Original Article by Travis Engel, Aug. 30, 2019
Your local trails are probably in the national forest, a state park or a county or regional park. But of course, those aren’t the only categories of public land in the U.S. There are national wildlife refuges, national monuments, state reserves, state nature preserves and dozens more. Each are subject to different rules regarding use, protection and, of course, bike access.
National Parks, for instance, tend to be pretty restrictive in that department. Although bikes are allowed in about 40 of the U.S.’s 60 or so true national parks, they’re almost exclusively limited to dirt roads or a very small number of generally pretty tame singletrack trails. And it’s only been since 2010 that bikes have been allowed in at all. But today, the Department of the Interior just signed a new policy that states that “low speed electric bikes” will be subject to the same rules as are non-motorized bikes on national park land.
The stated goal is to increase access to national parks, with wording that seems to highlight electric bikes as alternatives to cars and motorcycles for accessing the park, ways for elderly or disabled parkgoers to more easily use the parks, or just to help people cover more ground than they would otherwise. The documents around the policy change are using the federal definition of e-bikes used in the Consumer Product Safety Act, which is: “…a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” This includes class 1, 2 and 3 electric bikes. Class 1, which includes most e-mountain bikes, means a pedal-assist-only motor with no throttle that will cease to offer assistance at or below 20 miles per hour. Class 2 is essentially the same bike, but with a throttle. Class 3 is a bike without a throttle where the motor will cut out between 20 and 28 miles per hour.
This is not the sweeping change that some are hoping for and others fear. But it will be an interesting experiment that each camp will be watching closely. Alarmists will point to paragraph F in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Opens a New Window. that gives power to the individual land manager to restrict bicycle use. Now that electric and non-electric bikes are under the same definition, this is the core of the fear that, if someone in charge finds electric bikes to be a nuisance, the result could potentially be the loss of access to all cyclists. But it could just as easily go the other way. The small impact of this policy change will provide a laboratory for e-bike use on federal land. It will be the training wheels for the inevitable decisions that we will soon have to make.
Below are links to the relevant documents to today’s news.
Electric Bike Policy for National Parks Opens a New Window. – The policy itself, including definitions and specifics.
National Parks Press Release Opens a New Window. – An overview of today’s decision on the National Parks Website.
Department of the Interior Order 3376 Opens a New Window. – An outline of the DOI’s objectives in allowing electric bikes access to national parks.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Opens a New Window. – A broad and basic summary of regulations of non-motorized bicycles on public lands.
#ebikes #regulations #NationalParks #multiuse #pedalassist