Electric pedal-assisted bikes will now be permitted on trails in National Parks and other federally managed backcountry areas (national forests excluded), according to a new order by the Department of the Interior (DOI).
The order, signed Thursday by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a Trump appointee, classifies class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes as non-motorized bikes, paving the way to their us on trails managed by the DOI.
The new policy permits electric pedal-assist e-bikes bikes to used on any National Parks trails where traditional bikes can be ridden, at the discretion of park super intendants. Early assessment of the policy indicates that bikes that receive pedal assistance up to 28 mph are permitted on trails under the policy (class 1 and 3 e-bikes), but not bikes that have a throttle assist.
Electronic bikes “make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability or convenience,” National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said in a statement Friday.
The move was lauded by the manufacturers of electric bikes who advocated for expanded access and e-bike riders who view the bikes as an avenue for more people to experience the trails.
"I’m confident that it will have a significant positive impact once new rules are established that eliminate the ambiguity of where you can ride," said Larry Pizzi, who chairs the e-bike committee of PeopleForBikes, an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers.
Not everyone is pleased, however. Some conservation and outdoor recreation advocacy groups say the move was rushed and opens to door to motorization of public lands. Tyler Ray, director of policy and advocacy for the American Hiking Society, said that making the closed-door nature of the decision making process undermines the relationship between trail users and federal agencies.
“The outdoors are for everyone, whether enjoying human powered recreation or riding something with a motor," he said. "But sweeping changes to existing e-bike policy cannot be made without public input from all impacted user groups. Permitting e-bike use on trails that have been thoughtfully and specifically designated as non-motorized raises questions of safety and trail sustainability that must be considered."
Mountain biking advocacy organizations seemed to have a nuanced approach to the new rules. Los Angeles based Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA) wrote on its website that the association has "remained neutral in the electric mountain bike debate, as we recognize there are both potential drawbacks and benefits from allowing their use."