The rising popularity of electric bicycles prompted federal and local staff to remind the public that the bikes are not allowed on trails meant for non-motorized use.
“Electric bikes (e-bikes) are considered motorized vehicles, so they are allowed only on roads and trails designated for motorized use,” said Jeff Christenson, recreation planner for the Tres Rios office of the Bureau of Land Management.
The U.S. Forest Service also considers e-bikes to be motorized vehicles, and users must stay on motorized routes, said recreation planner Tom Rice.
The BLM is pushing awareness of the rules after an unknown e-bike vendor recently set up a demonstration in the parking lot of Phil’s World, a BLM-managed mountain biking area.
The BLM has heard reports of riders illegally using the e-bikes at Phil’s World, Christenson said, adding that riders have a questions about where they are allowed.
BLM Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson said the BLM plans to add signage at popular non-motorized trailheads like Phil’s World and Sand Canyon to inform the public that e-bikes are not allowed there. Local rangers also have been made aware of the rules, she said.
E-bikes are also not allowed on trails in the open spaces owned by the city of Cortez, said recreation director Dean Palmquist.
But there is plenty of territory where e-bikes are welcome. They can be used anywhere motorized travel is allowed, including Forest Service and BLM roads and local streets, county roads and highways. They are allowed on ATV routes such as the Aspen Loop Trail in the La Plata Mountains and can be ridden on single-track motorized routes such as the Calico Trail north of Dolores.
In September, the city of Durango initiated a one-year pilot program allowing e-bikes on some trails, including the Animas City Trail. Some state parks allow them on trails.
E-bikes are equipped with battery-powered motors and come in commuting, touring and mountain biking models. A Class I bike provides electrical pedal assist up to 20 mph; Class II provides electrical power when the rider is pedaling or not up to 20 mph; and Class III provides electrical power up to 28 mph, and are not allowed for riders under 16.
They are recharged using a regular outlet. Range of most e-bikes varies between 10 and 40 miles depending on how much a rider pedals, model and battery size. Prices have been falling and generally run between $1,000 and $5,000 for quality models.
E-bikes handle similar to a regular bike, but they weigh more, typically around 50 pounds. They are popular with people with physical limitations and older cyclists who want to continue to enjoy cycling, but need a boost. Even some hunters like them because they are quiet and access the backcountry roads well.
Pete Eschallier, of Kokopelli Bike and Board in Cortez, said the shop recently began carrying an e-commuter bike model, and plans to start offering an e-mountain bike version.
He said they have already sold a few e-bikes. One buyer uses it to commute; another wanted to be able to keep up with his more athletic wife on bike rides.
“They offer another cycling opportunity,” he said. “They get more people on a bike exercising outdoors who might not have otherwise.”