There are 419 national parks in the U.S., and that number includes everything from Yellowstone to Yosemite. An electric bicycle allows you to enjoy these parks in all their majesty without excessive exertion, but there were laws in place that restricted e-bike usage on cycling paths. A new policy lifts this restriction.
- The new policy reclassifies e-bikes in a way that places them in the same category as pedal bicycles.
- Thanks to this new policy, e-bikes may now be operated on the same trails used by pedal bicycles.
- However, the policy places certain limitations on the way in which these bikes can be operated when ridden on cycling trails.
Previously, e-bikes were mostly relegated to trails used by dirt bikes and motorcycles. This policy expands your opportunities if you’re looking to use one of these bikes to explore a national park.
Now you can tackle our national park system’s cycling trails via e-bike. (Photo: Janko Ferlic/Pexels)
No more class division
The new policy allows Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes to be used on cycling trails. A Class 1 bike can reach speeds of up to 20 mph, and its motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling. A Class 2 bike has the same top speed, but its motor can be used to motivate the bicycle without pedaling. A Class 3 bike can cruise at speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, and its motor can be used only when the rider is working the pedals. Prior to this new policy, e-bikes were banned from cycling trails, though Class 1 bikes were permitted in certain areas.
On cycling trails, the bike’s electric motor may only be used to support the rider when pedaling. The policy forbids riders from using the motor to power the bike independently.
Both sides of a thorny debate
This policy change by the National Park Service has been controversial. The officials at that organization point out that the move will make cycling trails accessible to those with limited mobility, as well as those who may not be fit enough to operate a pedal bike. E-bikes are zero-emissions vehicles, so they tread lightly on the environment. Park officials note that by encouraging the usage of e-bikes, this new policy has the potential to reduce traffic congestion and diminish the demand for vehicle parking spaces.
Those who are opposed to the policy say that allowing e-bikes on cycling trails could create safety issues. They also assert that this move could compromise the long-term sustainability of the trails.
WHY THIS MATTERS
E-bike sales were up 78 percent in 2018, according to Bicycle Retailer. More and more consumers are choosing to use these bikes as a key form of transportation. Finding a place for them among our laws and policies isn’t always going to be a smooth or easy process. However, it’s a necessary rite of passage as e-bikes grow in popularity.