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Electric bikes riding their way into Mitchell

Electric bicycles have arrived in Mitchell.

The arrival of e-bikes prompted the Parks and Recreation Board to take proactive steps in discussing safety measures for the new bikes during Tuesday's board meeting.

Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell outlined the city's current ordinance as being the main concern for welcoming e-bikes, which ultimately led the board members to approve a recommended change in the city's bicycle ordinance. Powell will now take the board's recommendations to the City Council for approval.

"Under the current ordinance, a bicycle is deemed a vehicle, which means bicycle riders have to abide by the same laws as vehicles," Powell said Tuesday. "The proposed change would be to add e-bikes to being defined as a bicycle."

According to Powell, the state of South Dakota is working to classify e-bikes as bicycles as well.

"They want to look at whether or not it's a bike or a moped, because you have to have a driver's license with a moped, but an e-bike you do not," Powell explained to the board.

During the meeting, Powell pointed out an error in the city's current bicycle ordinance that has language stating vehicles and bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks, which he said is incorrect.

"So it should say 'motor vehicles,' not just the word 'vehicles,' since they are considered bikes," Powell said.

Cody Denne, owner of Ron's Bike Shop, joined the board and explained the details of e-bikes, which he now sells at his local bike shop.

"They're becoming popular, and people are coming to town with them now," Denne said. "I know a guy who rode his e-bike all the way from Nebraska last year."

Denne said e-bikes are equipped with small motors that assist bikers when pedaling but stop at 20 mph.

Another point of discussion that arose was how to mandate e-bikes on trails. Board Member Denny Marek raised a question asking if the city will allow e-bikes to be used on the trails around Lake Mitchell.

"I know right now the hiking, biking and walking trails around the lake are all the same, so that would mean e-bikes are allowed," Marek said.

Powell responded to Marek's inquiry, and said the Parks and Recreation board has the authority to designate trails that e-bikes could access, but only at city parks.

Denne suggested the city look into implementing a center lane on trails throughout the city that will help keep the flow of walkers, bikers and e-bikers safe.

"You're still going to have people riding regular bikes faster than what an e-bike can go, so I think it comes down to discretion," Denne said.

After a lengthy discussion, Board President Ryan Tupper suggested to table the conversation about trail use for another date, which the board approved.

"If we come back and say there are specific portions of trails that we don't allow e-bikes, shouldn't we have defined e-bikes not as a bicycle," Tupper asked the board. "Defining use of trail is something we need to focus on from here on out."

City Attorney Justin Johnson was in attendance and responded to Tupper's inquiry, saying the city can look into the trail use guidelines surrounding e-bikes.

"I don't know the structure of how you guys are regulating the trail systems, but we can look into that, and figure out the best approach," Johnson said.

Consent agenda

The board considered:

• Approved minutes of Jan. 10 board meeting.

• Approved bills and department reports.

• Approved facility use agreement with the Tennis Association.

• Approved softball, baseball, soccer association agreements.

• Approved concession facility operation and stadium concession operation agreement.

• Approved re-tree policy, which the Parks & Recreation Department will be offering a 75 percent reimbursement (up to $100) for the purchase of trees that are planted in "approved" locations in or near the boulevard.

• Held 2020 capital projects discussion.

• Approved implementing ice bumper cars at the Activities Center with rentals set at $6 for every 10 minutes.