On Friday, August 30, the Department of the Interior released a new policy to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, on Department lands. There are many myths and misconceptions about what this policy means for e-bike access on lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. We hope to clarify our understanding of the details of the Department’s new position on e-bikes through the FAQ below:
The new “policy” that the Department released is a Secretarial Order signed by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. The Secretarial Order is actually a directive to each of the major land management agencies within the Department of the Interior to create new policies that expand e-bike access.
No. While it has been reported that the Secretarial Order immediately opened up all Department of the Interior lands to e-bikes, this is not accurate. The Secretarial Order creates a process by which each agency within the Department that manages public lands will create new policies for e-bikes that are specific to that agency. E-bike access will be governed by the policies of each agency, and potentially by local land managers within that agency (for more information specific to National Park Service lands, see our information on the Park Service policy below). Before riding your e-bike, you should consult the policy of the specific Department of the Interior agency that manages the land you would like to ride on.
Yes. The Secretarial Order recognizes the three classes of e-bikes that are currently defined by the traffic laws of 22 states. Those classes are as follows:
E-bikes must also meet the requirements established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
No. A device must specifically be a class 1, class 2, or class 3 e-bike to fall within the scope of the Secretarial Order. It does not apply broadly to motorized devices or vehicles.
There are four main land management agencies within the Department of the Interior: 1) the National Park Service; 2) the Bureau of Land Management; 3) the Fish and Wildlife Service; and 4) the Bureau of Reclamation. The Secretarial Order directs all four of these agencies to develop new policies.
While each agency will have discretion in implementing the Secretarial Order, the general goal of the Order is to allow e-bikes to be ridden where bicycles are ridden, and to not allow e-bikes to be ridden where bicycles are restricted. Each agency will be guided by that directive when making its policy.
In general, each agency is required to take two actions. They must first craft an interim policy to govern e-bike use on their lands, subject to the limits of any existing laws or regulations. Second, they must undertake a formal rulemaking process, subject to public notice and comment, to amend their regulations that govern e-bike use.
A more detailed timeline and steps each agency must take is provided below:
Yes. The Secretarial Order states that each agency must undertake a formal rulemaking process that requires notice and public comment. Each agency is specifically required to provide Department staff with a timeline for seeking public comment on changes to its regulations.
Yes. The National Park Service became the first agency to release its interim policy on August 30. As a general policy, e-bikes will be permitted to ride in areas where bicycles may be ridden on National Park Service lands. However, the new National Park Service policy vests significant discretion in park superintendents to decide where e-bikes may be ridden. Each superintendent is required to update the park Compendium (a collection of rules specific to each park unit) with its new rules for e-bikes. You should consult your local park unit and review the Compendium to fully understand where e-bikes can be ridden in each National Park. Updates to park Compendiums should occur during the next 30 days (approximately).
No. The United States Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture. The Secretarial Order has no bearing on Forest Service bicycle policies or those that pertain to any other Department of Agriculture lands.
No. Bicycles that are solely human powered and e-bikes are both prohibited in designated Wilderness.
Better access for e-bikes on our public lands will help more people recreate, improve the overall visitor experience, and mitigate problems that highly visited areas like National Parks are experiencing, such as road and parking congestion. We see the Secretarial Order as a significant step forward to enabling more people to ride bikes, and aligning e-bike policies on federal public lands with the communities that surround them.
However, successfully integrating e-bikes into Department of the Interior lands will depend on the proper implementation of the Secretarial Order by each agency. We have always advocated for a nuanced approach to e-bike access that recognizes the distinctions between different classes of e-bikes and how each class of e-bikes should be regulated on different types of infrastructure. We also support appropriate land manager discretion to protect natural resources and user experiences. We are optimistic that Department of the Interior agencies can incorporate these concepts into their new e-bike policies as they work through the process required by the Secretarial Order. We will not refrain from critiquing agency policies that don’t meet these principles.
We are happy to see that each agency’s final policy will go through a formal rulemaking process with public comment. We fully support the collection of input from all stakeholder groups and look forward to participating in the public process.
To view our policy position on e-bike on federal public lands, click here.
All of these documents are available online through the Department of the Interior: