, the Mountains to Sound and the Melrose Connector.

Share story

Riders on electric-assisted bicycles could be officially sanctioned to use some of Seattle’s popular mixed-use trails, like the Burke-Gilman, beginning Aug. 1.

Seattle’s Board of Park Commissioners Thursday unanimously recommended a yearlong project that would evaluate, collect data and require reporting to the Board on the status of allowing the bikes on trails. The proposal now goes before the interim parks superintendent, who will make the final decision.

The board recommended considering the project as the first phase in implementing a new policy, rather than referring to it as a pilot, but the superintendent will make the final decision on what it will be called.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »

Electric bikes, which give an boost of power to riders, especially when pedaling uphill, have often been spotted on trails, but the new program would establish formal rules for users and comes after a new state law made legal certain e-bikes on shared-use paths unless a local jurisdiction bans them.

The project was originally scheduled to begin Memorial Day weekend, but concern from the public and members of the board about how e-bike riders would coexist with others on multi-use trails delayed the start date.

Not much has changed since the proposal was first presented in April.

The new rules still mandate a 15 mph speed limit for all bike users, allow only e-bikes capable of reaching a speed of 20 mph or less and include plans for education and outreach.

The project will also still include five trails: the Burke-Gilman, the Elliott Bay, the Duwamish, the Mountains to Sound and the Melrose Connector.

The program would be funded from existing budgets within Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department with additional support from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

Several people, including board members, had expressed concern about potential conflict between e-bike riders, pedestrians, joggers and other cyclists.

In creating the plan, the Parks Department met with 11 organizations and individuals and reached out to more than three dozen other organizations and businesses related to bicycling.

According to the proposal, the Seattle Police Department will respond to complaints from users on the trail when contacted, but “no dedicated resources have been committed.”

Todd Burley, sustainability strategic adviser at the Parks Department, said more conversations are planned with the the Police Department that may result in additional enforcement.

Most of the effort to create a safe environment for all users, according to the proposal, will come through signage focusing on “proper trail etiquette,” with phrases such as “Keep Safe, 15 mph Max Pace” and “Keep Fido Close.”

Emphasis will be on encouraging people to stay right, signal if passing and keeping pets on a short leash.

The Parks Department will also create temporary signs for the program and place them at prominent locations along the trails. One idea that has been discussed, Burley said, is to make contact numbers more visible and prevalent so people will know where to send complaints and so police have an idea of where and how often conflicts occur.

Along with SDOT and the state Department of Transportation, the Parks Department will collect data on the Elliott Bay, Burke-Gilman and Mountains to Sound Trail to confirm whether certain areas indeed have more conflict.

These data collection efforts will be combined with online and in-person surveys.

“The goal is to create consistency and improve the experience for all users,” Burley said.