Changes in Travel Management procedures
I'm not sure if you saw the proposal to change the definition of ebikes to motorized vehicles and designate trails for ebike use. We wrote about this in October of last year, and we're able to collect around 400 comments.
No one seemed to care that ebikes were becoming part of the travel management fiasco.
But, if you were paying attention, the US Forest Service also proposed changes to the Forest Service handbook 7703.13 and 7703.14 that describe Travel Management Procedures for ALL motorized vehicles.
Now Forest officials will be required to "designate Trails for motor vehicle use consistent with guidance provided in forest service manual 7715.6". (See screenshot #1 & #2.) 7715.6 requires the Forest Service to consider 7 additional guidelines when designating roads for motorized use. (See screenshot #3.)
In addition, ebikes will be defined in classes of 1, 2, and 3 as any bike that uses an electric motor that assists the rider up to 28 MPH and is powered by no more than 750 watts. Each class has its own defining differences, so there is a little more to it than that. (See screenshot #4.)
It should be noted that motorized users, mountain bikers, ebikers, and possibly hikers are going to start losing access to certain trails as the Forest Service starts to designate them for certain uses to avoid user conflict. Your favorite trail might soon be designated for a certain activity that you don't practice, therefore preventing your use of the trail.
Creating another classification of motor vehicles will threaten your access as a 4x4 user with the possibility of them becoming designated for ebike use. Likewise, single tract trails used by hikers and mountain bikers will face the same threat.
These trail designations will be included in travel management planning. Like our forest roads, officials will decide what trails became designated for ebike use. Our backroads are directly in the crosshairs of wilderness groups across America.
Environmental groups are in favor of designating ebikes as motor vehicles and defining them as an OHV. Others are in favor of completely withdrawing the proposal in fear of non-motorized trails becoming open to ebikes.
In a public comment, the Sierra Club calls ebike riders "a privileged set of Americans."
It is important to realize that e-bikes are a form of recreation available to only higher-income people. E-bikes on the market today start at over $500 and go to over $10,000. These are not something ordinarily attainable by low-income people. A check on the demographics of e-bike users would undoubtedly reveal a very narrow slice of American ethnic groups and income levels. Allowing e-bike usage on USFS trails amounts to more low-income injustice as USFS alters its rules to accommodate the wishes of a select and privileged set of Americans. The USFS should be considering means to make it attractive for low-income people to access and use the national forests rather than providing more avenues of recreation to those of higher income.
In another public comment, Wilderness Watch says,
We understand that the proposed change does not explicitly change this, but the proposed policy also directs the Forest Service to expand e-bike opportunities on National Forest lands. While looking to expand e-biking opportunities, the Forest Service must continue to treat all e-bike use as motor vehicle use, and allow e-bikes ONLY where motor vehicles are permitted.
E-bike technology is rapidly evolving. New e-bikes are being developed now that will drive up to 55 mph. Ebikes must travel only where motor vehicles are allowed.
You can read all public comments here.
I suggest that motorized users, OHV users, mountain bikers, and ebikers work together on this subject because it affects our access as users of the National Forest.
Ebikers, mountain bikers, and hikers should be able to use any trail they wish despite our differences. We should share the trail with everyone and forget about user conflict that keeps the recreation aspect of multiple-use separated.
I am standing up for what I believe is right.