Electric Bicycles (e-bikes) in National Parks

View looking through trees at three people riding orange e-bikes
The new e-bike policy will expand recreational opportunities and accessibility.

Jordan Rosen Photography

On August 30, the National Park Service announced a new electric bicycle (e-bike) policy for national parks, expanding recreational opportunities and accessibility. The policy supports Secretary’s Order 3376 (PDF), signed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on August 29, that directs Department of the Interior (DOI) bureaus to create a clear and consistent e-bike policy on all federal lands managed by the department. The policy also supports Secretary’s Order 3366 (PDF) to increase recreational opportunities on public lands.

This new policy will enhance fun and healthy recreational opportunities for visitors to our national parks and support active transportation options.

  • E-bikes make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, because they allow bicyclists to travel farther with less effort.
  • E-bikes provide expanded options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience.
  • When used as an alternative to gasoline- or diesel-powered modes of transportation, e-bikes can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption, improve air quality, and support active modes of transportation for park staff and visitors.
  • Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes can decrease traffic congestion, reduce the demand for vehicle parking spaces, and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road.

Parks will implement the new policy before the next 30 days, so be sure to check with the park you’re visiting for details about where e-bikes are permitted and any other considerations specific to that park. Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes are not allowed in designated wilderness areas. During the implementation period, park superintendents will work with their local communities, staff, and partners to determine best practices and guidance for e-bike use in their parks. Superintendents will retain the right to limit, restrict, or impose conditions of bicycle use to ensure visitor safety and resource protection. Read the frequently asked questions below for more information about the policy.

Safety

When riding e-bikes in national parks, follow all applicable regulations and be aware of these special safety considerations:

  • Mount and dismount the bike carefully. The added weight of the battery and motor assist technology can add 20 or more pounds to the weight of the bike.
  • Make yourself visible. Wear bright-colored and reflective clothes.
  • Wear a helmet while riding.
  • Obey speed limits. Some e-bikes may exceed park speed limits with the motor engaged.
  • Pay attention to traffic. Drivers may not be aware that an e-bike rider is traveling close to their speed.
  • Slow down at intersections. Make eye contact with other drivers before crossing the intersection.

A copy of the National Park Service’s new e-bike policy is available.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. The policy memorandum only applies to e-bikes, which are defined in the policy memorandum as two- or three- wheeled cycles with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.) that provides propulsion assistance. The policy memorandum does not address other devices with electric motors.
National Park Service (NPS) regulations do not directly address the use of e-bikes within the National Park System. NPS regulations address the use of vehicles and bicycles, but those regulations do not apply to the use of e-bikes.
Yes. Many states have adopted laws and policies that group e-bikes into one of three classes. Class 1 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes have a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. Class 3 e-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph. The policy memorandum does not distinguish between an e-bike and an eMTB.
Yes. The intent of the policy memorandum is to allow visitors to use e-bikes for transportation and recreation in a similar manner to traditional bicycles. As a result, the policy memorandum prohibits using the motor to propel an e-bike without pedaling except in locations that are open to public motor vehicle use. Under the class system described above, this restriction applies to class 2 e-bikes only.
No. E-bikes are allowed only where traditional bicycles are allowed. If superintendents follow the processes established in paragraphs (b), (d), and (e) of 36 CFR 4.30 to allow traditional bicycles in a location, then e-bikes may also be used there under the policy memorandum.
No. NPS regulations prohibit the possession of traditional bicycles in wilderness areas established by federal statute. 36 CFR 4.30(h)(2). E-bikes are limited to locations where traditional bicycles are allowed and are similarly prohibited in wilderness areas by the policy memorandum.
Yes. Superintendents may restrict or impose conditions upon the use of e-bikes, or close locations to the use of e-bikes, after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives. If warranted by these criteria, superintendents may manage e-bikes, or particular classes of e-bikes, differently than traditional bicycles in particular locations. For example, a superintendent could determine that a trail open to traditional bicycles should not be open to e-bikes, or should be open to class-1 e-bikes only.
The policy memorandum provides superintendents with 30 days to implement these management actions and superintendents are encouraged to use this time to engage with stakeholders and visitors so that they understand where e-bikes will be allowed. Superintendents are encouraged to engage with the public prior to implementing the policy memorandum so that superintendents and park staff can better understand potential impacts to resources and visitors, support for, and controversy associated with, allowing e-bikes where traditional bicycles are allowed. The Secretary’s Order also directs the National Park Service to develop a proposed rule to revise regulations associated with bicycle use. Public comment will be sought during that rulemaking process.
Licensing and operational requirements imposed by state law are focused on issues such as safety (e.g., helmet and age requirements), registration, and insurance. The policy memorandum directs superintendents to adopt state law governing the use of e-bikes for any purpose except as specifically addressed in the compendium. This means that state law does not govern where e-bikes are allowed in NPS units because this issue is addressed by the management actions required by the policy memorandum. More information about e-bikes, including information about state laws, is maintained by the organization People for Bikes.
.
E-bikes are a new and emerging technology that has gained wider adoption over the past several years. Research on the likelihood and severity of e-bike crashes is limited at this time. There is recognition that more research is required to gain a clearer understanding of the differences, if any, between the use of e-bikes and traditional bicycles.

The National Park Service Active Transportation Guidebook: A Resource on Supporting Walking and Bicycling for National Parks and their Partners (PDF) is a useful resource to support parks, gateway communities, and partners who are interested in pursuing opportunities to enhance walking and bicycling to and within national parks. The guidebook provides key information, best practice examples, and numerous useful resources to help inspire and guide efforts that would allow visitors to experience their natural, cultural and historical places in new ways—through active transportation.

Active transportation, including cycling, walking and other forms of human-powered transportation, provides a broad range of benefits to parks and surrounding communities. This includes solutions for managing vehicle congestion, promoting resource preservation, and accommodating increased visitation by providing alternatives to driving. The guidebook covers a number of topics from planning and developing infrastructure, such as pedestrian pathways and bike lanes, to evaluating and improving safety for active transportation modes, to offering activities and programs that provide park visitors the opportunity explore national parks by foot, bicycle, or other nonmotorized means.

Last updated: September 6, 2019