BLM opens up trails to electric bikes

Still prohibited on Forest Service lands

By Kristy Acuff

Biking on local and regional BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land got a bit easier on August 29 as the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, signed an order allowing electric bikes on BLM land and in national parks.

You may start seeing electric bikes (e-bikes) on trails in Hartman’s Rocks and on trails around nearby Fruita or Phil’s World on BLM lands. Prior to the August 29 decision, the BLM regulated electric bikes as OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles) and consequently restricted their use. The new policy lifts those restrictions.

Much of the biking in and around Crested Butte is on Forest Service lands that currently do not allow e-bikes. USFS District ranger Matt McCombs of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, Gunnison Ranger District says the USFS has no foreseeable plans to change those restrictions.

“The BLM has been considering how e-bikes fit into current recreation opportunities on public lands for some time,” says BLM public affairs specialist Brant Porter. “Prior to this, e-bikes were managed as OHVs. This new policy modernizes rules that did not specifically address e-bikes.”

The impacts of the new policy will be minimal and mostly beneficial, according to the BLM. E-bikes are quiet and emissions-free during use, so the difference between them and traditional bikes will be minimal, according to Porter.

He concedes that the new policy could lead to an increase in trail use, parking issues at trailheads and e-bike riders “outstretching their abilities and getting onto more difficult or more distant terrain than they may have been able to reach on a traditional bike.”

But Porter points out that this new policy will also “increase opportunities on public lands to riders who have limitations with regard to physical fitness, age, disability or convenience and would benefit from the help offered by e-bikes. These benefits would be especially beneficial to these users in steep terrain and at high altitudes.”

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