E-bikes and Mountain Bicycles on USDA Forest Service Land
Fully Rigid, 4/15/22
Two weeks ago, the USDA Forest Service released its statement on e-bikes. In a nutshell, the highlights are the following:
Local/regional decision-making is given precedence. Public land managers where you bike will be the ones, primarily, making the decisions on where you ride your bike on those lands.
E-bikes and mountain bicycles are not the same thing.
E-bikes, under the new guidance, can only be ridden on roads/trails that are authorized for motor bikes/vehicles. Otherwise, e-bikes are not allowed on trails, unless specific decisions have been made to allow e-bikes on a trail.
New guidelines here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/visit/e-bikes
Something to consider:
Up in Downieville, it appears there is a new effort to make that region an e-bike destination:
While in Sedona, I saw plenty of signs clearly indicating that e-bikes were not permitted on some trails. I saw plenty of e-bikes on those trails.
While volunteering at San Diego’s fundraiser Arch Ride, I witnessed an e-biker bump into/cut off a non-e-biker on single track in the final 20 feet of an uphill climb as he “hammered” his way to the finish line. He kept going and everyone standing around shook their heads in disbelief at what just happened. People were upset. It only takes one person to ruin it for everyone else.
While riding the other day, I was climbing up a trail and outta nowhere, I heard jingling bells coming up behind me. I knew without looking they were on e-bikes. I debated: go super slow and put my elbows way out, not allowing them to pass, or put my head down and flip a gear to pull away as another kind of statement. I chose the latter. Then I swooped and sliced my way down to a trail junction. 10-20 seconds later, they arrived to the junction where I decided to have some grub and the lead guy standing over his e-bike said the following:
Good job! You set a nice pace!
My response: ( )
There appears to be a slippery slope in the policy. Good luck land managers. How does a land manager actually regulate an e-bike on the trail? How do local jurisdictions craft new policy that explicitly allows e-bikes but not other motorized vehicles, when current policy says e-bikes can go where motorized vehicles can go?
Conflict between user groups on trails has a long history. We now have a new user group on the trail. It is clear and obvious when talking to people and when reading through online forums, there is a division that exists between e-bikers and non-e-bikers.
I’ll use this space as a call to all mountain bikers of yesteryore who are now e-bikers. You know the history. You know trail etiquette. You know the challenges that are ahead us. The way I see it, if you used to ride non-e-mountain bikes and now ride an e-bike, you are in a unique and powerful position to educate all e-bikers who ride those e-bikes on trails on how to be respectful of all trail users.
Rule #1: do NOT try to pass someone on a mountain bicycle while they are on a climb. Sit back and wait until they are done the climb.