Background

Federal land management agencies that regulate the use of electric bicycles (e-bikes) on motorized and non-motorized trails (the U.S. Forest Service – within the U.S. Department of Agriculture – the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation – within the U.S. Department of the Interior) have historically defined e-bikes as motor vehicles. These are long standing laws that do not recognize what a modern day, low speed e-bike is and does.

Many of these agencies are beginning to recognize that e-bikes are more similar to bicycles than motor vehicles and make bicycle travel easier and more efficient for a wide variety of people.

Until October 26, 2020, the public has an opportunity to comment on proposed revisions guidance on management of e-bikes on National Forest System lands. See below for details on the proposal and this comment period. 

These are landmark moments to update federal laws to recognize current e-bike technology and increase recreation and transportation opportunities for e-bike riders. PeopleForBikes supports the initiative that these agencies are taking to make these regulatory improvements and the opportunity for the bike industry, retailers, advocates, partner groups and riders to comment.

U.S. Forest Service (Department of Agriculture)

Summary of the proposed revisions: 

  • Manages e-bikes as “motor vehicles.”
  • Adopts the three class system for regulating e-bikes as a type of motor vehicle.
  • Create a new type of trail designation to be considered by land managers and incorporated into MVUM maps – “Trails open to e-bikes only.” Trails could be specified to be open for only specific classes.
  • Adds a new section to the “policy” considerations that guide travel management decision making devoted to considering emerging technologies like e-bikes.
  • Add specific criteria to guide land managers in making e-bike use decisions:
    1. Are regular bikes already allowed on the trail?
    2. Would e-bike use be comparable to any existing regular bike use?
    3. Could the land manager perform a programmatic analysis due to the similarities between e-bike use and regular bike use?
  • Directs land managers to consider designating e-bikes use on trails where bicycles are allowed, whether the effects or e-bike use would be comparable to bike use.
  • Prohibits e-bikes from access to National Scenic Trails.

Commenting

  • There are two ways to submit comments:
    • Electronically: Follow the instructions here or click the button below to submit one of our pre-written comments. We encourage you to add your own stories, data or anecdotes that are specific to your electric bicycle experience.
    • By hard copy: Mail to: Director, Recreation Staff, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250–1124.
  • The comment period closes on October 26, 2020.
  • If you’re an industry member, please consider using PeopleForBikes’ industry template letter to easily submit a comment on behalf of your business. (Note that this will be a template, and there are sections that will require you, as the business owner, to fill out with your personalized information and business details. Submit this letter per the instructions above.)
  • When commenting, be respectful, specific and concise. Explain the reason for any changes you recommend. When possible, reference the specific section that you are addressing and provide quantitative information or studies to support your comments and recommendations (including citations to, and analyses of, the applicable laws and regulations).

 

National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior)

Between April and June 2020, four agencies – the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation – also proposed new rules. Here you will find links to the final rules and answers to frequently asked questions about what these mean for the American people who wish to ride electric bicycles on our federally managed public lands.

On October 2, the Department of the Interior released its final rule in its press release and a list of e-bike riding opportunities here. The new regulations will also be published in the Federal Register, and ultimately incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations for each respective agency. The individual agency rules are available below:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What agencies do these rules apply to?
    • The new rules were adopted by four agencies with the Department of the Interior: the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.
    • They DO NOT apply to the United States Forest Service, which is an agency within the Department of Agriculture (see above).
  • What types of electric bicycles are affected by the new regulations?
    • Each set of regulations defines an electric bicycle as either a Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 electric bicycle. In addition, the bicycles must have a motor with a power rating of less than 750 watts and have fully operable pedals.
    • The definitions for the three classes of electric bicycles are provided below:
      • Class 1 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
      • Class 2 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
      • Class 3 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.
  • Are electric bicycles still considered motor vehicles under the new regulations?
    • Generally speaking, no. Electric bicycles will no longer be considered a motorized use unless the rider is using the throttle along to power the bicycle for an extended period of time.
  • Where can I ride?
    • The regulations themselves do not state specific areas that will be closed or open to electric bicycle use. The regulations authorize local land managers to designate non-motorized areas that will be open to electric bicycles, or a specific class of electric bicycle.
    • Accordingly, you should always check with the local land manager to understand which non-motorized trails or roads are open to electric bicycles, and ensure you are abiding by any restrictions regarding which class of electric bicycle may be used in that location.
  • Can e-bikes still be ridden on roads that are open to motor vehicles?
    • Yes. We suggest checking with local land managers regarding access if a road has been designated as closed to traditional bicycles to verify the status of electric bicycles in a particular area.
  • Are there any restrictions on using the e-bike under throttle-only power (i.e., while not pedaling the e-bikes)?
    • Yes. Each agency prohibits e-bike riders from using throttle-only power for “an extended period of time” while on non-motorized roads or trails.
  • While I am riding an e-bike, what rules apply?
    • Electric bicycle riders will be subject to the same duties and have the same rights and responsibilities as riders of traditional bicycles. In addition, electric bicycle riders must follow any state laws that regulate electric bicycle use, to the extent state law does not conflict with the agency’s regulations.
  • Can e-bikes be ridden in designated Wilderness areas?
    • No.