US National Park Service Announces Policy for Electric Bicycle Use in National Parks

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
Here is yet another view from Micah Toll on Electrek... ;)


The new regulations, posted yesterday on the National Parks Service website, move to support the decree issued by the US Secretary of the Interior last year, stating that all e-bikes should be allowed in all US national parks. However, the new NPS regulations do provide some limitations, some of which are seemingly contradictory.

For example, the regulations list the three classes of electric bicycles in the US, consisting of Class 1 e-bikes with pedal assist only up to 20 mph (32 km/h), Class 2 e-bikes with throttle control up to 20 mph (32 km/h), and Class 3 e-bikes with pedal assist up to 28 mph (45 km/h). All three classes may include motors up to 750W of power.

The regulations state that National Park “Superintendents may authorize the use of e-bikes that fall within any of these classes.”However, the regulations later go on to state that “Superintendents may manage particular classes of e-bikes differently. For example, a superintendent may open a particular road or trail to Class-1 e-bikes only, or may allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes but not Class 3.”

The regulations then further state that “The intent of the regulations is to allow visitors to use e-bikes for transportation and recreation in a manner similar to traditional bicycles. As a result, the regulations prohibit operators of Class 2 e-bikes from using the motor to propel the e-bike for an extended period of time without pedaling, except in locations that are open to public motor vehicle use.”

So it sounds like the individual park superintendents may make individual decisions about which classes of electric bicycles are allowed in which parks, and that Class 2 e-bikes may be prohibited from using their throttles. Most Class 2 e-bikes also offer pedal assist control, though this is not required for an e-bike to qualify as a Class 2 e-bike in the US.
 

6zfshdb

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Region
USA
City
Northeast Pennsylvania
It appears to me that the statement “Superintendents may authorize the use of e-bikes that fall within any of these classes.” allows these superintendents to permit or ban ALL e-bikes from a particular park. This means we are at the mercy of individual park superintendents and the regulations may depend on whether they like or dislike e-bikes. This could also result in flip flopping of regulations as these superintendents are rotated from park to park.

I suppose this change is a step in the right direction but I wish the wording was more specific and less open to individual interpretation.
 

Jeff Winner

New Member
I hope your interpretation is correct, however, I afraid most superintendents may disagree and go with a more conservative approach.


Unless it is clear that e-bikes are causing a specific issue, it is unlikely that you will see wholesale restrictions. To do that takes process and notification

"Every restriction or closure that limits the use of e-bikes will be supported by a written record explaining the basis for such action. The record will explain why e-bikes are managed differently than traditional bicycles if that is the effect of the restriction or closure. All such restrictions and closures should be listed in the superintendent's compendium (or written compilation) of discretionary actions referred to in 36 CFR 1.7(b)".
 

Mr. Coffee

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Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
It appears to me that the statement “Superintendents may authorize the use of e-bikes that fall within any of these classes.” allows these superintendents to permit or ban ALL e-bikes from a particular park. This means we are at the mercy of individual park superintendents and the regulations may depend on whether they like or dislike e-bikes. This could also result in flip flopping of regulations as these superintendents are rotated from park to park.

I suppose this change is a step in the right direction but I wish the wording was more specific and less open to individual interpretation.

One of the things about how the NPS runs that has made it basically work these last 100-odd years is that each superintendent has a lot of independence and freedom to make or break rules as they see fit. It is better to think of the parks as quasi-independent fiefdoms.

The NPS is all about protecting the resource. I only think they will bother with e-bike restrictions if they have good evidence in hand that e-bikes are harming the resources the park is tasked to protect, and I find that unlikely.

I'd also say that when you talk about the big western national parks few of them have many trails that allow bicycles at all, and most of those trails are very short. In Washington state, as an example, there are really only two places where this whole fight matters:
  1. The Spruce Railroad Trail on the north side of Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. This one is pretty important because your only real alternative on a bicycle is the scary, busy, and shoulderless US 101 on the south side of Lake Crescent, or the slightly less scary, still shoulderless, and much longer and hillier Juan De Fuca Highway. What will actually happen here is still kind of ambiguous and the point is moot for 2020 since the trail is closed for reconstruction.
  2. The Upper Stehekin Valley Road in North Cascades National Park. Due to numerous washouts this road has been closed to motor vehicles since 2003. A local concession has been renting e-bikes in Stehekin for a few years and they are a common sight on the upper valley road. There are numerous and quite pleasant campgrounds along this section of road and it is a reasonable place for a more-or-less gentle introduction to bikepacking.
 

BlackHand

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Western WA
Agreed. Its bigger indirect impact is the precedent it sets for the upcoming NFS changes.

OT: how doable is it to bike into the Stehekin area from one of the campgrounds along the Twisp River Road?
 

Mr. Coffee

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Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
OT: how doable is it to bike into the Stehekin area from one of the campgrounds along the Twisp River Road?

It isn't. All routes go through designated wilderness where bicycles of any kind are prohibited.

The closest you could come, I think, is to start from the Buttermilk Creek area and cross the divide and descend down Prince Creek via Cub Lake. From there you'd have to get your bike on a boat to get anyplace else. There is no dock at Prince Creek so getting the bike on board would be challenging.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
The wording bans throttle use "for an extended period of time without pedalling", so I interpret that to mean it does not ban Class 2 ebikes from riding with pedal assist. It is a default throttle use ban not a Class 2 ban unless a park superintendent writes that into an individual National Park's Compendium of regulations. For example the George Washington Memorial Parkway covers land in two Virginia counties and a city in VA, plus some land in the District of Columbia, where under a September 2019 Record of Determination "allows (Class 1-3) E-bikes where traditional bicycles are allowed," and for Class 2 ebikes the relevant wording is " Except where use of motor vehicles by the public is allowed, using the electric motor to move an e-bike without pedaling is prohibited," so no throttle use.

This seems to address the "extended period of use" clause:

"The NPS acknowledges that there may be situations where the use of the throttle-only power may be appropriate and useful in limited duration. This could be the case in particular for park visitors who use e-bikes as to access and enjoy park areas in a manner that would not be possible with traditional bicycles. In limited duration, the throttle could be used without pedaling to get started, for a quick burst of power to climb a hill, or to move safely through an intersection. In order to more precisely tailor this restriction on the use of Class 2 e-bikes, the NPS has revised the final rule to only prohibit the use of throttle-only power for an extended period of time. This change will allow riders of Class 2 e-bikes to benefit from throttle-only power for limited durations while ensuring that e-bike use, where allowed, will continue to be used in a manner that is consistent with traditional, non-motorized bicycles. Due to this change in the final rule, the NPS declines to adopt the proposal to require riders of Class 2 e-bikes to disable the throttle-only function. "

Other than any quick bursts of power going up hill the others mentioned are why I wouldn't own an eBike without a throttle. Gearing down and if necessary upping the PAS level works best for a quick burst of power over a throttle because usually the throttle over rides the PAS and the lag in transition between them, especially in an uphill situation, is not at all efficient.

Acknowledgement of the potential for throttle use by the NPS is surprising to me but welcome.
 

Nutella

Active Member
" for an extended period of time "

Lol, define "extended period of time" this makes it impossible to enforce. Class 2 will either be allowed or not allowed, they can't be allowed with such a subjective condition in place.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
" for an extended period of time "

Lol, define "extended period of time" this makes it impossible to enforce. Class 2 will either be allowed or not allowed, they can't be allowed with such a subjective condition in place.

Sure sounds to me like they are allowing Class 2 bikes.......maybe finally someone that has actually ridden an eBike, and most likely at least one that had a throttle, had a hand in making up the regs? People have got to get over the fact that throttles on legal wattage eBikes are no different than someone putting the assist level on turbo and basically ghost pedaling as far as speed goes.

As I always add if someone chooses to just throttle around they are missing the best part of the trip.
 

GypsyTreker

Well-Known Member
Great news! Other than use hording by other groups, mtb, equestrian, I see no reason to make this a political issue. It's simply good news. The fact the NPS notated the increase in peoples ability to use and expand their park experience indicates those entry fees have significance. Not complaining, just sayin.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
The new NPS Deputy Director of Operations has issued a Memorandum to National Park Superintendents reminding them to review and recertify their e-bike policies and update their Park Compendium to get the policy in line with the Final rule on ebikes in National Parks that took effect December 2, 2020, a process that must be completed by September 28, 2021. BRAIN report this is because of the ongoing lawsuit by an advocacy group of conservationists called PEER who want the National Park Service to withdraw permission to ride ebikes on non-motorized trails in back country wilderness areas in National Parks across the US.
 
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Art Deco

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Selinsgrove Pennsylvania
There are always lawsuits. I suspect the people involved are used to it, and say the legal and PC version of "just get in line behind those other six cases" but it does waste a lot of money on legal fees. Maybe that's the point.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
... National Park Service to withdraw permission to ride ebikes on non-motorized trails in back country wilderness areas in National Parks across the US.

Permission was never given for e-bikes, or bikes of any kind, to be used in back country wilderness areas of any National Park. Such usage (and granting such) would be blatantly against the law.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Permission was never given for e-bikes, or bikes of any kind, to be used in back country wilderness areas of any National Park. Such usage (and granting such) would be blatantly against the law.
I don't mean to misinterpret what was left to the discretion of Park Superintendents. This is where the PEER group's efforts ought to be directed rather than a knee jerk lawsuit that would if successful overturn very sensible permission to ride on commuting bicycle infrastructure in National Parks within urban areas
 
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Ken M

Well-Known Member
It would be so much easier for local use regulations if we just had the federal definition of a compliant LSEB in place for use in all 50 states. Decide where bikes are allowed and by default allow compliant LSEBs as a bike. That was the intent of HR727 back in 2002 and it worked fine for 12 years before PFBs got lobby money to promote the 3-class system to states as improved clarity and safety. Both false but money allowed them to convince politicians is was a good state legislative policy to adopt. Been a mess ever since.
 

rawlus

Active Member
Region
USA
in my experience national and federal lands are routinely limited to all sorts of access. even walking, hiking, boating for various reasons, but typically out of a concern for ecology or wildlife. or both.

i’m generally ok with it and also understand why each park has to almost be managed as it’s own thing and not lumped into rules for every park to follow. it’s a big and diverse country and most parks and fed lands have different needs and different challenges.

merely recognizing how ebikes can improve and support access for people who may not otherwise have it seems the intent of the law and id support that objective.
 

Ken M

Well-Known Member
in my experience national and federal lands are routinely limited to all sorts of access. even walking, hiking, boating for various reasons, but typically out of a concern for ecology or wildlife. or both.

i’m generally ok with it and also understand why each park has to almost be managed as it’s own thing and not lumped into rules for every park to follow. it’s a big and diverse country and most parks and fed lands have different needs and different challenges.

merely recognizing how ebikes can improve and support access for people who may not otherwise have it seems the intent of the law and id support that objective.
Then watch the congressional testimony on HR727.

Not one person has made an argument that it needed to be parsed into 3 classes to fix or improve anything. Claiming class 1 provided trail access to some is not really true and it denies access to those handicapped that may need a class 2 / throttle-assist LSEB to enjoy the same access.

I respect that we could debate forever what should be allowed on national and federal park lands but I don't want that to impact what is possible for ebike potential for transportation. We need more people out of cars and in that regard the class system is a joke considering class 3 must be pedal-assist only when every other vehicle on a road has a throttle. I could toss 3-class in the trash just for that clear stupid mistake.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Sorry to post this update. I wrote the following in another thread. Pasting here:

The Department of the Interior under the current administration has moderated a bit since the DOI made new rule in 2020 regarding ebikes. I'm grateful for the access we have, but these things can change. As far as I know most trails that opened in the past 2 years are still open. Never hurts to let them know where you stand on the issue.

DOI order June 30, 2021

July 1, 2021

Superintendents across the National Park System have been given permission to reverse course and deny trail access to e-bikes if they adversely impact park resources or other visitors.

That guidance from Shawn Benge, the acting director of the National Park Service, comes nearly two years after former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ordered parks to allow the motorized bikes on trails that muscle-powered bikes already were allowed on.

In the order sent Wednesday to regional directors, associate and assistant directors, superintendents, and the chief of the U.S. Park Police, Benge wrote to "remind superintendents that they have the discretion to allow e-bikes or not; and (3) direct superintendents of park units that allowed e-bikes on trails or administrative roads under the rescinded e-bike policy to reconsider that decision..."