Thursday, October 1, 2020

FS PLAN UPDATE TO E-BIKE DIRECTIVES - Avoid Pitfalls/Find Solutions

Current Status for E-Bikes on FS Lands




Avoid Pitfalls/Find Solutions


On September 24, 2020 the Forest Service placed a notice in the Federal Register about their proposal to revise its directives to update and clarify guidance on management of electric bicycle (e-bike) use on National Forest System (NFS) lands.  They are seeking public comments on their proposal with said comments due on October 26, 2020.


 As the agency states, e-bikes have become increasingly popular nationwide among outdoor recreationists on NFS and other federal lands. E-bikes expand recreational opportunities for many people, particularly the elderly and disabled, enabling them to enjoy the outdoors and associated health benefits. Currently e-bike use is not allowed on NFS roads, on NFS trails, and in areas on NFS lands that are not designated for motor vehicle use. To promote designation of NFS roads, NFS trails, and areas on NFS lands for e-bike use, the proposed revisions include new definitions for an e-bike and a Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bike, as well as guidance and criteria for designating e-bike use on NFS roads, on NFS trails, and in areas on NFS lands.

E-Bike Use on OHV Trail

With the rapid growth of e-bikes, QWR believes it is important for both the OHV and traditional mountain bike communities to work with e-bike enthusiasts, legislators, land agencies, manufacturers, and other stakeholders to support agency efforts to address the rather confusing array of rules and regulations that may actually be keeping people at home instead of helping them enjoy the great outdoors.

Over the last 4-5 years, QWR has been working, writing, meeting with user groups, and attending recreation conferences to discuss e-bike related management concerns, potential conflicts, and find possible solutions to e-bike land-use issues.

 One of the main concerns QWR has heard from the dirt-bike community is their fear that land agencies will convert some of our highly-valued single-track motorcycle trails to “e-bike only” trails where dirt-bike use would be now prohibited.

 Similarly, I have heard that same fear expressed by some in the MTB community where they are adamantly opposed to the Forest Service or other land agencies reclassifying some of their prized mechanized trails to allow for e-bike use.

 At this point, QWR supports the Forest Service’s proposal to align with DOI's proposed e-bike rules by 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.


AVOID CONVERSION OF MOTORIZED SINGLE-TRACK TRAILS and OTHER OHV ROUTES -Currently, e-bikes are allowed on OHV routes because they are also defined as a motorized vehicle.   Conversion of OHV routes to e-bike only routes – where historic OHV use would be prohibited - has the potential to cause huge conflicts between affected user groups.  

COMPANION ROUTES FOR E-BIKES – On land allocations where motorized and mechanized trail use is authorized, consider looking for new trail opportunities where connector or transport single-track trails could be constructed and designated for both e-bike and MTB use within the management prism of designated motorized roads, trails, and areas.   As appropriate, also consider designating these new single-track trails as multi-use routes that will allow dirt-bike use.   Avoid designating e-bike routes in land classifications where mechanized and motorized use is prohibited such as federal Wilderness areas.

E-BIKE USE ON FOREST ROADS – Authorize e-bike use on Forest roads where motorized use by either street legal or non-street legal motorized vehicles has been authorized.  This is especially important where e-bike riders need connectivity between trail systems.

COLLABORATION – Trail recreation cultures vary greatly throughout the country.  Robust collaboration between diverse user groups and the agency will be important to the planning team.   Planning decisions should be site-specific and based on input gleaned from the collaborative process.

USER FEES – The agency should use existing fee authority or, if needed, create a new fee structure and vehicle decal for e-bikes so they can contribute to trail-related construction, maintenance, restoration, law enforcement, and safety/education programs.


QWR believes that e-bikes are here to stay and have become an important transportation and/or recreation vehicle for many who want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.


QWR continues to support agency efforts to update their land use or travel plans to create opportunities for this new and evolving recreation activity.


Feel free to post a comment on this important topic.


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  1. How/Where can we comment? A simple link would be most effective for response.

  2. click on the link to the federal register notice in the article and the comment info should be there.