Because of a recent executive order by the U.S. Interior Department, it is inevitable that electric bikes will be allowed on Bureau of Land Management trails where regular bicycles are authorized.
But e-bike enthusiasts should wait before taking a spin on nonmotorized trails until the order is implemented.
“We are asking the public to be patient while we wait for guidance from the national office on how to implement the order,” said Eric Coulter, BLM public affairs specialist.
While Secretary Order 3376, issued on Aug. 29, states, “E-bikes shall be allowed where other types of bicycles are allowed” it also directs the BLM director to “develop a proposed rule” that adjusts BLM policy so it is consistent with the order.
Technically, the change must go through the rule process before e-bikes can legitimately hit the nonmotorized trails, BLM officials say.
Public comment will be sought on the change, according to the order.
“There is a federal regulation process that you go through, and that takes time,” said Connie Clementson, manager for the BLM Tres Rios District.
The order for expanded e-bike access has been added to a transportation and access plan currently under review for local BLM trails, she said.
The BLM has classified e-bikes as motorized since 2015 and banned them form nonmotorized trails. But the Interior Secretary Order directs the agency to “expressly exempt all e-bikes” from the definition of a off-road motorized vehicle. It also directs the BLM to add a definition for e-bikes consistent with U.S. Code 2085.
The code describes e-bikes as a low-speed electric bicycle with two or three wheels, fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 horsepower). Its maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by the motor and ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.
There are many uncertainties on how to implement the order that need to be addressed, officials said.
Whether local BLM districts will have some discretion on how to implement e-bike use on specific local trails is not known. For example, could a specific trail be limited to a certain class of e-bikes.
And there is the issue of BLM bike trails that are accessed by city trails that do not allow e-bikes, such as at Animas City Mountain in Durango. Another issue is that the added definition of an e-bike in BLM policy includes three-wheeled bicycles, but the trails are designed for single-track, two-wheeled bicycles.
National level officials in the Department of Interior were supposed to “provide appropriate public guidance regarding the use of e-bikes on public lands” within 30 days of the Aug. 29 order.