Bicycling has taken on a new look and a new velocity with the popularity of e-bikes. These motorized two-wheelers can be seen on streets and bike trails around the country. Even our national parks are seeing an uptick in the number of electricity-enhanced cycles on public land, making it inevitable that a crackdown on their use would soon come. And sure enough, a new court ruling has now halted e-bikes on some federal land to take a look at their speed, safety, and impact.
An electric bike, or e-bike, is a regular bicycle augmented with some electric components to assist with hill climbing and riding into a headwind.
Laws that pertain to riding e-bikes on federal lands, like in national parks and national forests, are changing. According to a previous ruling, the national parks allowed e-bikes wherever bicycles could travel in national parks. But national forests have treated e-bikes as motorized vehicles from their very inception, allowing them access to trails only that motorcycles could travel.
Until this ruling, the national parks permitted e-bikes on regular bike trails, making accessibility easier for persons with medical or stamina problems. But with the new mandate, the government requires the park service to do environmental impact studies, document their findings, and allow time for the public to comment before they can open trails up to e-bikers.