E-Bikes Move Forward with USA National Park and BLM Trail Access - Thoughts?

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10/22/2019 3:41 PM
Edited Date/Time: 10/23/2019 11:55 AM

Some big updates today, October 22. First, the BLM published a news post and updated the e-bike section of their website. Class I, II, and III e-bikes have taken another step toward BLM trail access. New rules and regulations are to be established and not all BLM trails will have access. Before you run out the door to buy an e-bike, be sure to read this important update and check with your local Bureau of Land Management office about which trails apply.

The news post reads:

BLM FACILITATES RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ON PUBLIC LANDS FOR ELECTRIC BIKES

Secretary’s Order 3376 encourages e-bikes on BLM trails

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today its strategy to implement Secretary's Order 3376, Increasing Recreational Opportunities Through the Use of Electric Bikes, a recently signed order by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt that is designed to make it easier for more Americans to recreate on and experience their public lands.

Secretary’s Order 3376 directs Department of the Interior (DOI) bureaus to begin the longer term process of obtaining public input on new regulations that will clarify that low-speed e-bikes should enjoy the same access as conventional bicycles, consistent with other federal and state laws. Public land managers will have the ability in the short term to utilize the flexibility they have under current regulations to accommodate this new technology that assists riders as they pedal in a way that allows them to enjoy the bicycling experience.

The guidance enables visitors to use these bicycles with a small electric motor (less than 1 horsepower) power assist in the same manner as traditional bicycles. The operator of an e-bike may only use the small electric motor to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic.

“Our goal is always to make the BLM’s public lands more accessible to all Americans. Allowing the use of e-bikes will open more of our public lands to people with disabilities, families, and older Americans, while promoting a healthy outdoor lifestyle for everyone,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “This new policy provides consistent guidance to our land managers nationwide to ensure the broadest possible usage on BLM-managed lands.”

A majority of states have adopted e-bike policies, most following model legislation that allows for the three classes of e-bikes to have access to bicycle trails. The Department of the Interior e-bike guidance seeks to provide consistency with the state and local rules where possible.

Given their use of a small (less than one horsepower) electric motor, the BLM currently manages e-bikes as off-highway vehicles. Secretary’s Order 3376, with a view towards the rapid changes in e-bike technology, directs the BLM and other Department of the Interior agencies to begin the longer term process of amending existing regulations to exempt many e-bikes from that classification.

The guidance to field managers across the BLM for the short-term is to utilize flexibility in BLM’s current regulations to exclude certain classes of e-bikes from the definition of off-highway vehicle to authorize their use on BLM-managed roads and trails where appropriate. The guidance is consistent with the Secretary’s priority of moving decision-making to the field level, where local trail conditions and user needs can better be considered.

The BLM will now permit visitors to use low-speed e-bikes on BLM roads, trails and designated areas where traditional bikes are allowed.

Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes are not allowed in designated wilderness areas and may not be appropriate for back-country trails. The focus of the Department of the Interior’s guidance is on expanding the traditional bicycling experience to those who enjoy the reduction of effort provided by this new e-bike technology. Park superintendents and local refuge and land managers will limit, restrict, or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use where necessary to manage visitor use conflicts and ensure visitor safety and resource protection.

E-bikes make bicycle travel easier and more efficient because they allow bicyclists to travel farther with less effort. When used as an alternative to gasoline- or diesel-powered modes of transportation, e-bikes can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption, improve air quality, and support active modes of transportation for visitors. Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes can decrease traffic congestion, reduce the demand for vehicle parking spaces, and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road. For more information, visit blm.gov/ebikes.

About The BLM - The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.


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The website update includes the following statements:

Guidance released on October 22, 2019 enables visitors to use these bicycles with a small electric motor (less than 1 horsepower) power assist in the same manner as traditional bicycles.

The trail etiquette for e-bikes is the same as for all other bicycles-yield to equestrians and hikers on shared-use trails. Also, as with traditional bicycles, e-bikes will not be allowed in designated wilderness areas.

As the BLM works to implement the Secretarial Order, many questions have been raised by the public and our partners. The information on this page is intended to provide a better understanding of the BLM’s process to fully implement the SO, and how e-bikes may be used on public lands during the interim period while new rules and regulations are established.


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A BLM Information Bulletin was also published, which includes:

As the BLM works to implement fully SO 3376, District or Field Managers should, as appropriate to address local situations, use the exclusion to the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a)(3) to authorize the use of Class I, II, and III e-bikes, as those terms are defined in section 4 of SO 3376, where other types of bicycles are allowed. In considering when and where to authorize the use of e-bikes, District or Field Managers should take into account the policy set forth in SO 3376 that the use of e-bikes in the pedal assist mode and traditional bicycles without an electric pedal assist should be treated generally in the same manner.

In the event that a District or Field Manager is considering denying the use of low-speed electric bicycles in a specific location, a written explanation must be submitted to and approved by the State Director.


An attachment to the BLM Information Bulletin answers several Frequently Asked Questions and includes these statements, one of which makes it clear that trails will be approved on a one-by-one basis at a local level:

As the BLM works to fully implement SO 3376, District or Field managers should use the exclusion to the definition of off-road vehicle (OHV) at 43 CFR 8340.0- 5(a)(3) to authorize the use of Class I, II, and III e-bikes where ever bicycles are allowed, provided they are operated in the pedal assist mode. E-bikes should not be used on a trail or road that is currently limited to non-OHV or non-motorized use only, unless a BLM District or Field Manager issues a decision authorizing their use in accordance with applicable law. SO 3376 does not supersede existing laws and regulations: It states that implementation is to be consistent with governing laws and regulations. E-bikes must comply with all trail restrictions, including staying on marked and designated trails.

Signage should be changed where the District or Field Manager has expressly authorized the use of e-bikes, as consistent with BLM’s policy. Educating the public will be needed in both the short term and following full implementation of SO 3376. Managers should determine the most appropriate communication methods to match the local situation.

Field or District managers should issue decisions generally authorizing the use of Class I, II, and III e-bikes where traditional bicycles are allowed. In considering where e-bike use may be appropriate, field managers should take into account local conditions, such as natural and cultural resources, potential user conflicts, and the laws, regulations, and policies of adjacent jurisdictions regarding e-bike use. Field managers should also undertake to revise travel management plans to affirmatively allow e-bikes in areas where traditional bicycles are allowed but e-bike use is currently prohibited.


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The National Park Service has updated its website as well regarding e-bike use. Meanwhile, People for Bikes published this frequently updated spreadsheet containing usage facts for National Parks. It currently includes:

- Denali National Park and Reserve
- Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- Point Reyes National Seashore
- Dinosaur National Monument
- Cape Cod National Seashore
- Acadia National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Arches National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- New River Gorge National River
- Gauley River National Recreation Area
- Bluestone National Scenic River
- Yellowstone National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
- National Elk Refuge







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10/22/2019 4:36 PM

Thanks for the update!
Progress, despite it appearing to not gain much access to the 'sick' stuff, good to open the door for more people to ride bikes-as has been said, wish it was class 1 only, but, oh well.

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10/23/2019 12:51 PM

E-bike resources:

National Park Service - https://www.nps.gov/subjects/biking/e-bikes.htm
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - https://www.fws.gov/refuges/biking/
Bureal of Land Management - https://www.blm.gov/ebikes
Bureau of Reclamation - https://www.usbr.gov/recreation/publications/ebikes.pdf

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10/23/2019 3:42 PM

An update regarding Moab, whose BLM Field Office confirmed isn't changing their position as of October 23. They're continuing to work with BLM leadership for specific direction and implementation of the order, and e-bikes remain prohibited on non-motorized trails in the area.

As described a few posts up, this may change once a Field or District Manager issues a decision. From a call with them I was given the impression that this decision is expected to happen relatively quickly.

The Information Bulletin and attachments make it clear that in general, e-bike use will very likely be allowed on most BLM trails.

"Field or District managers should issue decisions generally authorizing the use of Class I, II, and III e-bikes where traditional bicycles are allowed. In considering where e-bike use may be appropriate, field managers should take into account local conditions, such as natural and cultural resources, potential user conflicts, and the laws, regulations, and policies of adjacent jurisdictions regarding e-bike use. Field managers should also undertake to revise travel management plans to affirmatively allow e-bikes in areas where traditional bicycles are allowed but e-bike use is currently prohibited."

Denying them access is made complicated by needing approval from the State Director:

"In the event that a District or Field Manager is considering denying the use of low-speed electric bicycles in a specific location, a written explanation must be submitted to and approved by the State Director."

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10/24/2019 9:48 AM

Gross!

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10/25/2019 1:06 PM

Due to conflicting statements contained within the recent BLM news release, Information Bulletin and its attachments, plus the public-facing e-bike website updates, Vital MTB reached out to the BLM for clarity.

The BLM provided the following definitive answers to three key questions regarding e-bike use moving forward and timing in the matter:

Are e-bikes allowed on BLM trails where traditional bicycles are permitted?

Response: The BLM will continue to allow visitors to use e-bikes on BLM roads, trails and designated areas where motorized use is allowed. Also, e-bikes may be used on a trail or road that is currently limited to non-OHV or non-motorized use only IF a BLM District or Field Manager issues a decision authorizing their use in accordance with applicable law. E-bike users should consult with their BLM District or Field Office for guidance about e-bike use in specific areas. E-bikes are still prohibited in designated wilderness areas - as are traditional bikes.

As of which date?

Response: This guidance is effective as of October 22, 2019, but doesn't immediately authorize the use of e-bikes anywhere they were previously prohibited. BLM District and Field managers are still implementing the guidance locally and have to take specific and documented action to authorize use of e-bikes or designated trails as available for e-bike use.

Where can riders get information on e-bike access to specific trails?

Response: The most current national information on our effort may be found here. For more local information, such as specific trails, we encourage people to contact the trail's respective District and Field Office.

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10/25/2019 1:29 PM

It seems there's confusion even within the BLM itself, illustrated by the following excerpt from this Steamboat Pilot and Today news article:

The BLM manages the southern side of Emerald Mountain, which includes the Ridge, Beall and Rotary trails. In Tuesday’s meeting, BLM Park Ranger Gary Keeling said the BLM hasn’t “really advertised” that trails are open to e-bikes, but when someone asks, they tell them e-bikes of any class are allowed. According to the memo, the BLM and the city have agreed that “it would be beneficial to have the same management plan in place to address the use of e-bikes on Emerald Mountain.”

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11/7/2019 12:53 PM

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