A gate blocks off the entrance to West Douglas’ Pioneer Road Saturday afternoon. Monday evening the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted to reject a proposal from a local company that sought to gain access to provide electric-assisted bicycle tours on the city-owned gravel road. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A gate blocks off the entrance to West Douglas’ Pioneer Road Saturday afternoon. Monday evening the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted to reject a proposal from a local company that sought to gain access to provide electric-assisted bicycle tours on the city-owned gravel road. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Assembly votes down proposed Pioneer Road e-bike tours

Assembly member calls for “rare” move to reconsider.

A local business’s proposal to bring electric-assisted bicycle tours to West Douglas’ Pioneer Road was shot down in a narrow vote by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday evening.

The proposal by iRide Alaska failed in a 5-4 vote, with Assembly members Christine Woll, Greg Smith, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Mayor Weldon voting in opposition.

“In my opinion it wouldn’t be in the community’s best interest to be adding this,” Hughes-Skandijs said, arguing the proposal is a “victim of timing” as the Assembly and community are in the midst of deciding whether to consolidate or disperse tourism in Juneau.

“You can’t have that conversation and at the same time continue to add in different tours,” she said. “There has to be a bit of a pause while we figure that out — and we haven’t figured that out yet.”

However, despite being rejected by five out of nine Assembly members, the business will be granted a second-chance vote at the next Assembly meeting after Bryson, who voted in favor of the proposal, called for a notice of reconsideration minutes after the business walked out.

“It’s very rare that someone uses notice of reconsideration, it’s not very ordinary,” City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire after the meeting.

In an interview with the Empire on Tuesday morning, Bryson said he’s not sure if the outcome of the vote will change the second time around, but argued he made the call for a notice of reconsideration to push back at the precedent he thinks Monday night’s vote set.

“When we tell someone to jump through all the hoops and then the city says we’re still not going to allow it, we broke that trust,” he said. “We don’t want the Assembly to operate that way, we don’t want personal opinion to get in the way of the procedures. These guys did everything the Assembly asks, but at the end of the day we said, ‘Nope, feelings are stronger than policies.’”

In recent months the application sent in by iRide Alaska has been a source of much conversation from both the Assembly and Juneau community members regarding if tourism ventures should be extended to the road which is currently used by local hikers and outdoor enthusiasts similarly to a trail, though it is technically not considered one.

According to the business permit request, originally sent to the city in November, the company planned to offer hour-long tours on pedal-assist e-bikes three times a day, six days a week barring Sunday, for groups ranging from four to 10 people along with two guides beginning this summer, running from May through October.

The company isn’t new to Juneau and the four co-owners are Juneau residents. The business already offers tours at Rainforest Trail, Mayor Bill Overstreet Park and Eaglecrest Cross-country Ski Trail.

After Monday night’s vote to reject the proposal, iRide Alaska co-owner Reuben Willis told the Empire he was “disappointed” with the Assembly’s decision.

“It’s been a frustrating process and much longer than a business should be forced to go through to get an answer,” he said. “Obviously there’s a much larger issue at play that this has become the lightning rod.”

Erin Willis agreed, saying she was “frustrated” to go through the monthslong process only to have it be rejected.

“It’s been a lot of time on our part, an up-and-down roller coaster,” she said. “We became a platform for people to come to the city and complain about issues, when we are tiny and our impact won’t be felt.”

When asked whether the business would consider coming back to the Assembly to pitch the proposal a second time in the future, the co-owners expressed uncertainty. At the time of the interview, the business was unaware of Bryson’s call for reconsideration.

“It’s been a painful process, why do this again?” Erin Willis said.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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