Electric bikes are gaining traction – The Sopris Sun

In late March, the US Forest Service announced finalized guidelines for districts looking to expand the use of e-bikes on its trails in the future.

E-bikes are currently allowed on all Forest Service roads and 60,000 miles of motorized accessible trails, which represent 38 percent of the agency’s total managed trails. The finalized policy, released on March 31, allows the continued use of e-bikes on trails already designated for motorized vehicles and “sets out a process to assess future requests for expanded access,” according to a recent press release from the company. ‘agency.

“This is a national policy developed by our Washington office to provide clarity and guidance to local units across the United States,” said David Boyd, public affairs manager for the White River National Forest ( WRNF). “The directive clarifies the definition of an e-bike and identifies e-bikes under three classes of motor vehicle.”

Class 1 e-bikes have a motor that runs only when the rider is pedaling and shuts off after reaching 20 miles per hour (mph); class two e-bikes don’t need to pedal for the motor to run, but still shut it off at 20 mph; class three e-bikes require pedaling for the motor to run, but it cuts out at 28 mph.

“E-bikes are currently permitted in our summer travel management on roads and trails open to motorized vehicles,” Boyd clarified. But, he added, e-bikes are not currently permitted on any WRNF trails designated for non-motorized use.

However, this could change through a process of public land use management change. “Currently there are no proposals or plans to change the management of e-bikes on the WRNF,” Boyd said. “Potential changes related to e-bikes would be similar to any other potential land use management change in which we would coordinate closely with partners and stakeholders and involve the public.”

He clarified that such a process would also involve “a certain level of environmental analysis under the NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act].”

An environmental advocate’s perspective

“We haven’t been following Forest Service policy closely because, overall, the agency has correctly classified e-bikes as motorized vehicles,” said Juli Slivka, director of policy at Wilderness Workshop ( WW), at the Sopris Sun.

WW is a non-profit organization based in Carbondale with a mission “to protect and conserve the wilderness and natural landscapes of the Roaring Fork watershed, White River National Forest and adjacent public lands”.

WW’s Director of Policy appreciates that under current policy, in order for e-bikes to be permitted on a non-motorized trail, “the agency must comply with its Travel Management Rule…which requires an analysis of environmental impact and public participation so that trails can be sited to avoid conflict with wildlife and other resources.

She added that the organization has “been much more engaged with BLM [Bureau of Land Management] e-bike policy, which seeks to classify e-bikes as non-motorized vehicles, thereby circumventing meaningful analysis. In 2019, the Department of the Interior, under former President Donald Trump, issued Secretary’s Order 3376 “for the purpose of creating recreational opportunities through the use of e-bikes,” it reads. the BLM website.

At Slivka’s point, the BLM website further states that “BLM rule defines an e-bike as a bicycle with a small electric motor of no more than 750 watts (one horsepower) that assists in the operation of the bicycle and reduces physical effort. rider requirements.

Nonetheless, proposed use of e-bikes on any non-motorized BLM trails must be approved by an authorized officer “through subsequent land use planning and enforcement decisions,” its website reads.

In 2020, the BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office decided to allow Class 1 e-bikes on the trails of the Great Hogback, six miles north of Rifle.

“Have been [WW] advocating for the BLM to revise its e-bike policy to ensure that e-bike trails are sited appropriately, which requires acknowledging that they are motorized vehicles and analyzing their impacts in consequence,” Slivka said.

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