The National Park Service (NPS) is currently seeking input on a programmatic environment assessment (PEA) that will evaluate potential impacts of electric bicycle (e-bike) use in national parks. The comment period is running until July 21.
“E-bikes can have many benefits for parks and visitors including making travel easier, expanding access for those with physical limitations, and providing healthy recreation opportunities,” the NPS stated in a press release. “At the same time, the NPS must manage this emerging form of access and recreation, like others that occur in park areas, in a manner that protects park resources, values, and visitors.”
According to REI, most bike manufacturers define e-bikes as low-speed bicycles with fully operational pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. Though there are many types of e-bikes, most either have pedal assist, which is where the motor senses the rider is pedaling and pushes power based on speed, or a throttle button that will assist the bike even when the rider is not pedaling.
“[E-bikes] are a lot of fun, and just one of the many options you have when choosing your two-wheel ride,” REI states on their website. “You can ride farther and faster on e-bikes, carry heavier loads with less effort or even help replace a car as transportation for short trips or commutes.”
With the popularity of e-bikes growing, the purpose of the PEA is to evaluate the potential impacts of riding on natural and cultural resources, visitor use and experience, and wildlife on a national scale under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). E-bikes are currently authorized in parks where other bicycles are allowed, though public lands that are designated “wilderness areas” are still off-limits to all bikes, including e-bikes.
People can provide their input at the NPS website here: parkplaning.nps.gov
Cover Photo: Fall colors in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Courtesy of Getty Images.