In the United States, the recent explosion of the e-MTB market has raised valid concerns about trail access. The central argument is that cyclists were granted access to trails on the basis that bicycles are non-motorized vehicles. With the advent of capable e-MTBs, many trail advocates are worried that we’re trying to have our cake and eat it too.
Because this issue is so new, many recreational areas have not yet drafted policies regarding e-bikes. To learn more about this legal gray area, Mtbr reached out to PeopleForBikes. This cycling advocacy organization, previously known as Bikes Belong, is a coalition of manufacturers, retailers, and individuals who work to promote cycling programs and legislation at the state and federal level. They also do a lot of charity work. All our questions were answered by Morgan Lommele, the PeopleForBikes E-Bikes Campaigns Manager.
Mtbr: How do you figure out where you can or cannot ride? Is there a central database or map?
PeopleForBikes: The closest thing we have to central database is this map, although it’s outdated. The map on our website is updated. We also have a document that outlines e-bike policies in different states including how they are classified and whether they can be used on paths. This document was last updated at the end of 2015. Since that time, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and North Carolina have passed new laws regulating e-bikes. E-bikes will generally be regulated like bicycles in these states.
As far as cities go, several western states have been moving to expand e-bike use in their local communities. Boulder, Colorado, was the first state to really embrace them. They first allowed in e-bikes on a pilot basis, and that program became permanent in 2015. Park City, Utah, also adopted a pilot program last year that authorized their use on local paths. The Park City project also undertook a study of e-bikes. Very recently, Vail, Colorado approved a pilot program that should begin soon.
Durango, Colorado, had initially determined that e-bikes were prohibited from local paths because they were motorized, but is now reconsidering that decision. I am optimistic they will consider allowing them on at least a pilot basis, but we will have to see how it plays out.
Mtbr: If you’re unsure of whether you can ride somewhere, what would the best practice be?
PeopleForBikes: If you’re unsure where you can ride, it’s best to contact your state or local transportation department. Sometimes they do not know, but it’s best to ask first.
Mtbr: What are things e-MTB users could potentially do (and should avoid) that might set back trail access for all mountain bikers?
PeopleForBikes: As for e-MTBs, this document is our etiquette document for e-MTB riders to know before going out for a ride.
Mtbr: In terms of educating consumers, how are brands helping? What kind of additional education do you think they should provide?
PeopleForBikes: Brands have contributed to the PeopleForBikes/Bicycle Product Suppliers Association’s efforts to streamline e-bike policy on roads and bike paths, and promote education about e-MTBs. Individual brands are designing their own educational resources, and we ask that they use our resources as models.
For more info, visit www.peopleforbikes.org.