In fall 2019 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a new policy permitting the use of electric bicycles (e-bikes) on select national wildlife refuges, thereby expanding recreational opportunities for visitors, including people with physical limitations. The policy supports Secretary’s Order 3376 (PDF), signed by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on August 29, that directs Department of the Interior bureaus to create a clear and consistent e-bike policy on all federal lands managed by the department.
Under the policy, e-bike use will be permitted at any refuge where biking is consistent with the site’s statutory purpose. The policy will permit visitors to use low-speed e-bikes on refuge roads, trails and other areas where traditional bikes are allowed.
This policy will increase fun and healthy recreational opportunities for visitors to our national wildlife refuges and support active transportation options.
- E-bikes provide expanded options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited because of fitness level, age or disability.
- When used as an alternative to gasoline- or diesel-powered modes of transportation, e-bikes can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption, improve air quality, and support active modes of transportation for refuge staff and visitors.
- Like traditional bicycles, e-bikes can decrease traffic congestion, reduce the demand for vehicle parking spaces, and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road.
Check with the refuge you’re visiting for details about where e-bikes are permitted. Bicycles of any kind are not allowed in designated wilderness areas.
Permitted e-bikes fall into one of these three categories.
- Class 1 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
- Class 2 e-bikes have a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
- Class 3 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.
When riding e-bikes in national wildlife refuges, follow all applicable regulations and be aware of these safety considerations:
- Mount and dismount the bike carefully. The weight of the battery and motor assist technology can add 20 or more pounds to the weight of the bike.
- Make yourself visible. Wear bright-colored and reflective clothes.
- Wear a helmet while riding.
- Obey speed limits. Some e-bikes may exceed refuge speed limits with the motor engaged.
- Pay attention to traffic. Drivers may not be aware that an e-bike rider is traveling at close to their speed.
- Slow down at intersections. Make eye contact with other drivers before crossing an intersection.