PeopleForBikes Comments on U.S. Forest Service Final Guidance for E-Bike Access

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Electric Bicycles will remain classified as motor vehicles, but the guidance offers new tools for land managers to determine electric bicycle access.

On March 31, 2022, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) finalized guidance for electric bicycle access on National Forest System (NFS) trails and grasslands. The guidance largely reflects the USFS’s 2020 proposed directives for electric bicycle access: Electric bicycles will remain classified as motor vehicles but local land managers can now recategorize trails from nonmotorized to motorized to allow electric bicycle and e-mountain bike access. The finalized guidance answers our call for local land managers to determine electric bicycle access by the three class system, but fails to go far enough on reclassifying electric bicycles as nonmotorized.

Photo courtesy PeopleForBikes

“Expanding opportunities for electric bicycle riders to access National Forest System trails is an important step forward,” said PeopleForBikes President and CEO Jenn Dice. “While we will continue to urge the U.S. Forest Service to reclassify Class 1 electric bicycles as nonmotorized, we encourage local land managers to implement this guidance for more accessible, equitable and diverse electric bicycle ridership on our public lands.”

Specifically, this new guidance will:

  • Establish new criteria for designating Class 1, 2 and 3 electric bicycles on National Forest System trails, roads and lands.
  • Create specific criteria for designation of motor vehicle use on trails and guidance for designated electric bicycle use on trails. This includes an additional category (Trails Open to Electric Bicycles Only) to identify classes of motor vehicles on a motorized vehicle use map.
  • Add an objective to consider emerging technologies, such as electric bicycles, that are changing the way people access and recreate on NFS lands.

PeopleForBikes remains a strong advocate for the reclassification of electric bicycles as nonmotorized across federal public land jurisdictions. We submitted a public comment in 2020 in response to the USFS proposed revised directives requesting a change in classification alongside the inclusion of the 3-class electric bicycle definition, which was successful.

Electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) offer a low impact, emissionless and quiet solution to helping more Americans enjoy the outdoors and our public lands. Ample studies and pilot projects like that in the Tahoe National Forest show that Class 1 eMTBs and traditional mountain bikes are similar modes of recreation in terms of components, speed, impacts to trail and health benefits. Class 1 eMTB use does not create any different effects to singletrack trails or social experiences while riding.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for supporting the e-bike access to national forests. This type of bike has re-opened up cycling to my 70 yo joints and bones. I think only peddle assist e-bikes should be considered as non motorized, IMHO.

  2. I keep looking in your magazine for events and articles related to class 1 e-mt biking, but there is not really anything that I can see. Consider that e-biking is now the most popular form of bike sales and interest, I’m not sure what your resistance is or from the various bike associations to get more e-mt bike events and stuff included in the mix of things.

    Think about this–sooner or later, like myself (77yrs), practically everyone who is a mt. bike fanatic will get older and will make the switch to e-mt. biking or give it all up forever. I live around Park City and no one as so much has raised an eyebrow when they see me on the trail. No one has asked to see my “Senior Pass,” although I do have one.

    Frankly, I resisted for years to get an e-mt bike, but now that I have one I find it so much more fun and it opens up so much more potential as far as exploration, difficulty, exercise, access, distance then with a normal mt. bike, sorry to say. I only wish that I had done it sooner.

    Like the other writer, I’m not for class 2/3 bikes on the trails as they are more like motorcycles than a peddle-assist bikes. And that is about it–its just a peddle assist experience–only when you need it instead of the heavy labor or it takes to walk your bike up the hill. This feature allows you the freedom to explore downhill because going back up is not a crucial issue. Actually, I have been mt biking since the late 1980’s and I find that I have much more fun on my used e-mt bike than I ever did in the past.

    So stop trying to project this facade of elitism. Let’s see some more ideas, features, articles, events the also include e-mt bikes. Help to promote the acceptance of e-mt biking class 1 rather than ignore it. It’s only a little bit more time and others will be clamoring for what I am professing and what makes sense for the biking world–acceptance. Best wishes, Brian Patrick

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