A new order from the Trump administration will allow motorized electric bicycles on every national park trail on which regular bikes are permitted.
The order, signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Thursday, is “intended 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.”
The Interior Department said that the advent of motorized bicycles and allowing them on national park trails could expand access to recreational opportunities for “those with limitations stemming from age, illness, disability or fitness, especially in more challenging environments, such as high altitudes or hilly terrain.”
Bernhardt’s order gave agency officials 30 days to devise public guidance to help the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge systems carry out the new policy.
National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith lauded the order, agreeing in a Friday statement with the administration’s assertion that allowing the electric bikes will expand access.
“As more Americans are using e-bikes to enjoy the great outdoors, national parks should be responsive to visitors’ interest in using this new technology wherever it is safe and appropriate to do so,” Smith said. “They make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience, especially at high altitudes or in hilly or strenuous terrain.”
The administration’s order comes as the popularity of e-bikes spikes, with U.S. sales jumping 72 percent to $144 million last year, according to The Associated Press.
However, conservation and environmental groups have come out in force against the new policy, saying the introduction of the e-bikes will change the nature of national parks.
“We oppose any effort that would allow any class of vehicle with a motor — including all classes of e-bikes, which by definition have a motor — to be allowed on non-motorized trails,” more than 50 hiking, horse-riding and other outdoor associations wrote in a July letter to the Interior Department.
“Non-motorized trails were created to ensure that the public could find recreational trail opportunities free from the ever-growing motorization and mechanization,” they added. “Millions of public land users across the country enjoy both motorized and non-motorized recreational experiences. Opening non-motorized trails to motorized bikes would effectively eliminate the non-motorized, primitive recreational opportunities.”