This popular state forest is handing out $218 fines and misdemeanor charges to e-bikers

The popular mountain bike trails in DuPont State Forest are off limits to e-bikers... but that hasn't stopped them from riding.
File photo: Greg Heil

DuPont State Recreational Forest near Brevard, North Carolina, does not allow e-bikers — or any manner of motorized vehicles — on trails in the forest. It’s not alone in that stance: most (but not all) USFS and BLM districts also ban e-bikes on non-motorized trails.

The e-bike ban in DuPont is clearly stated, and signs are posted at all trailhead kiosks and access points to the forest. “There’s currently big flashing electronic signs on the roadsides that give a few of the forest laws,” said Joshua Kujawa, Law Enforcement Agent for the North Carolina Forest Service. “And then also they’re available on the State Forest Service’s website.”

At the time of this writing, a bright orange banner is posted to the top of the DuPont website that reads, “E-bikes are not allowed at DuPont State Recreational Forest, and law enforcement rangers are now issuing tickets to e-bike riders. Save yourself the money and hassle — leave your e-bikes at home.”

Law enforcement officers focus on trying to educate visiting e-bikers about regulations. “The Forest Service is always going to be about education before anything. We have people who come from all over the world,” said Sara Landry, Executive Director for the Friends of DuPont Forest. “So you know, they come, they rent an e-bike, they have no idea. Like, no one pays attention to signs.”

“Law enforcement officers that are out there are doing education, but if they see somebody that’s like a repeat, or just gives you that, ‘I don’t care, I can do what I want,’ they do give a ticket,” said Landry.

Note that while the trails are closed to e-bikes, disabled people who choose to use an e-bike as an accessibility device in DuPont State Recreational Forest are allowed under North Carolina state law and will not be ticketed.

A $218 fine and a misdemeanor charge

These fines aren’t just a slap on the wrist: if you’re caught e-biking in DuPont, you’ll not only earn yourself a roughly $280 fine (including court charges) a fine, but a misdemeanor charge that will go on your permanent record. Misdemeanor charges for all forest violations are considered class 3 misdemeanors under North Carolina law.

Update: June 13, 2024: We originally reported the fine amount as $280, but have received corrected information from DuPont State Forest. According to Kirsten McDonald, Information and Education Supervisor for DuPont State Forest, “some citations (tickets) for rule violations have a $25 fee and others have a $35 fee.  The court costs for misdemeanors and traffic citations are currently $183 and are set by the Judicial Branch. The citation fee plus the court costs result in a total cost of either $208 or $218, depending on what the citation is for.”

“It is arrestable, but we’re not arresting e-bikers or people with dogs off leash,” said Kujawa.

“I had heard a couple people be like, ‘Whatever, I’ll just pay my fine. And it’ll go back to Dupont,'” said Landry. “It does not go back to Dupont. It goes back to the court system.”

While a misdemeanor sounds minor, it’s not to be trifled with. According to King Law Offices’ overview of North Carolina misdemeanor offenses:

This type of misdemeanor offense is the least serious of the four classifications. If charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, the maximum penalty you will face is 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. Some examples of Class 3 misdemeanors in North Carolina include:

  • Simple possession of marijuana
  • Concealing goods in a store
  • Driving while license is revoked (DWLR)
  • 2nd degree trespassing and city code violations

If you have less than four prior convictions on your criminal record, the law states that you can only be charged with a fine and will not receive jail time or probation.

Forbes notes that “you will have to go to court to respond to misdemeanor charges, which can be stressful and expensive. And, in some cases, committing repeated misdemeanors may result in an escalation of penalties or even felony charges in the future.”

We learned that fines, misdemeanor charges, and arrests are quite common in the forest. At the end of each summer, the Friends of DuPont receive a regular report on citations given in the forest.

“They give me a report that is like ‘this is how many tickets were for dogs off leash or for drunken behavior,’ which is the one that is normally the highest,” said Landry.

Ridgeline Trail, DuPont State Forest

What types of e-bikes have been ticketed?

Singletracks first caught wind of fines being issued in DuPont from our faithful commenters. The rumor mill had it that some or even most of the fines issued had been issued to high-speed e-motos. We fact checked the rumor mill with Landry.

“Not to say that they aren’t out there. I have not heard that people have been that bold,” said Landry, referring to the potential for e-moto violations. “Usually, it is a pedal assist that they’re at least getting warned about [and ticketed]. I feel like if there was a huge throttle e-bike out there, I would get a million phone calls.”

Unfortunately, e-mountain bikers ignoring the rules are the crux of the problem in DuPont.

DuPont has no plans to open trails to e-bikes — and the locals don’t want them to, either

All trails in DuPont State Recreational Forest are currently closed to e-bikes, and the forest is not going to change that policy. DuPont is currently finalizing a management plan, and no concessions for e-bikes are in the plan.

“Throughout the master rec plan, basically, what the consultants came down to after trail assessment and community input was, if we were to allow e-bikes, we needed to have more trail designation,” said Landry. “And we didn’t feel like that’s what the community was looking for. From a local perspective, when we break down the survey answers — they put zip codes in there. If you looked at the local zip codes, it was very, like, anti e-bike. If you took a wider view, to surrounding areas, it was about 50/50. But when it came down to [it], we had to do more designated trails — we just couldn’t do it.”

E-bikers misbehaving aren’t affecting other mountain bikers… for now

“I feel like most folks look at e-bikes as kind of a separate user group,” said Landry. “So it won’t impact mountain biking, [it’s] different. And then there’s, you know, the infighting within the mountain biking community about that, too. So it’s great!”

We contacted Pisgah Area SORBA, the leading mountain bike advocacy group in Western North Carolina, to learn about their stance on e-bike access in DuPont. They declined to comment on the record “as they are not involved with the stewardship of the trails in DuPont State Forest.” 

See Also: How North Carolina’s DuPont State Recreational Forest is coping with a 10x increase in visitation

 

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