USFS’s Proposed E-bike Rules

USFS press release received today is shown below. The Federal Register notice says little about the proposed regs, except:

The Forest Service’s proposed directive revisions align with the 27 States and DOI’s proposed e-bike rules in adopting a standard definition for an e-bike and a three-tiered classification for e-bikes and align with DOI’s proposed e-bike rules in requiring site-specific decision-making and environmental analysis at the local level to allow e-bike use.

In particular, the proposed revisions would add a paragraph to Forest Service Manual (FSM) 7702 to establish promotion of ebike use on NFS lands as an objective; [emphasis mine]

DOI’s proposed rules are here.

From BLM’s proposed rule:

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. Such decisions would be made in accordance with applicable legal requirements, including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under the proposed rule, where an authorized officer determines that Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes should be allowed on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, such e-bikes would be excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) and would not be subject to the regulatory requirements in 43 CFR part 8340. Additionally, e-bikes excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) would be afforded all the rights and privileges, and be subject to all of the duties, of a non-motorized bicycle. Under the proposed rule, authorized officers would not allow e-bikes where mechanized, non-motorized bicycles are prohibited.


News Release     

Forest Service

Washington D.C., Office of Communication


Media Contact:

Email: [email protected]


USDA Forest Service Issues Proposed Guidance to Manage E-Bike Use on National Forests and Grasslands


Washington, Sept. 24, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service is requesting public input on proposed updates to the agency’s internal directives on how e-bikes are managed on national forests and grasslands. These proposed updates are in alignment with the Secretary of Agriculture’s direction to increase access to national forests and grasslands, and would provide needed guidance for line officers to expand e-bike access while protecting natural resources and other forest uses.


“Serving our customers and honoring our multiple-use mission is at the heart of how we propose to manage e-bike use,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Developing consistent, straightforward guidance on this increasingly popular recreational activity will protect resources, promote safety, and increase access to national forests and grasslands for a wider range of users.”


The Forest Service currently manages approximately 159,000 miles of trails across the United States for a variety of recreational uses. An estimated 60,000 miles of those trails – about 38% – are open for e-bike use. Other land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, also allow for e-bike use on a combined 34,000 miles of trails.


The steady advancement in technology and the continued increase in popularity has led to an uptick in e-bike use on federally-managed land. In response, federal agencies are considering options for expanding access and facilitating their use. The proposed updates to Forest Service directives will generally align with proposed changes at other federal land management agencies.


The proposed directives would categorize e-bikes by class, allowing line officers at the local level to more precisely designate trails for e-bike use in a way that mitigates potential impacts on resources. The proposed directives also include e-bike definitions that are consistent with the Travel Management Rule (36 C.F.R. 212).


The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed directives. The text of the proposed directives are available in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to comment are available at Members of the public may also contact Penny Wu ([email protected]) to make comments.



85 thoughts on “USFS’s Proposed E-bike Rules”

  1. They’re taking public comment.
    All it says to me is that they are using the same three classes everyone else does and all decisions will be site-specific.

    It will be interesting to see what actually happens.

  2. My main impression of this proposal is, would it really be too much to ask for the Forest Service to actually include the proposed draft language in this notice? The actual legal language for this kind of stuff matters. Vague descriptions of what they plan to say aren’t particularly helpful.

    I do however find it intriguing that the Forest Service would actually PROMOTE a motorized use of National Forest lands. While the Travel Management Rule has a token acknowledgment of motorized recreation as a legitimate use of Forest lands, in practice it has been interpreted to disfavor and discourage it, treating the very existence of motorized recreation as a problem to be eliminated.

  3. I feel this is due. Department of the Interior is already refining their ebike directive into a rule for each agency. The Forest Service needs to match that effort. I have thought the Forest Service to be negligent up until now. I’m pleased to see this happening.

    Many people are already riding ebikes on non-motorized trails on the Custer-Gallatin NF to no consequence. I feel it’s a compatible use on most non-motorized trails.

  4. I am amazed that this topic is even worthy of controversy. Bottom line: an e-bike is first and foremost a bicycle, requiring the rider to put effort into moving it forward. The assistance does not take over this effort, hence if the rider stopped pedaling, the bike would stop. Bicycles are already being used appropriately on NFS roads and trails – why would an e-bike be any different?

    The supposed impacts to resources also confuses me. Yes, an e-bike can go faster because of the assistance technology, but the rider still is exerting effort in pedaling as well as steering control. But, how does that translate into impacts to resources? What I have read so far (though not a comprehensive reading) does not explain this. If anyone here could clarify this, I would appreciate it.

      • Thank you for correcting my inaccuracy…I did not know that. However, given that description of a Class 2 e-bike, how is that vehicle still considered a bicycle? I would call the Class 2 a moped.

        My point of what impacts to resources result from e-bike use is still unanswered (especially regarding how different those impacts are from regular bicycle use). I have asked the Forest Service contact to clarify this.

        • Tony, I think we don’t know what the impacts are. Theoretically people could go further and faster- but will they. Or more people (oldsters) could go places they can’t currently go. How would we design an experiment to find that out? If we did one on the Angeles would the answer be the same as the Flathead or the Tongass or the Green Mountain or the Croatan?

          This is one of the places where we can imagine different advocacy groups coming up with different research and maybe someone should get out in front of this with intentional co-design of studies.

          • Actually, I think we do know what the impacts are…they are more relatable to regular bicycle use as opposed to motorcycle/ATV/ UTV use, meaning there is some impact on the environment, but not as much as motor vehicles with much larger motors.

                • How far is that, and over what terrain, and how did they used to get there? And IF they were to get to that place, and harvest, what, a deer, an elk, what would they then do with the game? Even if 4 e-bikers (all over 65 ?) went together, and each could bring out 1/4 of one animal (prox min 25 lbs ea for deer; elk?), this sounds un-safe. In what time of year would this be; rainy, snowy? And if any portion of usable carcass was left behind; fines. How about making hunting bigger game from a bike/ebike illegal. This would certainly be an adventure for young and healthy back-backing groups, or horse packers (whom at least some Sierra Club members don’t approve of being in their nature at all). I have heard some horse packers, saying the deer and elk can’t discern a rider as being a non-wild animal, until separated from the horse. Not having hunted for decades, I think it is illegal (at least unethical) to hunt from horse-back. Horses can be heard walking from a distance (unless it’s windy, rainy, etc), as can humans that chatter or are clumsy, ATVs are loud, scary, and don’t fit on existing hike and horse trails. Bear Bells are readily available (and fairly cheap), and should be required for hikers and bikers.
                  I am 74, a life long athlete and sportsman. I’ve hiked, backpacked, horse-packed, rode bicycles (1-10 spd) and motors, hunted and fished. Slept in homes, RVs, cabins, tents and on bare ground. I was born with a bad back (spina bifida occulta), and a few years ago, my lower extremities started to fail me. Plantar fasciitas, sciatic nerve event down both legs to my toes, peripheral neuroma (feet), and Morton’s neuroma (both feet). For a while after the sciatica event, I could not walk, let alone get up off the floor. I can now (if I follow my meds regimen) shop at Costco, by using my cart as a crutch. I can walk out to my car from my apt (sans my walker), but then it’s a strain to make it back. I was given a 1 spd bicycle, but it’s a very poor fit. I have an inflatable 1 man pontoon to fish lakes. It weighs prox 50 lbs, and I can lift it to the roof-rack of my small car. I really like fly fishing in KCNP, but can no longer walk to a lot of the fishable water that’s more than a moderate distance from my parking spot. An folding e-bike (66 lb) could help with that.
                  Please don’t tell me to “stay home old man.” Your day is coming, too. Let’s put it off a ways.

            • Over 65 may not be a far-fetched concept. Park City, Utah has adopted rules like that. It makes sense for that town because it’s become a prime bicycle tourist destination. and the town must adapt to the older tourists. I think they realize that, in general, riders over 65 have conservative riding styles and often just want fresh air and exercise in a pretty setting. They are not in a perpetual race as younger people often are. Here is a link to Park City ebike rules.

      • A class 1 e-bike matches her description, so I think she is spot on there. I think class 1 e-bikes should be treated just like any non-motorized mountain bike. It’s like me saying bicycles are allowed on the trail but you can’t ride a bicycle with certain types of tires that have an aggressive tread pattern because the tread affects the impact on the trail (which in fact it does). Based on that, I could argue that only street-biased tires should be allowed because they are less impactful. The mountain bike purists who believe nobody should have electronic assistance are simply trying to keep the trails to themselves. It’s as simple as that.

  5. I recently purchased an e-bike, and ride on paving only (yeah, I’m 75 and I like it!). It will go about 25mph on “full throttle” without pedaling on flat, paved surface. The speed drops PRECIPITOUSLY on adverse slopes. My thoughts: power assist makes it easier to peddle, but on unsurfaced forest TRAILS, e-bikes will not perform like a moped. They definitely will make riding easier. But the impact to the ground and soils will be unchanged. Unlike motorbikes, they can’t deliver enough power to spin tires.

  6. Regarding impacts, Rob Cheney dug up some research:

    “A 2019 Brigham Young University study found dramatic differences in rider capability on pedal bikes compared to e-bikes. Using a powered bicycle with just a third of the allowable booster force, riders completed a 5.5-mile course with 50 percent faster speed and significantly lower heart rates than those relying on their leg strength alone. That was with a 250-watt e-bike, one-third the capacity of full-strength 750-watt e-bike boosters.

    More powerful motors mean greater hill-climbing and endurance ability, and greater speed. Smaller-wattage motors can produce speeds around 20 mph, while the 750-watt motors can push a biker up to 28 mph.

    Speed matters, for both people and wildlife. Many public trails were designed for foot traffic only and don’t have turns wide enough for fast-moving bikes to negotiate safely. And studies of recreation impact on elk and deer have found that fast-moving visitors on bikes and ATVs have as much as two times the impact as hikers or horseback riders in driving animals away from feeding and resting areas.

    That results in “habitat compression,” shrinking the landscape where wildlife feel secure for feeding and raising young as more humans penetrate regions that used to be hard to reach. The consequences are poor feeding, lower calf and fawn survival and reductions in big-game opportunities.”

    He adds …

    “Forest Service Region 1 spokesman Dan Hottle said the issue hasn’t become a law enforcement concern yet in Montana, in part because local forest users have been proactive.

    “It’s like social distancing with Covid, where they’re avoiding people walking on trails or gathering too close,” Hottle said. “When an e-bike goes by, folks on the trail will remind them of the policy.”

    • It’s not complicated: E-bikes are motorized vehicles, full stop. They ought to be allowed only on trails or roads where motorized vehicles are allowed.

      • Steve Wilent, you are completely misinformed, e-bikes are classified by law and by order oif the dept of the interior to be defined as non-motorized. “Full Stop” to your ignorance of the law.

        • At the risk of further obfuscation, for the purpose of regulating their consumer safety only, the Consumer Products Safety Commission defines “bicycle” as

          (1) A two-wheeled vehicle having a rear drive wheel that is solely human-powered;


          (2) A two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.

          16 CFR § 1512.2

          It is this CPSC rule on which Interior Secretary Bernhardt bases his e-bike order.

          Protecting consumers from dangerous products is a fine thing, but relying on definitions developed for that purpose to set federal land use policy seems a stretch.

          • The Forest Service has added language and soliciting comment on, among other things, definitions of human powered bicycles and electric bikes. They make a clear effort to separate those two activities and define them differently. That doesn’t mean we won’t be sharing certain non-motorized trails someday. The Forest Service has no confusion at all between these two activities and is proposing that ebikes are compatible on non-motorized trails. Nowhere do they suggest that ebikes don’t have motors or are the same as bicycles. In fact the new definitions add a needed clarity. I suggest reading and understanding the proposed changes to FSM 7700 and 7710.

            • Respectfully, Greg, my comment concerned the Secretary of Interior’s order. The Forest Service is in the Department of Agriculture and, thus, is not affected by Bernhardt’s pronouncement.

              • Well, sorry Andy. Readers and commenters to this thread are conflating the two orders. When possible I’ve tried to stick to the Forest Service order because that’s the intended topic of this thread.

                Perhaps this confusion shows one example of why the two agencies should be combined. The topic of concern, ebike access, is undergoing simultaneous review. It just occurred to me this doubles our taxpayer costs and doubles our time writing comments for what could have been one process , had the agencies been combined.

                • I could have been more clear that I was responding to the post above that “e-bikes are classified by law and by order of the dept of the interior to be defined as non-motorized.” The ONLY law that defines e-bikes as bicycles is a Consumer Products Safety Commission’s federal regulation defining “bicycles” for the purpose of regulating their safe design.

  7. I’m amazed at how quickly this thoughtful forum has devolved into the same, postured statements and opinions that can be found on any public forum. I had hoped this group of National Forest enthusiasts could offer new insights into Forest Service regulation and the ability of the Agency to adapt and carefully accommodate new technologies.

    • I only question the basic premise on why a revised policy is needed at all. Basing policy on suppositions or assumptions is not an effective method to governing human behavior on public land.

      • Haha, you should see the FAA’s drone regulations. Talk about regulations based entirely on assumptions and suppositions, usually about absolute worst case scenarios.

      • I don’t know how you could develop policy without assumptions. In fact, I remember a PNW economist telling me that the difference between economists doing policy and wildlife bios was that economists do sensitivity analysis on their assumptions.

        • In reading the Federal Register notice and the Forest Service press release, I read an inference to environmental impacts that are occurring (yet not described) that should be addressed with a revised policy. The assumption that e-bike usage results in environmental impacts distinctly different from a regular bicycle is the assumption I question. Plus, the inference (in my reading) leans towards the negative end of the spectrum rather than the positive end that discusses increasing recreational access to people (whether they are older or not).

          Since the Forest Service has not designated any roads, trails, or areas open to e-bike use, the proposed policy changes would require a Forest Service line officer to consider the following items before approving such a designation…#3 and #4 may be represent the higher concerns with e-bikes being used on the national forests and grasslands:

          “…the responsible official shall consider effects on the following, with the objective of minimizing:

          (1) Damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, and other forest resources;
          (2) Harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of wildlife habitats;
          (3) Conflicts between motor vehicle use and existing or proposed recreational uses of National Forest System lands or neighboring Federal lands; and
          (4) Conflicts among different classes of motor vehicle uses of National Forest System lands or neighboring Federal lands.”

          • I believe that latter bit is just a quote from the Travel Management Rule. Which itself assumes that pretty much everything about motorized recreation is negative and that it is a problem to be minimized rather than a social good to be promoted. This despite the token assurance in the TMR that motorized recreation is a legitimate activity on National Forest lands, which hasn’t done anything to prevent motorized users from losing hundreds of miles of trails every year.

  8. Indeed. The comments here seem identical to the sampling of comments I’ve read on the actual Forest Service proposal. It’s pretty clear both from those comments and the ones here that most of the opposition to eBikes is driven more by anti-motorized sentiment and human power purism than actual scientific concern about environmental impacts.

    • This comment (seemingly about #s 3 and 4) is similar to many others I’ve seen that seem to be trying to delegitimize social impacts (like crowding, speed risks and noise) as a valid consideration for a government agency. Just because these things don’t bother motorized/mechanized users doesn’t make them invalid. (But maybe motorized/mechanized users are disturbed by slow pedestrians in quiet empty places.)

      • I think social issues are more commonly called “user conflicts”, which in my experience is simply a euphemism for the fact that some non-motorized users dislike motorized users and find them annoying and want them excluded from public lands. Granted I have most commonly encountered the issue regarding designated motorized trails, when non-motorized users choose to hike on a motorized trail and then complain that motorized users are ruining the quality of their experience and demand that motorized users be kicked out. In that case, motorized noise and dust should be expected because it is primarily a motorized route. If people want a “quiet use” non-motorized experience, they are free to hike on a designated non-motorized trail someplace like a wilderness area where they can be guaranteed not to be disturbed by motorized use.

        I’ll grant that it is different when you are talking about a non-motorized trail that you are proposing to allow some motorized use on, since there non-motorized users are the primary users. However there I would say the question needs to be about actual impacts vs. perceived impacts, and whether there are any real differences between eBikes and regular bikes. I have yet to see any evidence that eBikes have any real differences compared to regular bikes in either physical impacts on the trail or social impacts to other users. Mainly I just see ideological opposition by human power purists who don’t like the idea of anyone using a motor to make the experience easier. That they perceive such use negatively and consider it a form of “cheating” has no bearing on the actual impact of the use, either physical or social. Negative opinions by others are not an impact of the use itself, and should not be analyzed as such.

        • I’ve got a couple of thoughts here based on a recent experience on a new open space. My go-to open space has roads such that bikes, horses, and hikers simply pass each other. We have a new one nearby with a single trail. This means that I a hiker need to get off the trail each time a bike comes by, in either direction. Which is not a big deal at low biker densities, but can mean hardly making any headway at higher biker densities.

          I’ll note two things about this… some bikers just drive off the trail around the hikers (so why not build a two-wide trail in the first place?) and some bikers come up slowly and say “thank you” when we get off the trail- others just zip by at speed, apparently hoping we move off in the right direction- some alert us from the back via words or bells. Summary.. there are ways to reduce conflicts by design, and other users being polite makes me less likely to complain about them.

          Patrick said above “some non-motorized users dislike motorized users and find them annoying and want them excluded from public lands.” What that brings to mind is that the tolerant folks don’t usually write in on public comments. Users want to keep their use. Others don’t want them.. they all write in. But those of us who are tolerant of other users usually don’t. Maybe we should. Or form a group .. perhaps the “Respecting All Responsible Recreation Network.”

          • That is certainly true. I expect government rulemaking comment periods end up reflecting the same kind of negative bias as online reviews on Amazon or Yelp. Just like with products or services, the vast majority of people who bother to comment are people that are discontent with the status quo. Those who are content with it have little reason to comment unless they would be personally affected by a proposed change.

            As for promoting mutual respect and tolerance between different user groups, that is a big part of the mission of Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), one of the two organizations I am involved with. Every year (except this year with COVID) we host an event in Buena Vista called 14er Fest, which is aimed at including multiple user groups and promoting shared use of the trails in Chaffee County.

            We have joint activities like combining four-wheeling and mountain biking, where we ferry mountain bikers up the Jeep trail to the top of Mount Antero and then they ride down, or driving fishermen to some of the high alpine lakes up there, or shuttling hikers to and from trailheads. Then maybe the fishermen teach the Jeepers a bit about fishing, or offroaders try riding a mountain bike. The goal is to give each user group a taste of the others’ activities so we can all better appreciate how the others experience public lands, plus see the benefits of working together and sharing multi-use trails. We also have joint trail maintenance activities, where we work on protecting those trails together.

            I would love to see more cooperation between user groups like we do at that event and less competition between them.

  9. As usual, I’m the cup half full person here. I think Jim Furnish and I agreeing on something is worthy of note.
    I propose a small social science experiment. Whenever we see a person with an ebike on a mountain bike/hiking trail (I think I can tell because they have a fatter bar) we note if they seem to be going faster than the regular MBs and engage them in a brief convo if they are up for it. I guess this would be easier to do for hikers like me as we have to get off the trail.

    So far all the ones I’ve visited with are older and say things like “this way I don’t have to get off and walk uphill.” or “this way I can ride with younger folks in my family.” They seem to enjoy talking, especially since I don’t seem judgy.

    But maybe my experiences are unique.. I haven’t seen anyone buzzing by on one yet. Maybe I live in an area with a higher than average population of old people on trails.

    I do see MBers flying by, but they have not been e-bikers. In fact, to generalize I’d say the misbehaving MBers (from the safety standpoint) are kind of intense and (at the risk of being offensive) apparently highly physically conditioned males.

    If the psychology I’ve observed is more generally true, then ebikers would not go further out. their bikes are heavier, but what kind of differential compaction impact would they have on trails that have already MBs?

    Anyway, I think we need to understand the psychology of the users to develop a realistic idea of potential environmental impacts.

    • I have not encountered e-bikes on trails yet, but my guess is that those riders are not going much faster than I am, namely because of the geometry of single-track trails. If e-bike riders were to go much faster on those trails, there would be more rider-tree collisions.

      I have experienced e-bikes more on gravel or road rides. In those situations, the riders tend to be older than I am (57 years old) and the e-bikes are typically in Class 1. However, the e-bike riders do get a decent workout because of the effort they are putting into pedaling. The only time I see an e-bike rider buzzing by me is when we are climbing a sustained hill and the e-bike assistance usually has those riders overtake me before we get to the hill’s apex.

      Since the configuration of e-bikes is essentially the same as regular bikes, I have not noticed any substantial difference with ground-related impacts from e-bikes.

    • Virtual elbow bump, Sharon! As a new, and older 74, e-bike rider, it’s ALL about easing uphill riding. A mtn trail is totally different than a flat, paved road. Downhill speed is almost always dictated by trail condition and safety concerns. Socially, human decency matters. I always alert hikers of my rear approach and thank them for allowing me to pass. I personally don’t think this is that difficult – exclude e-bikes in Wilderness Areas, allow them elsewhere. Yes, even in “non-motorized” areas because 1) they still REQUIRE human power (unlike motorcycles), and 2) they are quiet. The emergence of non-motorized areas preceded e-bikes, and is recognized as an important recreation niche, but the FS should opt for reasonableness here not anal retentive…

      • I agree. I haven’t studied the psychology of law enforcement, but it also seems like it would be hard to enforce- since no one is out there (in most places) to enforce it. And generally I don’t like to have rules/laws that are not enforced, as (in recreation) it tends to reward the people who ignore them and (relatively) punish people who abide by them.

        IMHO somewhere in the analysis should be “how much would it cost to enforce adequately?” and “would those enforcement dollars and people be better spent elsewhere?”.

  10. Sharon: let’s get a beer or cuppa or somethin! Erba notes speed related to trail geometry — agree. Ebikes won’t go downhill faster – what’s the point in that? And uphill grades on rough trails will keep speeds low and low impact. Parsing the term “motorized” must be done, I guess, but in the larger cosmos this is a nothingburger.

    • I have to agree that the trail dictates vehicle speed. Uphill speed may increase, but still pales in comparison to any bike’s downhill capabilities.

      Describing things as “motorized” and “non-motorized” is a weak point, as the electrical assist of class 1,2,and 3 fall quite short of traditional motorized output in every way. Our verbal boundaries have so far been inadequate for this emerging technology.

      I must embrace the term, “nothingburger”.

  11. I’m just going to add this here about the final DOI rule, issued Oct. 2 (adding some emphasis).

    Their press release says: “The regulations make clear the agencies CAN allow e-bikes on roads and trails that are open to traditional bicycles through the issuance of site-specific decisions. Local land managers will carry out the new regulations in their jurisdictions after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection and other management activities and objectives.” (The actual language of the rule is “MAY allow.”)

    However, this mountain bike publication seems to be interpreting this differently, referring to language of the draft order and not acknowledging any changes: “Last year, the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt issued an ORDER TO ALLOW e-bikes on any non-motorized trails that traditional bikes could access.” And “Superintendents can make EXCEPTIONS to rules in their districts based on natural, cultural, safety, and other factors.”

    Is this misleading or am I just confused.
    (This is also some discussion of pending litigation.)

    • Welcome to the world of word choices in policy making. Just when you think it is clear, it is not. I am curious to learn what the premise of the litigation is.

      • They used a categorical exclusion for the new regulation and plaintiffs want more. There has also been a FACA issue with who they talked/listened to.

        • Plaintiffs want more. Isn’t that usually the case? Fact; PEER is a buzzkill organization. Sorry to offend any members.

  12. I believe that use of a categorical exclusion was explained in the recent proposal from the Forest Service. Would I be correct to say the categorical exclusion used by Dept of the Interior and Dept of Agriculture was that the environmental impacts of an ebike were essentially the same as for human powered bikes? So in their estimation a Categorical Exclusion was adequate for this regulation change?

    If not, I hope that the litigation helps define that line between a categorical exclusion and requirement of NEPA. Both government agencies could stand to be more responsive to understanding and adapting to emerging technologies. Lawsuits such as the current one, in my estimation, aren’t beneficial to the public.

  13. Here’s the CE BLM used:
    43 CFR §46.210
    (i) Policies, directives, regulations, and guidelines: that are of an administrative, financial, legal, technical, or procedural nature; or whose environmental effects are too broad, speculative, or conjectural to lend themselves to meaningful analysis and will later be subject to the NEPA process, either collectively or case-by-case.

    The Federal Register notice says there will be no “on the ground” effects because there would have to be subsequent site-specific decisions. (That’s an argument that hasn’t worked on forest plans or forest planning regulations, whereas removing protection from environmental impacts has been found to have effects.)

    • But if we look at the English language meaning of the CFR, I’d say the environmental effects of telling them to do decisions about what to allow are in fact “broad, speculative or conjectural” so perhaps case law means that “it doesn’t matter how conjectural it is and if there will be another site specific decision, you still need to analyze it even though much of the conjecture is pretty meaningless and random.” I guess the courts and I disagree.

  14. I have a question for those of you who may know how the Forest Service reviews the submitted letters. They have asked that comments be directed to only the highlighted portions of FSM 7700 and FSM 7710. I submitted my comments to those specific changes/additions. Some of the changes were for agency adaptations to managing emerging technologies, not just specifically ebikes. After submitting my comment I browsed the “reading room” to see what others said. I looked at about 30 letters. They were sometimes for ebikes and often against ebikes. Some were a form letter stating ebikes could go 50 mph. None of the letters I read contained references to the highlighted portions of FSM 7700 and 7710. So what does the Forest Service do with these comments that neglected to comment on the highlighted changes? Do they count for anything?

    • Greg, I’ve worked on many different kinds of projects and I can only speak from my experience. There’s a great deal of professional latitude in how comments are analyzed. In fact, if I recall correctly, once folks from Colorado did not want their comments analyzed by a contractor in Berkeley, whom they thought might be biased. I’ve read comment analysis documents and read all the comments, and didn’t arrive at the same themes that a contractor group did. What might happen is that someone from an interest group will look in the reading room and count the “against” comments and say 90% did not want ebikes. Meanwhile the FS folks writing the reg will look at the comments on the highlighted portions and figure out the comments on that. Usually the folks working on the project and the contractors who do the content analysis.
      Then those folks brief the various levels of the FS on what the comments say and each level picks a preferred option.
      Finally, in the case of a reg, political appointees will be briefed on the what the FS folks analyzed and came up with. They meet with their preferred interest groups and determine what the reg will say. Note: the more significant the decision, the less likely the decision maker will have read the comments themselves, and the more they will rely on summaries and/or just go with what their preferred interest groups want.

      If this sounds cynical, I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that election have consequences, that’s the way it works. Unfortunately the partisan among us think that it is a bad thing when certain interest groups have weight in the decision, and a good thing when other interest groups have more weight. To me it’s the same thing.

    • That about matches my observation of the average quality of comments on the PSI Travel Management Process. 90% of the comments were one or two lines saying things like “keep motor vehicles out of wilderness areas”. Of course no one was proposing allowing that, though certain environmental groups were intentionally sloppy with their language about routes that are cherry stemmed through wilderness areas and roadless areas. Then there were tons of form letters and comments basically saying motor vehicles have no place in National Forests whatsoever.

      • Patrick, I’ve always looked up the organization that produced the “click it” responses and see what they actually told their members about the decision. I’ve found that often the interest group is not (what I would call) accurate about what they say are the alternatives. Like I said in the comment below, we can expect to see a press release that says “90% of the comments wanted more protection”. I don’t see a way out of this, except perhaps to organize a more tolerant group with another click campaign for input.
        AKA the Tolerance and Diversity Recreation Network.

  15. I see another facet of this issue emerging with the very young (unlicensed) kids darting gleefully around on our sidewalks and streets at 20+ mph on their motorized vehicles.

  16. I think ebikes should be allowed where traditional bicycles are allowed. Ebikes aren’t going to do more damage to the environment than a regular bicycle would.

  17. I am all for Class 1 pedal assist (limited to 20mph) on USFS trails. This class of bike requires riders to provide pedal effort to gain any assistance from the motor and are not simply ride-along versions like Class 2 or 3 throttle present (of which I am against allowing access as I believe these truly do become motorized vehicles).

    As I am now of the age to retire and actually enjoy remaining life, climbing thousands of feet to the top of mountains is not as feasible as it used to be. So, I recently bought a lightweight, low capacity Class 1 ebike to assist and take a little of the edge off, which helps to keep my heat rate in a less critical stress level. As the bike (a Specialized Levo SL) is of low capacity, it still requires a high level of effort to ride at any nominal pace up hills, and usually rolls along at around 12mph on flatter rolling terrain.

    Is this usage an increased threat to the environment where bicycle access is already allowed? A reasonable response would be no, there is no evidence of any increased detriment, which means that the only reason to be against this access is due to some other predetermined bias.

  18. I’ve ridden trails by mtb for decades. Probably THE biggest negative impact I have witnessed is the massive trail destruction caused by equestrian usage. I have seen where horses have chewed up long sections of trail to the point where it was completely unridable by bike. Also trail areas where there was nothing left of a trail other than a long tract of deep mud and manure churned into a gross mix of impassible cement-like quagmire.

    If there is any concern over environmental impact due to trail usage, my suggestion is that there needs to be a modern study to investigate the devastation above that I have personally witnessed.

    • Exactly!!!! Reading through some of these comments is mind blowing the amount of people concerned about the “damage” that a E-bike may impose. They obviously don’t travel many trails that are frequented by horseback. Not knocking that at all as i enjoy seeing those people on horseback in the mountains but if we want to compare apples to apples then lets do it.

      • Horseback trail access was generally grandfathered in due its history of being a legitimate form of back country transportation. Piggybacking on that, recreational riders enjoyed years of near exclusive access other than by foot, so there wasn’t much for them to complain about.

        However, ever since mountain bikes came along and began to flourish in the ’80s, equestrian groups have been doing their best to maintain their otherwise exclusive non-biped access, regardless of that being human powered or otherwise. Pedal Assist eBikes are another evolution in mountain bikes and so those groups see this as another opportunity to gripe, file again for bans, etc, all the while ignoring the damage that their groups do to the trails.

        I myself have never seen any equestrian groups out working on repairing trails riddled with post-holes and churned up into a loose mixture of rock and debris like someone used a machine digger. In fact, our mtb trail groups frequently have equestrians ride through while we are working on trails, and even riding up sanctioned trails made by our mtb group as a “mtb downhill only” trail. There has to be a stop put to this kind of “God given right to ride anywhere” mentality.

        • In my area of Oregon, I have heard that equestrian groups do a great deal of trail maintenance.

          FWIW, check out the Share The Trail Program, which advocates that members “Stop, Speak, Smile.” Info at:

          In cooperation with the US Forest Service, Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA),Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET), Back Country Horsemen of Oregon (BCHO), and the Sisters Trail Alliance have created a new program to help educate all users of our public trails state wide. The new program is called “Share the Trail” and it is a educational program aimed at educating the public on proper trail etiquette when meeting other trail users on our public trails. The educational program will place the Share the Tail brochure at places that sell or rent trail related equipment, public agency and your favorite trail head, or you can download it here and print one for yourself.

          • I think we’re quite cognizant of the “let’s all play nice together” trail etiquette. Not the point raised. I’m pretty miffed at hearing about “external equestrian groups” filing for mtb and/or eBike bans while enjoying impunity themselves.

            • Welcome to the club. Motorized users have been dealing with this for years. All kinds of non-motorized users, especially mountain bikers, having been campaigning for ages to get motorized trails closed to basically steal them for themselves. That’s happened the most with single-track dirt bike trails, which is why there are basically none of those left in many areas. They’re all mountain bike trails now.

              The latest example I’m dealing with is in the Gemini Bridges area west of Moab. The BLM designated the motorized travel plan in 2008 and decided to keep most existing roads in the area open. But the environmental group SUWA challenged it in court and won a settlement where the BLM agreed to re-do the travel plan which they’re working on now. Between 2008 and 2011 the Magnificent 7 mountain bike trail network was built in the same area, mostly on separate single track trails but a few of the mountain bike trails run along 4×4 roads and are shared with motorized users.

              Now mountain bikers are campaigning to close those roads to motorized users. The Grand County commission, which apparently believes it only represents non-motorized interests, recently sent a letter to the BLM claiming that motorized use in the area is harming mountain bikers and wants all of the roads near mountain bike trails closed. No one cares that motorized users were there first. We’re just a nuisance to get kicked out to make room for more favored types of recreation. And of course it’s only ever motorized users who are blamed for “user conflicts”, not the mountain bikers who decided to build a whole mountain-bike trail system on top of existing motorized routes.

              I guess that makes me have very little sympathy for mountain bikers who are getting kicked out of certain areas to favor equestrian users. At least mountain bikes are still prohibited in Wilderness so they have no choice but to be on our side opposing Wilderness bills. That makes mountain bikers at least somewhat useful in land use fights for something other than stealing other users’ trail systems.

              • that’s a new one… mountain bikers campaigning with environmental groups to get rid of motorized usage. more like mtb’ers pleading to maintain what little access there is while env groups propose extreme conservation measures in hope of settling on a somewhat acceptable middle ground. moto caught in the middle and the very insignificant mtb’er groups looking for the remaining crumbs.

  19. As of August, 2022, the management of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, had implemented a non ebike ruling on all bicycle trails. In total disregard of the regulation to the contrary posted in the Federal Register, the management of the Allegheny National Forest has placed no ebike signs on bike trails, with citations and fines resulting.
    What can we do to change this blatant disregard for federal ruling?

    • Has the Forest published a rational justifying this decision? Or is it arbitrary? What I’ve noted, Forest Service managers have no incentive to undertake ebike analysis. Unless a local bike club presses them, they tend to do nothing. The new regulatory path forward lacks motivational language which results in agency inaction. It’s sad, and I think will likely lead to widespread ebike “poaching” becoming commonplace.

      • My guess is there was no actual decision by that specific Forest. Rather they’re just posting notice of the new FS policy that eBikes are not allowed on non-motorized trails unless there is a specific decision through the travel management process to allow them on specific routes. Which of course means in practice they never will be allowed, because travel management is one of the most politically contentious processes the Forest Service does and FS officials generally don’t want to open that can of worms unless they have to.

        • Precisely! That is exactly why that most Forests will fall behind, setting a stage where ebike riders will unwittingly or intentionally become trail poachers. It’s far easier to put up “no ebike” signage.

  20. I heard first hand, the ANF management claimed the no ebike policy was a nationwide federal policy and they were just following it. That was their justification.

    There is a strong local environmental group presence which is very anti mountain bike, which I believe influenced this decision. Of course there hasn’t been any public discussion or notification regarding this ruling, so I’m going on a gut feeling for this point.

    But regardless, the ANF in Pennsylvania is now off-limits to ebikes everywhere but on official motorized off-road vehicle trails. This means ebikes cannot even be ridden on public roads within the ANF, as they are considered a motorized vehicle and as such must be registered, inspected and carry insurance as the state of Pennsylvania requires.

    • I agree with the other comments that the Forest is probably just posting to clarify that the national policy is basically that nonmotorized trails are closed to ebikes unless/until there is a process to open them, which hasn’t happened. I think I might have put up an informational sign stating that ebikes are subject to existing motorized restrictions instead of making it look like a new closure decision. But maybe that wouldn’t get your attention as well.

  21. There was a process to open trails to ebikes – the ruling noted above as posted in the Federal Register. That’s what got my attention.

    The ANF is ignoring the fact that as of this ruling, Class 1 ebikes are no longer considered motorized vehicles and can be considered as bicycles.

    The ANF management is blatantly disregarding this ruling and it’s my understanding it’s all due to one person at the Marshburg, PA office, who doesn’t like ebikes. This information comes to me directly from a person who has been sitting in on ANF meetings regarding this issue.

    Oh well, I guess discrimination against people with disabilities and elderly is now acceptable to the management of the Allegheny National Forest.

    • Interesting! I’ve seen an example of this type of influence in Region 1, where one person can have extraordinary influence on policy. Not regarding ebikes, but setting Recommended Wilderness management regulation.

  22. For Jon Haber – Copied directly from the Federal Register posting above:

    “Under the proposed rule, where an authorized officer determines that Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes should be allowed on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, such e-bikes would be excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) and would not be subject to the regulatory requirements in 43 CFR part 8340. Additionally, e-bikes excluded from the definition of off-road vehicle at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a) would be afforded all the rights and privileges, and be subject to all of the duties, of a non-motorized bicycle.”

    Specifically read the part where ebikes are excluded from the definition of an off-road vehicle, and would be afforded all the rights and privileges …. of a non-motorized bicycle.
    Pretty clear cut! Hope this gets your attention.

    • “WHERE an authorized officer DETERMINES that Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes SHOULD BE ALLOWED on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed” (my emphasis).
      You’ll have to show me the decision document where the ANF officer made this determination. (I believe the Federal Register Notice you are referring to is for the national regulation, which would just authorize such officials to do that.)

      (This is also just the “proposed” rule, so it is not in effect. Does anyone know the current status?)

      • Jason Haberberger – I understand that locally an authorized officer has the final determination. I take issue with the fact the ANF continues to state there isn’t any federal or national ruling or policy, when obviously there is, or at the very least, it’s near completion.

        And again, you are either posting signage illegally on the ANF or you’re using a pseudo name here to troll for victims.

  23. I did a search on the employee data base for the ANF and your name did not come up. So you are either posting signage illegally on the ANF or you are a using a pseudo name here to cover your federal LEO status. One is illegal, the other makes you a troll; trolling this website for potential harassment. Which is it?

    During my ANF employee name search, a Jason Haberberger did pop up as a federal LEO.

  24. Ruling as of 08/24/22
    43 CFR 8340.0-5
    Off-road vehicle means any motorized vehicle capable of, or designed for, travel on or immediately over land, water, or other natural terrain, excluding:

    (1) Any nonamphibious registered motorboat;

    (2) Any military, fire, emergency, or law enforcement vehicle while being used for emergency purposes;

    (3) Any vehicle whose use is expressly authorized by the authorized officer, or otherwise officially approved;

    (4) Vehicles in official use;

    (5) E-bikes, as defined in paragraph (j) of this section:

    (i) While being used on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed;

    (ii) That are being used in a manner where the motor is not exclusively propelling the e-bike for an extended period of time; and

    (iii) Where the authorized officer has expressly determined, as part of a land-use planning or implementation-level decision, that e-bikes should be treated the same as non-motorized bicycles; and

    • This is a BLM final regulation that defined ebikes as not being off-road vehicles, “Where the authorized officer has expressly determined, as part of a land-use planning or implementation-level decision, that e-bikes should be treated the same as non-motorized bicycles.”
      “(b) Public lands means any lands the surface of which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.”
      This is not applicable to a national forest.

      If someone thinks I work for the Forest Service, they are mistaken (as of 2013). (Jason Haberberger must be a distant cousin though.)

  25. Jason – Then why would you put up an “informational sign” on the ANF?

    And CFR 8340.0 is the subject of this thread and the proposed ruling back when this thread was started. So it does apply. Go to the top and verify it.

    The ruling of this thread is final. Ebikes are considered bicycles. The ANF management is ignoring this ruling. Shame on them!!!!!

  26. I might have put up an informational sign if I were the person in charge of that on the Allegheny – which is entirely hypothetical.

    I reviewed the original post, which is about both Forest Service and BLM direction. Since then, the Forest Service has adopted its final direction in its manual (rather than as a regulation like the BLM did). This direction is not a final decision about any national forest, but tells the forests what to do. Here’s the FAQs provided by the Forest Service (with links to the Manual):

    Here’s the bottom line: “Before a decision to expand use of e-bike on specific national forests and grasslands, the unit must first conduct the appropriate environmental analysis and public engagement, just like any other project that alters the use of the land.” I’ve seen no evidence that the Allegheny has done this.

  27. The new path forward doesn’t require or provide any incentive for individual forests to initiate any analysis or public engagement. The path is there, but the Forest isn’t automatically compelled to go there. This is where local clubs come into the picture. If a club or group presses a campaign for ebike access onto a local Forest, after a while the Forest must act, and start done the ebike evaluation pathway. But most clubs don’t support ebike riders or new access attempts. I think this position will harden because of the Forest Services ruling stating non-motorized trails will convert to “motorized, ebike only”. The final ruling provided a very difficult social pathway to follow, effectively throwing ebikes under the bus. Maybe I’m wrong? Has anyone found language in the rule that compels managers to initiate ebike evaluation?


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