Reclamation creating more opportunities to recreate on public lands


The Bureau of Reclamation announced guidance to implement Secretary’s Order 3376, Increasing Recreational Opportunities through the use of Electric Bikes. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the order in late August to increase recreation opportunities for all Americans, especially those with physical limitations, and to encourage the enjoyment of lands and waters managed by Interior. 

Secretary’s Order 3376 directs Department of the Interior (DOI) bureaus to begin the longer term process of obtaining public input on new regulations that will clarify that low-speed e-bikes should enjoy the same access as conventional bicycles, consistent with other federal and state laws. Public land managers will have the ability in the short term to utilize the flexibility they have under current regulations to accommodate this new technology that assists riders as they pedal in a way that allows them to enjoy the bicycling experience.

The guidance will enable visitors to use these bicycles with a small electric motor (less than 1 horsepower) power assist in the same manner as traditional bicycles. The operator of an e-bike may only use the small electric motor to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic. 

“Since many of Reclamation’s recreation areas are managed by non-federal partners, Reclamation will work closely with its partners and seek input on new regulations that will clarify that low-speed e-bikes should enjoy the same access as conventional bicycles,” said Reclamation's Acting Director of Policy and Administration Karl Stock. “In addition, Reclamation will be coordinating with our managing partners to explore opportunities for additional access to give our patrons the best possible experience.”

A majority of states have adopted e-bike policies, most following model legislation that allows for the three classes of e-bikes to have access to bicycle trails. The Department of the Interior e-bike guidance seeks to provide consistency with the state and local rules where possible.

Bureau of Reclamation will permit visitors to use low-speed e-bikes on Reclamation roads, trails and designated areas where traditional bikes are allowed.

Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes are not allowed in designated wilderness areas and may not be appropriate for back-country trails. The focus of the Department of the Interior’s guidance is on expanding the traditional bicycling experience to those who enjoy the reduction of effort provided by this new e-bike technology.  Park superintendents and local refuge and land managers will limit, restrict, or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use where necessary to manage visitor use conflicts and ensure visitor safety and resource protection.

E-bikes make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, because they allow bicyclists to travel farther with less effort. 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 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.