Electric Bicycles (e-bikes) in National Parks

Two men pose with red bikes on treeless mountain trail
The new e-bike policy expands recreational opportunities and accessibility.

Photo courtesy of the Sheldon family

The National Park Service (NPS) final regulation governing the use of e-bikes in units of the National Park System published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2020, and will become effective on December 2, 2020. This final rule publication also includes the comment summaries and responses as part of the preamble. View the final regulations on the Federal Register.

As e-bikes become more popular both on and off NPS-managed lands, the NPS recognized the need to address this emerging form of recreation and active transportation in its regulations. The intent of this action is to address an emerging technology in a manner that accommodates visitors and increases opportunities for the public to recreate within and travel through the National Park System, while at the same time protecting the resources and values that draw millions of visitors each year.

The regulation defines the term “electric bicycle” and authorize superintendents to allow e-bikes, where appropriate, on roads and trails where traditional bicycles are also allowed. Read the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information about the rule.

The final regulation supports Secretary’s Order 3376 (1.52MB PDF), signed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on August 29, 2019, that directs Department of the Interior (DOI) bureaus to revise their regulations to define the term electric bicycle and expressly exempt e-bikes from the definition of motor vehicle. The final regulation also supports Secretary’s Order 3366 (93.3KB PDF) by increasing recreational opportunities on public lands.
The final regulations enhances fun and healthy recreational opportunities for visitors to national parks and supports 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 demand for vehicle parking spaces, and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road.

Local communities, NPS staff, and partners continue to work together to determine best practices and guidance for e-bike use in parks. Superintendents retain the right to limit, restrict, or impose conditions on e-bike use to ensure visitor safety and resource protection. Be sure to check with the park you are visiting for details about where e-bikes are allowed and any other rules that apply to their use. As with traditional bicycles, e-bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas.

Safety

When riding e-bikes in national parks, follow all applicable rules for the park and the local jurisdiction. This may include organized group size restrictions, permitting requirements, local helmet laws, sharing the road and more. In addition, be aware of these important safety considerations:

  • Mount and dismount the e-bike carefully. The weight of the battery and motor assist technology can add 20 or more pounds to the weight of the bike.

  • Ensure you have and wear proper bicycle safety equipment (e.g., a helmet, brightly colored and reflective clothing, and bicycle lighting)

  • Carry route maps and be familiar with relevant park information.

  • Know where to bike safely and where biking may NOT be allowed.

  • Obey all rules of the road and the trails, including observing stop signs and speed limits.

  • Pay attention to vehicle traffic and other users of the pathway.

  • Check with park staff to know when to avoid high volumes of traffic and trail users. Slow down at intersections. Make eye contact with other drivers before crossing intersections.

  • Use the NPS Trip Planning Guide and Checklist to help plan your trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

The regulation defines electric bicycle to mean a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of not more than 750 watts The regulation establishes a three-class system to differentiate between the models and top assisted speeds of e-bikes.

• 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.

Superintendents may authorize the use of e-bikes that fall within any of these classes.
Superintendents may manage particular classes of e-bikes differently. For example, a superintendent may open a particular road or trail to Class-1 e-bikes only, or may allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes but not Class 3.
No. The regulation only applies to e-bikes and does not address other devices with electric motors.
Yes. The intent of the regulation is to allow visitors to use e-bikes for transportation and recreation in a manner similar to traditional bicycles. As a result, the regulations prohibit operators of Class 2 e-bikes from exlusively using the motor to propel the e-bike for an extended period of time without pedaling, except in locations that are open to public motor vehicle use.
No. E-bikes may be allowed only where traditional bicycles are also allowed.
No. Under Federal statute, both traditional bikes and e-bikes are prohibited in wilderness areas.
Yes. The superintendent 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.
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 regulation adopts state law governing the use of e-bikes for any purpose except as specifically addressed in the NPS regulations. For example, state law does not determine the locations where e-bikes are allowed in park areas because the NPS regulations give this authority to the superintendents. Adequate public notice and community outreach will mitigate the potential for confusion in situations where the rules of e-bikes in park areas are different than the rules in adjacent or nearby state lands. More information about state laws regarding e-bikes is maintained by the organization People for Bikes.
E-bikes are an emerging technology that has become more popular 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.
Before visiting an NPS unit, visitors are encouraged to check the park website to find out what areas of the park are accessible, what activities are available, and which facilities are open. Upon arrival, visitors can obtain additional information at the Visitor Center or a Ranger Station.
The National Park Service Active Transportation Guidebook: A Resource on Supporting Walking and Bicycling for National Parks and their Partners (36.6MB 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.