The U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service clarified its position regarding riding electric bikes in national parks in a memorandum released August 30, 2019.
“E-bikes are allowed where traditional bicycles are allowed,” the National Park Service (NPS) wrote.
National Parks Open to Electric Bikes
With the release of this memorandum, electric bike riders know with certainty that they may use their e-bikes for recreation or transportation in U.S. national parks.
In fact, electric bikes will be treated in the same way as conventional bicycles. Thus, if a traditional bicycle may be ridden on a given trail, an electric bicycle is permitted too.
In the same way, if a traditional bicycle is not allowed — in a wilderness area for example — an electric bike is also prohibited. All national park superintendents will now treat electric bikes just like traditional bicycles.
“Bicycling is an excellent way for visitors to Federal lands to experience America's rich natural heritage,” wrote David Bernhardt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. “Bicycling has been popular in America since the early nineteenth century. Since then, innovation in the design and production of bicycles has dramatically increased mechanical efficiency, opening bicycling to a greater number of people in a larger number of environmental and geographical conditions.”
“A relatively recent addition to the design of some bicycles is a small electric motor which can provide an electric power assist to the operation of the bicycle. Reducing the physical demand to operate a bicycle has expanded access to recreational opportunities.”
The NPS memo said that the organization would use existing federal guidelines to define electric bicycles.
Electric Bike Benefits
“As more Americans are using e-bikes to enjoy the great outdoors, national parks should be responsive to visitors’ interest in using this new technology wherever it is safe and appropriate to do so,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. Electric bikes “make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience, especially at high altitudes or in hilly or strenuous terrain.”
Smith’s comment supports what many in the electric bike industry have been saying for sometime. Specifically, e-bikes are levelers that allow more rides, especially baby boomers, to enjoy bicycling and its numerous health benefits.
“Electric bikes offer riders a high degree of control over the level of physical exertion required to ride, making them particularly helpful for anybody who would like to become more fit, but who may need to gradually and carefully ease into increased physical activity,” wrote Boris Mordkovich and Yevgeniy Mordkovich in chapter three of The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.
Furthermore, electric bicycles have been shown to have many health benefits, including:
- Improved cardiovascular performance,
- Lower risk of type-2 diabetes,
- Improved brain function,
- Encourage weight loss,
- Increase longevity.
Healthy Parks Healthy PeopleThe NPS also said allowing electric bikes was consistent with its Healthy Parks Healthy People program that “aims to bring about lasting change in American’s lifestyle choices and their relationship with nature and the outdoors.” Specifically, permitting e-bikes to be used in national parks would:
- “Increase bicycle access to and within parks,”
- “Expand the option of bicycling to more people,”
- “Mitigate environmental impacts” when visitors use e-bikes instead of gas-powered vehicles.
“E-bikes advance Healthy Parks Healthy People goals to promote parks as a health resource by supporting a healthy park experience that is accessible, desirable, and relatable to people of all abilities, and by minimizing human impact through the expansion of active transportation options in parks,” the NPS memorandum said.