Spoiler alert: despite the title, no one actually got jail time for riding an ebike (yet). However, this does illustrate how even some of the biggest advocacy organizations are clueless about where ebikes can actually legally go.
Thanks for sharing this Greg! No one has landed in jail yet, but apparently folks have been fined (see below.)
I actually ran into a similar issue at Sea Otter this year. Several electric mountain bike companies offered demo bikes at the event, but none that I talked to mentioned that e-bikes are not allowed on the trails surrounding the venue. I followed up with the local mountain bike club, MORCA, and learned that since Fort Ord is BLM land, motorized vehicles are not allowed.
Now before this turns into a debate over whether electric MTBs are motorized vehicles or not, it’s important to note that this issue has been settled by the BLM. Here’s their official policy statement written in July of 2015:
An electronic bicycle, also known as an e-bike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) classifies e-bikes as motorized vehicles, as defined at 43 CFR 8340.5
The funny thing is, the second paragraph of the bulletin is very complimentary of e-bikes.
There is a great variety of e-bikes available and some can be used for mountain biking. Public interest in the use of e-bikes on Federal public lands is rising. As a transportation and recreation option, e-bikes represent an opportunity to reduce emissions, as they also appeal to a growing demographic with physical limitations to conventional bicycling. These factors contribute to a corresponding increase in interest and utilization on public lands. The BLM manages e-bikes similar to the U.S. Forest Service (FS). The FS manages e-bikes as a motor vehicle per their Travel Management Rule.
But they’re still banned on non-motorized trails, and not just by the BLM but also the FS as noted in the BLM’s own bulletin.
Back to the situation at Fort Ord near Monterey, CA. Here’s what MORCA’s president, Gary Courtright told me over email:
I see several folks out in Fort Ord on E-Bikes and let them know…when I am able to…that they are illegal on the property. One fellow had a very bad crash in Fort Ord on an E-Bike recently that required him being evacuated. I was told that he was given a ticket by one of the rangers…I guess they take it pretty seriously!
What I do not want to see is the cat and mouse game with E-Bikes locally. This will only contribute to the anti-MTB groups that will use it as another reason the MTB access to public lands needs to be revoked.
Electric mountain bikes are not allowed anywhere on BLM or FS land where motorized vehicles are prohibited. This generally means certain trails, but if there is a road that is designated “non-motorized vehicles only,” it’s off limits too. Here in the southeast, we have a lot of gated FS roads which could be included.
The flip side is there are singletrack trails on BLM and FS land where motorized vehicles are allowed (Captain Jack’s in Colorado Springs, for example.) It’s ok to ride an electric MTB on motorized trails.