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DOI Federal Agencies Release E-Bike Draft Regulations

On April 8, 2020, four federal agencies under the Department of the Interior announced proposed rules governing the use of electric mountain bikes. The rules are available for review and open for public comment. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management were required to update their respective regulations to accommodate e-bikes under the Secretary of the Interior’s order 3376. That order directed agencies to create a clear and consistent e-bike policy on all federal lands managed by the Department. The rule would also support Secretary’s Order 3366, to increase recreational opportunities on federal lands. From the BLM: 

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes to amend its off-road vehicle regulations at 43 CFR part 8340 to add a definition for electric bikes (e-bikes) and, where certain criteria are met and an authorized officer expressly determines through a formal decision that e-bikes should be treated the same as non-motorized bicycles, expressly exempt those e-bikes from the definition of off-road vehicles.”

In our initial reading of the BLM’s draft rule and the NPS draft rule, there are few surprises.  They generally encourage local unit managers to allow electric bikes, used only in pedal-assist mode, to be ridden anywhere bicycles are allowed.  They allow local unit Superintendents to open or close trails to e-bikes on a case-by-case basis, with the preference being open. Again from the BLM:

“The proposed rule would direct authorized officers to generally allow, through subsequent decision-making, Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, where appropriate. The authorization for Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion to be used on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, would be included in a land-use planning or implementation-level decision.”

While there are subtle differences in each agency’s proposed rules, they all define and allow for the use of class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes, much the same as the classes enacted in California state legislation AB1096. Similar classes have been advocated for around the country by People for Bikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (who merged in 2019).

The rule removes electric bikes ridden in pedal-assist mode from the classification of OHV or motorized vehicle.  Presumably then a Class 2 or 3 e-bike ridden without pedaling and operated by throttle control is still considered motorized, though this isn’t explicitly stated, and we’re unsure how this may be enforced.

To provide your own comments go to regulations.gov, search for the docket number for each agency to which you’d like to provide comments:

National Park Service: RIN 1024-AE61

Bureau of Land Management: RIN 1004-AE72. 

US Fish and Wildlife Service: HQ-MB-2019-0109

Bureau of Reclamation:  1006-AA57 

Follow the instructions there to provide your comments. Each agency is requesting information from the public on the potential social and physical impacts of e-bike use on public lands. They will give much more weight to “substantive” comments citing studies, legislation, reports, or other items of substance. 

CAMTB is currently taking a survey of e-MTB conditions. experiences, and local organizations dealing with e-MTBs from around the state. Once that survey is complete, we’ll be developing our own official comments on the new e-MTB rules.

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