Support more inclusive park trails!

In early April, several federal agencies, including the National Park Service, proposed new regulations for e-bike use on federal lands. Many of our region’s trails are managed by the NPS across the region, and a growing number of people across the region rely on e-bikes for transportation and recreation. 

The proposed rule changes offer a clearer definition of e-bikes, and give park Superintendents more discretion to allow or restrict e-bike to meet the varying needs of individual parks. We support these changes, with a couple of reservations listed below. 

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The proposed rule for the National Park Service:

  • Revises 36 CFR 1.4 to add a definition of e-bikes consistent with 15 U.S.C. 2085 and define the three classes of e-bikes.
  • Excludes e-bikes from the definition of motor vehicle.
  • Allows Superintendents to designate roads and trails that are open to bicycles as open to e-bikes. E-bikes would only be allowed in areas that have been designated by the Superintendent.
  • Requires that e-bike riders comply with the laws that apply to bicycle riders.
  • Prohibits the possession of an electric bicycle in designated wilderness.
  • Allows Superintendents to limit or restrict e-bike use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection and other management activities and objectives.
  • Prohibits the throttle-only use of an e-bike in non-motorized areas (i.e., the e-bike rider must be pedaling at all times). Throttle-only power would be allowed  in areas open to motor vehicles.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association strongly supports the NPS’ decision to pass order No. 3376 in August 2019. Opening Park Service land to e-bikes increases recreational opportunities for people who may not be able to ride a traditional bike due to physical fitness, age, or ability. E-bikes allow riders to travel farther distances, carry heavier loads (like children), and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used as an alternative to gasoline or diesel-powered modes of transportation.

We are in alignment with many of the revisions in the proposed rule, but we would like to see the following amendments:

  1. Specify that e-bikes are permitted on both paved and unpaved trails: “Consistent with the Secretary’s Order and the Policy Memorandum, the proposed rule would state that e-bikes may be allowed on roads, parking areas, administrative roads and trails (paved and unpaved) that are open to traditional bicycles.”
  1. Allow for the use of throttle-only bikes or Class 2 e-bikes. Class 2 e-bikes make cycling possible for many individuals who are unable to pedal. These low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycles are equipped with motors that can exclusively propel the bicycle, but cannot provide assistance once the bike reaches 20 mph. 

At WABA we believe that the joy and convenience of bicycling should not be limited to the physically and financially privileged. The public has until June 8th to comment on these proposed regulations. We encourage you to support this rulemaking and help improve access for e-bike riders of all abilities around the country. 

Visit this page to read the proposed rule or submit your comments here! To make things easy, you can copy and paste our own comments in the comment field. The public comment period closes on June 8th.

NOVA Parks considering a new e-assist bike policy

Do you ride an e-assist bike on a trail in Northern Virginia? Do you have thoughts about e-assist bikes on our paved paths?

NoVa Parks will hold a hearing on Feb. 7 in Lorton to discuss changes to its e-assist bike policy. Public comment is welcome. Find out more here.

What: Public Hearing on E-assist Bike use on NOVA Park Trails

When: February 7, 7 pm

Where: Jean R. Packard Center, Occoquan Regional Park, 9751 Ox Road, Lorton VA

Submit written comments: Email your written comments (by March 11) to Parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov and NOVAParks@nvrpa.org.

This will be a joint hearing held by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Board and the Fairfax County Park Authority Board.

We’ve given a lot of thought about e-assist bikes on trails. This blog post will bring you up to speed on the different types of e-assist bikes, and WABA’s position on e-assist bikes.

We’ve heard from some of our members that e-assist bikes have kept them active into their older years, allowed them to carry both groceries AND kids on their bikes, and help make long commutes feel reasonable.

Is that the case for you? If so, share your story at the meeting on Feb. 7, or email your written comments (by March 11) to Parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov and NOVAParks@nvrpa.org.

Lots of different kinds of people bike for lots of different reasons. Regardless of age or physical ability, our trails should be accessible to everyone.

Have questions about the proposed change in regulations? Read more about the proposed change in regulation and the hearing here.

The proposed changes to the Park Authority regulations would define an e-bike and clarify distinctions between e-bikes and mopeds. E-assist bikes would be allowed anywhere traditional pedal-powered bikes are allowed. Mopeds would be allowed only where motor vehicles are permitted.

The guidelines codify good etiquette and common courtesy. For example, under the regulations, e-bike riders have to yield to pedestrians and equestrians, keep speeds below 20 miles per hour, and follow the same access rules as other park visitors.

Do you still have questions about what an e-bike is, or what the regulations would apply to? Take a look at the background work that NoVa Parks has done on e-bikes, and read this whitepaper from Toole Design.

Figure courtesy of Toole Design for Jan 2019 NoVa Parks Regulations

We applaud NoVa Parks for examining their policy and for considering updating it.