Last week the Trump Administration approved an order allowing motorized electric bicycles on every national park trail on which regular bikes are permitted.
The order was intended to increase recreational opportunities for all Americans, especially those with physical limitations, and to encourage the enjoyment of lands and waters managed by the Department of the Interior. Department officials were given 30 days to devise public guidance to help the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge systems carry out the new policy.
In the past, FABB has supported pedal-assist e-bikes (Class 1) and throttle-assist (Class 2) e-bikes on shared-use park trails in Fairfax County parks and anywhere traditional pedal-powered bikes are allowed. We do not support Class 3 e-bikes, capable of speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, on shared-use park trails. Class 3 e-bikes are not appropriate on park trails due to safety concerns related to speed. E-bike riders, as well as all other trail users, will need to practice good trail etiquette, emphasize safety, and be considerate of others.
Many outdoor and conservation groups oppose the action, arguing that because many options for motorized recreational experiences exist, opening non-motorized trails to motorized bikes would effectively eliminate non-motorized, primitive recreational opportunities. FABB is sympathetic to this position for truly primitive trails. We hope that the guidance being developed will distinguish between trails where e-bikes make sense, such as the Mt. Vernon Trail, and those where they do not because of the negative impact on other users or safety issues for average e-bike users. Prudent restrictions (e.g., no Class 3 e-bikes) should be developed to account for conditions on non-improved and heavily-trafficked trails.
It is not clear if the Department of Interior or National Park Service are accepting public comment on planned guidance. Interested trail users should contact their members of Congress.