Riding through Change
On Friday October 2, 2020, federal land agencies under the Department of the Interior (DOI) released their final rule regarding electric bicycles (e-bikes) and electric mountain bikes (eMTBs). The International Mountain Bicycle Association (IMBA) is encouraged that BLM and other DOI agencies have adopted key IMBA principles and recommendations to set in motion a process that will authorize local decision makers to determine whether or not e-bikes, including eMTBs, will be permitted on non-motorized trails.
Specifically, the new rule adopts the 3-class definition of e-bikes and, when meeting certain criteria, will treat e-bikes in the same manner as bicycles; the rule confirms that decisions will be made at the local level with local input; and finally must follow NEPA guidelines when considering changes to allow eMTBs on non-motorized trails. Unfortunately the new rule will allow land managers to consider all classes on non-motorized trails rather than only considering class 1 eMTBs, as IMBA requested.
When the draft rule was open for public comment in May and June 2020, IMBA along with thousands of mountain bikers suggested the following could improve in a final BLM rule:
- Managing class 1, class 2 and class 3 eMTBs separately from each other.
- Prohibiting class 2 and class 3 eMTBs on natural surface non-motorized trails.
- Clarifying the timeline for required NEPA analysis as part of planning processes.
While a perfect rule for electric bikes is likely impossible, we are confident that the DOI rule can achieve the above recommendations.
Given this new rule sets the stage for local decision making, local mountain bike communities should work closely with their local land managers as they look to determine whether or not eMTBs have a place on natural surface trails. This engagement includes public meetings, comment periods, and participating in advisory councils.