A local business’s proposal to bring electric-assisted bicycle tours to West Douglas’ Pioneer Road got one step closer to reality Monday night.
The Assembly meeting as the Committee of the Whole voted to allow the city manager to continue working with applicants and draft an ordinance for a one-year permit with the possibility of renewal.
The proposal will likely be introduced during the Assembly’s next regular meeting on Monday, March 20.
Much discussion has already taken place about the specific application sent in by iRide Alaska and the potential ramifications of OKing commercial use of the gravel road, as currently, the city has no policy allowing or disallowing the use.
Mixed opinions have come 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 in November, the company plans to offer 90-minute tours on pedal-assist e-bikes three times a day, six days a week barring Sunday, for groups ranging from four to 15 people along with two guides beginning this summer, running from May through October.
The company isn’t new to Juneau, and already offers tours at Rainforest Trail, Mayor Bill Overstreet Park and Eaglecrest Cross-country Ski Trail.
On Monday night, Assembly members Greg Smith and Alicia Hughes-Skandijs voted against moving the application forward, both making similar arguments that they’re not necessarily against the specific idea and the business being proposed, but rather felt the decision to commercialize the road for tourism ventures warranted further discussion before giving the OK.
Other members in support of the application, like Assembly member Wade Bryson, argued that by rejecting the application, the city is sending the message that it’s afraid of the growth of tourism. He said the growth is needed and felt Pioneer Road is a good location and the impact of this proposal is low.
In an interview after the decision, iRide Alaska co-owner Reuben Willis told the Empire he was pleased to see the application move forward, and noted that the company acknowledges the hesitancy expressed by Assembly members and residents.
“We’re very aware of the sensitivity that it brings to many,” he said. “We have tried to balance needs to create very low impact and we believe we can do this in a way that is beneficial to all of Juneau.”
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.