Thanks to Brian Hawthorne for this link to an E&E News story.
The proposed rules unveiled today by NPS, BLM, FWS and Reclamation come in response to an order Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed last August directing the agencies to develop policies for e-bike usage as part of a strategy to increase access to public lands.
Bernhardt clarified his intent in a second order issued last fall that directed BLM, FWS and Reclamation to follow the National Park Service’s lead and allow e-bikes where appropriate (E&E News PM, Oct. 22, 2019).
The proposed rules unveiled today would not allow e-bikes where they are already prohibited, such as in wilderness areas.
- BLM’s proposed rule would add e-bikes to its off-road vehicle regulations. Doing so would allow individual bureau land managers to authorize, or prohibit, the use of e-bikes on BLM lands.”We want all Americans to have a chance to create life-long memories exploring and enjoying the great outdoors,” BLM acting Director William Perry Pendley said in a statement.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule would open the door to allowing e-bikes at the nearly 200 national wildlife refuges it manages that already allow non-motorized bicycling. The wildlife refuge managers would be required to determine that e-bikes are “a compatible use on roads or trails.””If approved, the rule will make it easier for visitors to explore these amazing places, with a bit of added assistance, if they need it,” FWS Director Aurelia Skipwith said in a statement.
- The Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed rule would, like BLM’s proposal, add a definition of e-bikes to off-road regulations on Reclamation sites.”This is an important rule that will give more Americans access to lands that they may not have been able to access before,” Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said in a statement.
- NPS did not release a copy of its proposed rule, as the other three agencies did. But in a press release announcing the rule, the park service said the rule would “define the term ‘electric bicycle’ and allow superintendents to authorize e-bike use — generally “where traditional bicycles” are already allowed. That would include “public roads, parking areas, administrative roads and trails,” it said.
I looked at the BLM proposed regulation for an explanation of what it does and found this:
This proposed rule would not, on its own, change the existing allowances for ebike usage on BLM-administered public lands. In other words, no additional e-bike use would be allowed on BLM-administered public lands as a direct result of this proposed rule becoming effective. Rather, the proposed rule directs the BLM to specifically consider e-bike usage in future land use planning or implementation-level decisions. This new paragraph also provides the authorized officer with discretion to determine whether e-bike use generally, or the use of certain classes of e-bikes, would be inappropriate on certain roads or trails. While the BLM believes that increasing public access to public lands through the use of e-bikes would generally be appropriate on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is permitted, there are certain instances where that is not the case. For example, some trails may be particularly steep or narrow and the use of an e-bike at speeds higher than originally intended could present a danger to some users. In some situations, legislation or a presidential proclamation may restrict motorized use of a trail. Another example of where e-bike use might be limited is a non-motorized trail that originates on BLM public land and feeds into a trail system under the jurisdiction of another agency that does not allow e-bike use on that trail.
Proposed paragraph (d) of this section would allow the BLM the flexibility to utilize local knowledge and determine the propriety of e-bike use on site-specific basis.
It appears to be a rule that defines the categories of e-bikes, and gives e-bikes their own definition outside of other motorized vehicles, generally encourages them where bikes are allowed, and leaves the ultimate discretion to the local official. There are four separate rules, NPS, BLM, FWS, and Bureau of Reclamation. It will be interesting to see if they come out differently. What do you think, is it better to a) have a rule like this that makes distinctions between classes of bike, and between them and other motorized vehicles and encourages local officials to incorporate them, b) have a rule like this (with definitions) that is neutral or discouraging, or c) not have a rule at all, like the Forest Service (I guess?). Not sure what FS policies are currently vis a vis e-bikes. I wonder if it would make sense to try to harmonize the FS somewhat with BLM, at least in western States. Here’s a Dec 19 story about e-bikes on the White Mountain in New Hampshire.