To increase recreational use on public lands for all Americans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to adopt regulations on the use of electric bicycles (otherwise known as “e-bikes”) in units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
This proposed rule supports Secretary’s Order 3366 to increase recreational opportunities on public lands and Secretary’s Order 3376 directing Department of the Interior bureaus to obtain public input on e-bike use.
The rule closely follows both Secretary’s Orders and the Service’s e-bike policy in Director’s Order 222, signed on October 17, 2019. It would allow refuge managers to consider the use of e-bikes on any refuge roads and trails where traditional bicycle use is allowed, provided it is consistent with a refuge’s statutory purpose and the refuge manager determines it to be a compatible use.
The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0109, and will include details on how to submit your comments.
In 2019, the Refuge System had approximately 1.4 million biking visits on 197 national wildlife refuges where visitation numbers are recorded.
- The proposed e-bike rule provides increased options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited by fitness level, age or ability.
- Neither traditional bicycles nor e-bikes are allowed in designated wilderness areas and may not be appropriate for back-country trails.
The focus of the guidance is on expanding the traditional bicycling experience to those who enjoy the reduction of effort provided by this new technology. Refuge managers can limit or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use where necessary to manage visitor use conflicts and ensure visitor safety and resource protection.
The proposed rule defines permitted e-bikes as two- or three-wheeled vehicles with fully operable pedals and a small electric motor (1 horsepower or less). An e-bike operator may use the motor only to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic.
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.
The proposed rule will increase fun and healthy recreational opportunities for visitors to our national wildlife refuges and support active transportation options.
- 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.