Department of the Interior e-bike policy FAQ

On Friday, August 30, the Department of the Interior released a new policy to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, on Department lands. There are many myths and misconceptions about what this policy means for e-bike access on lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. We hope to clarify our understanding of the details of the Department’s new position on e-bikes through the FAQ below:

 

What exactly did the Department of the Interior release?

The new “policy” that the Department released is a Secretarial Order signed by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. The Secretarial Order is actually a directive to each of the major land management agencies within the Department of the Interior to create new policies that expand e-bike access. 

 

Does this mean I can now ride an e-bike anywhere on Department of the Interior lands?

No. While it has been reported that the Secretarial Order immediately opened up all Department of the Interior lands to e-bikes, this is not accurate. The Secretarial Order creates a process by which each agency within the Department that manages public lands will create new policies for e-bikes that are specific to that agency. E-bike access will be governed by the policies of each agency, and potentially by local land managers within that agency (for more information specific to National Park Service lands, see our information on the Park Service policy below). Before riding your e-bike, you should consult the policy of the specific Department of the Interior agency that manages the land you would like to ride on.

 

Does the Order define what an “e-bike” is?

Yes. The Secretarial Order recognizes the three classes of e-bikes that are currently defined by the traffic laws of 22 states. Those classes are as follows:

  1. 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;
  2. 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; and
  3. 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.

E-bikes must also meet the requirements established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

 

Does this Secretarial Order apply to anything besides e-bikes?

No. A device must specifically be a class 1, class 2, or class 3 e-bike to fall within the scope of the Secretarial Order. It does not apply broadly to motorized devices or vehicles.

 

What agencies does the Secretarial Order apply to?

There are four main land management agencies within the Department of the Interior: 1) the National Park Service; 2) the Bureau of Land Management; 3) the Fish and Wildlife Service; and 4) the Bureau of Reclamation. The Secretarial Order directs all four of these agencies to develop new policies.

 

Can each agency formulate its own e-bike policy?

While each agency will have discretion in implementing the Secretarial Order, the general goal of the Order is to allow e-bikes to be ridden where bicycles are ridden, and to not allow e-bikes to be ridden where bicycles are restricted. Each agency will be guided by that directive when making its policy.

 

What does the Secretarial Order require each agency to do to set its e-bike policy?

In general, each agency is required to take two actions. They must first craft an interim policy to govern e-bike use on their lands, subject to the limits of any existing laws or regulations. Second, they must undertake a formal rulemaking process, subject to public notice and comment, to amend their regulations that govern e-bike use. 

A more detailed timeline and steps each agency must take is provided below:

  1. By September 12, each agency must develop a new interim e-bike policy for that agency.
  2. By September 12, each agency must begin the process of developing a new proposed rule, subject to public notice and comment, to make more permanent changes to its regulations that govern e-bike use. Note that each agency is not required to release its proposed rule for public comment by this date – that will likely take longer.
  3. By September 28, each agency must report back to the Secretary of the Interior with respect to any policy changes it has implemented, any laws or regulations that have limited its ability to make policy changes, and a timeline for receiving public comments on the agency’s proposed rules.
  4. By September 28, each agency must provide public guidance regarding the use of e-bikes on the lands managed by each agency.

 

Will the public be involved as each agency adopts new e-bike rules?

Yes. The Secretarial Order states that each agency must undertake a formal rulemaking process that requires notice and public comment. Each agency is specifically required to provide Department staff with a timeline for seeking public comment on changes to its regulations.

 

Have any Department of the Interior agencies released an interim e-bike management policy yet?

Yes. The National Park Service became the first agency to release its interim policy on August 30. As a general policy, e-bikes will be permitted to ride in areas where bicycles may be ridden on National Park Service lands. However, the new National Park Service policy vests significant discretion in park superintendents to decide where e-bikes may be ridden. Each superintendent is required to update the park Compendium (a collection of rules specific to each park unit) with its new rules for e-bikes. You should consult your local park unit and review the Compendium to fully understand where e-bikes can be ridden in each National Park. Updates to park Compendiums should occur during the next 30 days (approximately).

 

Does the Secretarial Order apply to the Forest Service?

No. The United States Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture. The Secretarial Order has no bearing on Forest Service bicycle policies or those that pertain to any other Department of Agriculture lands.

 

Will e-bikes be permitted in designated Wilderness?

No. Bicycles that are solely human powered and e-bikes are both prohibited in designated Wilderness. 

 

What does PeopleForBikes think of the Secretarial Order?

Better access for e-bikes on our public lands will help more people recreate, improve the overall visitor experience, and mitigate problems that highly visited areas like National Parks are experiencing, such as road and parking congestion. We see the Secretarial Order as a significant step forward to enabling more people to ride bikes, and aligning e-bike policies on federal public lands with the communities that surround them.

However, successfully integrating e-bikes into Department of the Interior lands will depend on the proper implementation of the Secretarial Order by each agency. We have always advocated for a nuanced approach to e-bike access that recognizes the distinctions between different classes of e-bikes and how each class of e-bikes should be regulated on different types of infrastructure. We also support appropriate land manager discretion to protect natural resources and user experiences. We are optimistic that Department of the Interior agencies can incorporate these concepts into their new e-bike policies as they work through the process required by the Secretarial Order. We will not refrain from critiquing agency policies that don’t meet these principles.

We are happy to see that each agency’s final policy will go through a formal rulemaking process with public comment. We fully support the collection of input from all stakeholder groups and look forward to participating in the public process. 

To view our policy position on e-bike on federal public lands, click here.

 

Where can I find a copy of the policies?

All of these documents are available online through the Department of the Interior:

To view the Secretarial Order, click here.

To view the National Parks Service Announcement and interim policy, click here.