How this US access law change could radically change the e-MTB market

Electric mountain bikes permitted on cycling routes in the USA

e-MTB access on US Federal Land

A recent change in ruling on electric bike access in the USA radically changes where e-bikes can be ridden in the Land of the Free.

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Order 3376, “Increasing Recreational Opportunities through the use of Electric Bikes”, was issued by the US government’s Department of the Interior in late August 2019, aiming to simplify and unify the regulation of e-bikes on Federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior.

According to the Department, it was made to “increase recreational opportunities for all Americans, especially those with physical limitations, and to encourage the enjoyment of lands and waters managed by the Department of the Interior”.

As is noted in the Order, e-bikes, and particularly e-mountain bikes, have caused quite a stir in the US since they have been widely available, partially due to limited solid ruling on the use of electric-assist bikes, thus the introduction of this Order.

In the words of the Department: “the addition of a small motor has caused regulatory uncertainty regarding whether e-bikes should be treated in the same manner as other types of bicycles or, alternatively, considered to be motor vehicles”.

The lack of clear information has led to e-mountain bikes not being allowed in certain areas, and the Order notes: “Uncertainty about the regulatory status of e-bikes has led the Federal land management agencies to impose restrictive access policies treating e-bikes as motor vehicles”.

The new ruling clarifies access rights for e-bikes and allows e-bikes in any areas managed by the Department (about 75 per cent of Federal public land, according to Wikipedia) that are legal for standard bikes.

The Order will likely result in a considerable boost for the electric bike industry, not least because it encompasses all categories of e-bikes (Cat 1 to 3, which includes assisted bikes limited to 20mph, bikes with a throttle, and assisted bikes limited to 28mph).

However, it is most certainly not without its critics who fear that allowing e-bikes in wilderness or National Park areas might eventually result in motorised vehicles then being allowed in currently prohibited spaces.

Some environmental groups are infuriated by the Order, saying that it does not take into account conservation and probably did not take into account the views of trail groups, as reported by Outside Online.

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While the Order doesn’t mean e-bikes and e-mountain bikes will necessarily be allowed everywhere pushbikes can go — plenty of mountain biking trails are on land outside the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior — it certainly does mean a higher number of people will be pedalling assisted bikes around the States. Whether that is a good thing or not remains a matter of opinion.