BLM Final E-bike Rule - Questions and Answers
What is an electric bicycle, or e-bike?
The BLM’s rule defines an e-bike as a bicycle with a small electric motor of not more than 750 watts (one horsepower) which assists in the operation of the bicycle and reduces the physical exertion demands on the rider. E-bikes may have two or three wheels and must have fully operable pedals. Some e-bikes only provide motorized assistance when the rider is pedaling; others can operate without pedaling. Some e-bikes cease to provide motorized assistance to the rider when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour (mph). Others cease to provide motorized assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph E-bikes may appear virtually indistinguishable from traditional bicycles.
What is the difference between the classes of e-bikes?
Class 1 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
Class 2 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
Class 3 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph.
Why has the BLM amended its regulations?
For some time, the BLM has been considering how e-bikes fit into current recreational opportunities on public lands. The popularity of e-bikes is increasing significantly—bicycle industry statistics show that e-bikes are currently the fastest growing bicycle type in the market with e-bike sales totaling $77.1 million in 2017, up 91% from 2016, and with sales of e-bikes growing more than eight-fold since 2014. Considering their growing popularity, the BLM has determined that additional administrative tools are necessary to regulate e-bikes appropriately. This rule will provide authorized officers with greater flexibility to manage e-bikes in the future and an additional way to achieve greater consistency with adjacent land managers and other State and Federal agencies.
What does the rule do?
The rule amends 43 CFR 8340.0-5 to define e-bikes, which are limited to Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes.
The rule provides that authorized officers may authorize, through subsequent land-use planning or implementation-level decisions, the use of Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes on non-motorized roads and trails.
The rule provides managers the ability to exclude e-bikes that meet certain criteria from the definition of off-road vehicle (otherwise known as an off-highway vehicle (OHV)) at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a).
The rule, however, does not result in any immediate on-the-ground changes or site-specific allowances for e-bike usage on BLM-administered public lands. In other words, the rule does not, by itself, open any non-motorized trails to e-bike use. Before any on-the-ground changes can occur, an authorized officer must issue a land use planning or implementation -level decision that complies with NEPA and other applicable legal requirements.
What public lands are affected?
While the rule does not directly affect any specific BLM lands, it will apply to all BLM- managed public lands once it takes effect. The rule provides that authorized officers may allow e-bike use on roads and trails where a traditional, non-motorized bicycle is allowed through subsequent land-use planning and implementation-level decisions.
How do I know which trails are open to e-bikes?
BLM-managed public lands offer many opportunities for riding e-bikes. Currently, e-bikes are allowed on all roads and trails open to OHV use and in all area designated as OHV open under applicable land use plans. E-bikes are allowed on roads and trails limited to bicycles and non-motorized travel ONLY IF a BLM Manager has issued a written decision authorizing e-bike use in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The following links are provided for additional information on where to ride:
- Motorized areas and trails
- Contact your local BLM office for more information.
Are e-bikes allowed to be used to travel cross-country (e.g. not on a road or trail) on BLM managed lands as a result of the BLM’s e-bike rule?
Unless specifically authorized by the authorized officer, e-bikes may be used to travel cross-country only in areas designated OHV open under 43 CFR 8342.1 in the applicable land use plan. In all other situations, e-bikes must remain on marked and designated trails and comply with all trail restrictions.
Does this rule apply to other e-vehicles such as e-scooters, e-skateboards, e-game carts, e-bikes outside of Class 1, 2 and 3, etc.?
This rule applies only to Class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes (as defined in the rule). It does not apply to any other types of electric vehicles, all of which the BLM will continue to manage as OHVs under its regulations at 43 CFR Part 8340. This includes e-bikes that provide assistance at speeds above 28 mph or wattage of greater than 750.
What steps need to occur for e-bike use to be allowed on a trail?
Authorized officers must issue applicable site-specific land use plan or implementation level decisions before e-bikes can be used on any road or trail that is not currently open to OHV use. The BLM will issue those decisions in accordance with applicable law, including NEPA.
How will the BLM coordinate with other agencies to provide e-bike opportunities?
Management of roads and trails crossing multiple jurisdictions will be coordinated with the appropriate Tribal, Federal, State, County, and local governmental entities to provide continuity of recreation experiences.
What are the “Rules of the Trail” when riding an e-bike?
Trail etiquette is the same for e-bikes as it is for traditional bikes. Trail etiquette practices are based on a general concept of consideration of other trail users, and protection of the trail and surrounding natural resources. Key concepts include:
- following any posted trail rules such as speed limits, directional travel, or yielding suggestions
- protecting the trail by staying off of the trail during wet or muddy conditions
- openly communicating with other trail users with typical communication devices such as calm voice and non-obtrusive bells
- use of helmets and personal audio devices that allow you to hear other trail users and wildlife
- using passing techniques that are considerate of other trail users and that do not result in trail widening
- ride in group numbers that do not negatively impact other trail users experience
How can I become involved?
- Join a bike club! BLM recognizes that “all trails are local” and that local clubs help BLM connect with local communities. Many bike clubs help the BLM provide trail opportunities by volunteering with trail construction assistance, providing education, and many other ways.
- Participate in travel planning and NEPA! Participate at the local level as e-bike opportunities are considered in your area. Your feedback is important to help the BLM make informed decisions.
- Understand and help others understand trail etiquette! It takes all of us to help protect our riding opportunities. Announcing yourself and yielding are a couple of great ways to make new trail friends!
How do I find more information about e-bike use on public lands?