National Parks’ Illegal, Ill-Considered Rush to E-Bikes  

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For Immediate Release:  Monday, June 8, 2020
Contact:  Kirsten Stade; Peter Jenkins (301) 500-4383

Hurried Push to Finalize Regulation Amidst Pandemic Aims to Block Lawsuit


Washington, DC — Caught with its pants down, the Trump administration is now scrambling to finalize a regulation to shore up its unauthorized order allowing electric bicycles on national park trails.  This after-the-fact regulatory maneuver is itself illegal and will put both park visitors and wildlife at risk, according to comments filed by a coalition led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which is also suing to keep e-bikes off park trails.

Last year, PEER uncovered and pushed the disbanding of an illegal industry lobbying effort called the “E-bike Partner and Agency Group” whose efforts generated a directive from the National Park Service (NPS) opening national park trails to e-bikes on the same basis as human-powered bicycles.  The PEER coalition sued to overturn that directive on several grounds, including that the order was contrary to the NPS’s own regulations.

In April with much of the country closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NPS unveiled its proposed rewrite to cure this regulatory defect. With today marking the end of the public  comment period, PEER and its co-plaintiffs contend that the proposal has several defects including it –

  • Is still illegal in that it fails to do the analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the consultation mandated under the Endangered Species Act;
  • Ignores studies showing more serious accidents on trails where e-bikes are allowed and ignores dangerous conflicts with other users such as senior citizens and horseback riders; and
  • Would put fast, mechanized transport deep into park backcountry, disturbing other users and wildlife and adding to an already massive backlog of unfunded trail maintenance needs.

“Once again, the Park Service is leaping before it took a careful look at the consequences,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, noting that the NPS claims this nationwide policy shift is only a “minor change” meriting a “categorical exclusion” from NEPA review. “The Park Service has not even evaluated the design adequacy of its current bicycle/pedestrian trails to see whether they can safely accommodate the faster e-bikes.”

E-bikes will become the fastest transportation mode in backcountry areas. Some e-bike models are much larger than regular bicycles and readily tow trailers. Significantly, the proposal will force park rangers to cope with unenforceable rules, such as somehow ticketing riders who just use their electric motors without pedaling. The proposal ignores that coasting and freewheeling are normal riding practices.

“This proposal rests on the false premise that motor-powered e-bikes are basically the same as pedaled bicycles,” Jenkins added, pointing to industry estimates that the motor typically provides up to four times the power of the human pedaling.  “Setting this slippery-slope precedent will invite other lobbyists to push to add Segways, electric skateboards, electric scooters, mopeds, hoverboards, and motorized three-wheelers onto our national parks trails.”


Read the PEER comments

See the PEER lawsuit and coalition partners

Look at illegal lobbying that led to e-bike rule

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