Last summer, the Ministry of the Interior signed a policy authorizing access to low-speed electric bikes (e-bikes) in national parks, providing them with the same rules and regulations as for non-motorized bicycles. Naturally, in recent months there has been much debate about whether this is a good idea.
On Thursday, public environmental responsibility officials (PEER) – along with Wilderness Watch, Marina Conservation League, Western Marina Environmental Protection Committee and Save Our Seashore – have filed a lawsuit to overturn a National Park Service (NPS) permitting electric bicycles to national parks, stating that "violates several federal laws."
Back in August, Secretary of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt decided that all internal affairs agencies (including the National Park Service) immediately authorize electronic bikes "where other types of bikes are permitted." There are currently approximately 40 national parks authorized for public use motorbikes, but they are almost exclusively limited by dirt roads or a small number of single track routes, according to BIKE magazine. (Moreover, bicycles were only allowed in some parks in 2010).
The latest PEER lawsuit presents several legal barriers to an NPS ruling. He violated his own NPS rules, avoided conducting a legal examination, and reportedly came from an official who did not have the authority to issue such an order.
“This order for e-bikes illustrates the wrong and destructive way to manage our national parks,” said PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse in a press release. “Interested groups and individuals join PEER with the requirement that the Park Service follow normal regulatory processes and evaluate the additional impacts that riders on high-speed e-bikes have on other track users as well as wildlife in parks."
The federal definition for e-bikes used in the Consumer Product Safety Act is: “… a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully-functioning pedals and an electric motor with a power of less than 750 W (1 hp), whose maximum speed is on a flat, even surface when driven powered exclusively by such an engine, when an operator weighing 170 pounds drives it, is less than 20 miles per hour, ”says BIKE. This includes class 1, 2, and 3 electric bikes. Class 1 means a pedal-only engine without a throttle that will stop offering assistance at 20 mph or less (this includes most electronic mountain bikes). Class 2 has a throttle, but other than that, it's basically the same bike as Class 1. There is no throttle on Class 3, and the engine will run at 20 to 28 mph.
However, the main idea of access to e-bikes in national parks is to provide wider access in all parks for older people or people with disabilities, as well as provide an alternative to cars. “This policy expands opportunities for entertainment and healthy relaxation for visitors to our national parks and supports active transportation options,” said Mike Litterst, head of public relations and chief representative of NPS.
On the other hand, according to BIKE, some people fear that if electronic bikes and non-motorized bikes are classified according to the same definition, if problems with electronic bikes have ever occurred and, as it turned out, have interfered with national parks, the result could would theoretically be a loss of access to all bicycles.
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