E-Bikes Can Continue to Ride on Forest Service Roads and Trails
More Trails Could Open to Electric Bikes in the Future
The US Forest Service has issued updated guidance for the use of e-bikes on trails in national forests and grasslands. The organization has allowed electric bicycles on specific trails for several years and recently announced that it would continue that practice. More importantly, it has created a set of guidelines for potentially expanding that selection of trails in the future.
Currently, e-bikes are allowed on all Forest Service roads that are already approved for the use of motorized vehicles. An additional 60,000 miles of motorized trails have also been approved, representing 38% of all of the trails the agency oversees. In total, the FS manages more than 160,000 miles of trail across 42 states and Puerto Rico.
At the end of March, the agency released new internal guidance to assist regional Forest Service employees who may be considering opening new trails for e-bike riders. That guidance provides essential information for evaluating the environmental impact of those bikes, along with detailed instructions for allowing for public input.
Allowing e-bikes on trails located on public lands has been somewhat controversial. Opponents of that decision argue that e-bikes cause damage to the trails and increase erosion, despite studies to the contrary. Research has shown that electric mountain bikes have a similar level of impact as traditional bikes and far less than motorcycles and ATVs. Still, the Forest Service has taken a cautious approach to approving more trails, although this new guidance may change that.
“National forests and grasslands are a place for all people to recreate, relax and refresh,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore in a press release. “The additional guidance will help our district rangers, and forest supervisors better serve their communities with a policy that allows managers to make locally based decisions to address e-bike use. This growing recreational activity is another opportunity to responsibly share the experience of the outdoors with other recreationists.”
In addition to allowing e-bikes, many Forest Service trails also accommodate horseback riding, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. At various times in the past, those activities were all viewed as potentially harmful to trails. However, research and proper management have shown that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Hiking and backpacking remain the most popular activities in national forests and grasslands.
For further information on the Forest Service’s e-bike policies, visit the agency’s website. If you have any thoughts or concerns to share, reach out to your local national forest or grassland.