Overland Park considers extending e-bike pilot program and could also add rental scooters

Overland Park's 18-month e-bike pilot project comes to an end this November. Feedback from citizens showed that some residents were happy with the e-bikes being available on select city trails, but they worried about the speeds some riders took along with trail etiquette. The city council's Community Development committee will vote whether to reinstate the program once more at their Nov. 3 meeting. Filed image.

Overland Park experiment with electric bikes received mixed reviews from residents, as the city’s 18-month pilot program nears an end this November.

The pilot project allowed certain types of motorized bikes on trails throughout Overland Park. With the project’s end date approaching, the city council’s Community Development committee on Wednesday heard a report about the pilot’s impact, including citizen feedback.

The report concluded that there are some concerns with how the e-bike program currently runs, but overall, seem to appreciate having the bikes in the area.

The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District approved the use of Class 1 and Class 3 electric bikes on all paved trails in February of last year.

Both e-bike classifications approved for usage are considered pedal-assist, meaning bicyclists propel the bike as usual while a motor aids in powering the rear wheel. Class 1 e-bikes can reach up to 20 miles per hour, and Class 3 bikes can reach up to 28 miles per hour.

A mix of positive and negative feedback

Following the county’s approval, Overland Park launched the e-bike pilot program in June 2020.

During the pilot, the city created and installed 14 informational signs along both Indian Creek and Tomahawk Creek to inform users of the program and how they would provide feedback.

In all, city staff reported to the committee Wednesday that they received 23 total comments: 10 of which were labeled “positive,” 13 labeled “negative” and one labeled “neutral.”

The negative comments were not so much against e-bikes themselves, Burton said, but the speeds at which people were riding them and the lack of trail etiquette they had observed.

“Most of these individuals who used [the pilot], they enjoyed the mobility and accessibility through the use of an e-bike,” Overland Parks parks project coordinator Mike Burton said.

Council discussion

Councilmember Holly Grummert said while she thinks the pilot program is a great start to getting people more access to trails, she is concerned with the number of negative comments.

Grummert suggested possibly marking the trail more and putting up different signage to educate citizens on the rules of using an e-bike.

In response, Bryan Toben, assistant director of recreation services, said city staff are working on putting more signage up and are working to determine standard speeds for e-bikes on city trails.

“We should continue the pilot program for e-bikes,” Councilmember Chris Newlin said. “I’ve got plenty of older neighbors that are using e-bikes all the time.”

Scooters in future?

In addition to continuing the e-bike program, the city may also consider launching a new e-scooter program in coming months, as well.

Later this month, city staff will present the city council’s Public Works Committee with a roadmap for how an e-scooter program in Overland Park would work.

If approved, the city’s municipal code relating to the operation of scooters on city streets and parkways would have to be changed.

“In January, we’re going to hopefully have a pilot program… but you probably won’t see any scooters here until springtime as it gets warmer in the March timeframe,” city traffic engineer Brian Shields told the committee.

At it’s next meeting Nov. 3, the Community Development committee will vote on whether to extend e-bikes’ presence in the city with a second pilot program and also vote on a new e-scooter pilot program.