no bicycles rule

EXCITING BLM 2020 RULE FOR E-BIKES

It’s good news this Wednesday (2nd December 2020) because the new rule for e-bikes usage on federal public land is now in effect.

Federal Register reports about the new rule by the BLM.

It’s old news that e-bikes are everywhere. The E-bike industry is booming. NPD’s Cycling trends report shows that people move toward the mountain and e-bikes. The sales have soared, up 91% in 2018.

Shops are full of orders and can’t keep up with the demand. Health pandemic made even the non-sporty take their old bicycles to work. Anything is better than public transport.

Unfortunately, old regulations don’t mix well with new and modern. E-bikes were too new for old regulations. Understandably, laws take time to properly regulate all the achievements of the modern age. So, after a lengthy procedure that involved soliciting Indian tribes, public comments, various studies, and reports, the BLM gave a final ruling.

In this article, I will summarize the key points of the new BLM rule and draw your attention to future issues.

KEY ELEMENTS TO UNDERSTAND

BLM — the Bureau of Land Management

ORV — an off-road vehicle

E.O. 11644 — Executive order 11644

85 FR 69206 — New Rule citation

SO — Secretary Order

DOI — Department of Interior

EXPLANATION OF OLD RULE FOR E-BIKES

Let’s examine the old regulations first and why the amendment was much needed.

Older rule, E.O. 11644, was issued back in 1972 by President Nixon and amended in 1977 by President Carter.

The rule E.O. 11644 included policies and procedures for managing ORVs. The rule intended to protect public lands, natural resources, historical and archaeological sites.  Its intent was to ensure the safety of all users, who are especially at risk of uncovered, abandoned mine shafts on public lands, and minimize conflicts between users.

Additionally, E.O. 11644 defines ORVs in great detail. ORVs are any motorized vehicle capable of cross-country travel. They have internal combustion engines and no pedals. They are larger, longer, and more powerful than today’s e-bikes.

But, under this regulation, e-bikes are managed as ORVs. So, where traditional bicycles can go, e-bikes can’t.

RELATED: E-Bikes: Do You Need A License?

WHY NEW RULE FOR E-BIKES?

It is clear to see the need to amend the past rule.

  1. Land managers have an important duty to protect the land, nature, wildlife, and balance it with society’s needs. Modern times bring new issues that needed to be addressed.
  2. Obviously, e-bikes are not mentioned in E.O. 11644 because it was written in the 1970s, and e-bikes were not invented until the 1990s. It is true that e-bikes have a motor and are capable of cross-country travel just like ORVs, but there is a need to classify them as non-motorized bicycles or unlike ORVs.
  3. E-bikes don’t affect the surrounding nature like ORVs. They are not loud and don’t affect the air quality.
  4. E-bikes are significantly lighter than ORVs. They are just slightly heavier than traditional, non-motorized bicycles. Lower weight, lower torque, and lower speeds can’t damage the soil or cause erosion. This was proven by a study by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Forestry Commission’s report was also taken into account. Setting boundaries of human influence on wildlife while also meeting our recreational needs is a tough balancing task.  This will undoubtedly be continued into the future.
  5. E-bikes are more like traditional bicycles when it comes to safety. They both have similar effects on riders’ health and public safety according to studies taken into account during the procedure.
  6. Furthermore, the Secretary of Interior issued an order SO 3376 and demanded all federal agencies within the Department of Interior to be consistent.

“SO 3376 sets forth the general policy of the DOI that e-bikes should be allowed where non-motorized types of bicycles are allowed and not allowed where non-motorized types of bicycles are prohibited. “

THE INTENT OF NEW RULE FOR E-BIKES

The BLM wants to provide greater access to federal public lands.

The main interest is to increase recreational activities, especially for people with physical limitations. Age, illness, fitness level, or challenging terrain shouldn’t be a deterring factor.

New e-bike rules needed to be addressed including setting the classification of e-bikes.

rule for e-bikes on public land
Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

NEW RULE FOR E-BIKES

  1. This rule will provide authorized officers with greater flexibility to manage e-bikes.
  2. The rule adds a new definition for e-bikes. The definition of an e-bike relies on a 3-class system. BLM recognizes the differences between Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes.
  3. Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bike use will be permitted/limited to roads and trails that traditional (non-motorized) bicycles can use.
  4. If Class 2 e-bikes are ridden in the throttle-only mode for extended periods, they should be treated as ORVs to reduce users and resource damage.

The current rule acknowledges the Class 3 system. But, in the future, new technologies may bring other types of e-bikes that may not be eligible for use on public roads. There will be more new rules for e-bikes.

Related: Three-Class Electric Bike System Explained

AUTHORIZED OFFICER’S DISCRETION (READ BETWEEN THE LINES)

Beware that authorized officers have the power to decide whether you are allowed on a specific road/trail. According to their discretion, they MAY allow only Class 1 e-bike use on BLM-managed public lands. The authorized officer will make individualized decisions because each area is specific and unique.  He/she will consider site-specific conditions, environmental impacts, and user conflicts.

CONCLUSION

Now when you see a sign “No Motor Vehicles“, you don’t have to stop. Ride along on your new e-bike respecting nature and other users so you don’t draw the attention of local authorized officers who can decide to shorten your recreational activities.

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