IMBA Says Potential Forest Service e-Bike Rule Change is ‘Troublesome for Mountain Bike Trails’

The proposed USFS e-bike directive classifies eMTBs as motorized which could lead to trail funding and user conflict issues.

Just last week we wrote about the finalization of e-bike rules by the US Secretary of the Interior that apply to Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) land. Now, the US Forest Service (USFS) is seeking public comment on their own proposed e-bike directive, which IMBA labels “troublesome.”

Like the Department of Interior (DOI) rules, the USFS proposal gives local land managers control over e-bike access. However, unlike the DOI, the USFS rules would require a public process to include Travel Management and an environmental analysis before opening a trail to e-bikes, rather than starting from a default “open” position.

IMBA notes the new Forest Service rules would continue to consider all classes of e-bikes to be motorized vehicles, separate from traditional mountain bikes. As a result, allowing eMTB access to a trail could require the trail to be opened to all motorized traffic. Therefore, IMBA is recommending the USFS adopt a similar stance to the DOI by providing a motorized exception for eMTBs.

Beyond potential user conflicts that might arise from opening more trails to motorized traffic, IMBA points out that changing the designation of a trail can put certain types of trail funding — like Land Water Conservation Funds — at risk.

For a full summary of IMBA’s position, read this Action Alert on their website. The official comment period is open until Monday, October 26, 2020 and comments can be submitted electronically here.