The National Park Service is accepting public comment until July 21st to address e-bike use on NPS lands. In 2019, NPS adopted a rule to give the superintendents of individual park units the discretion to allow e-bikes to be used in the same areas and on the same trails as motorized vehicles and bikes. This rule was challenged in court by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the court ruled that NPS didn’t follow the correct process in adopting this rule. As a result, NPS is taking a more thorough look at allowing e-bike use in national parks.
The court also allowed the rule that allowed for e-bike use to continue in effect until this process is completed. NPS is considering two potential outcomes:
They could go back to the pre-2019 status quo, which would mean there would be no consistent rules or authorities governing e-bike use on NPS-managed lands. This would likely result in loss of access for the rapidly growing number of e-bike users who are enjoying national parks through e-bike experiences.
The second option is to implement the 2020 rule that users are already enjoying, but NPS has performed additional environmental analysis to ensure that the 2020 rule is consistent with all laws and regulations. This is option that the National Park Service prefers, and it will give individual superintendents the discretion to allow e-bikes where other bikes area allowed.
BlueRibbon Coalition supports e-bike use on all motorized routes and mountain bike trails, and we encourage the National Park Service to adopt their preferred alternative. E-bikes have the same impact on the environment as other bikes do and should be allowed where human powered bikes are allowed.
BlueRibbon Coalition also agrees with NPS that it is possible to reasonably manage e-bike use. According to the option preferred by the National Park Service, “the rule allows the superintendent to limit, restrict or impose conditions on e-bike use, or to close any park road, parking area, administrative road, trail, or portion thereof to e-bike use, after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives. Superintendents can use this discretionary authority to establish safety measures deemed necessary to ensure that e-bikes are used in a manner that maintains a safe, enjoyable experience for all visitors. The rule allows superintendents to manage e-bikes, or particular classes of e-bikes, differently than traditional bicycles in certain locations, as warranted.”
This is what proactive, forward-thinking management looks like, and this approach should be the standard for expanding recreation uses on public land as opposed to mindlessly banning certain users or experiences.
BlueRibbon Coalition also appreciates that NPS formally recognizes the unique value of e-bikes that they “provide visitors with an additional option for accessing areas in park units that are accessible by traditional bicycles, as determined appropriate for each park unit, particularly for those who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or the nature of the environment Oftentimes e-bikes are used to simply provide an assist due to physical limitations.” BRC would like to see all public land management agencies adopt this enlightened approach toward making recreation on public land more inclusive.
If you agree that NPS should continue allowing managed e-bike use in our national parks, please add your name to our petition that we will include with our formal comment in support of the National Park Services preferred plan: