To increase recreational use on public lands for all Americans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to adopt regulations on the use of electric bicycles (otherwise known as “e-bikes”) in units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“The proposed e-bike rule will open new opportunities to the millions of Americans who visit national wildlife refuges each year,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “If approved, the rule will make it easier for visitors to explore these amazing places, with a bit of added assistance, if they need it.”

This proposed rule supports Secretary’s Order 3366 to increase recreational opportunities on public lands and Secretary’s Order 3376 directing Department of the Interior bureaus to obtain public input on e-bike use.

The rule closely follows both Secretary’s Orders and the Service’s e-bike policy in Director’s Order 222, signed on October 17, 2019. It would allow refuge managers to consider the use of e-bikes on any refuge roads and trails where traditional bicycle use is allowed, provided it is consistent with a refuge’s statutory purpose and the refuge manager determines it to be a compatible use.

The proposed rule defines permitted e-bikes as two- or three-wheeled vehicles with fully operable pedals and a small electric motor (1 horsepower or less). An e-bike operator may use the motor only to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic. 

A majority of states have adopted e-bike policies, most following model legislation that allows for three classes of e-bikes to have access to bicycle trails.

More information about the proposed rule and e-biking on refuges can be found online at: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/biking/e-bikes.html.  

In 2019, the Refuge System had approximately 1.4 million biking visits on 197 national wildlife refuges where visitation numbers are recorded. The proposed e-bike rule provides increased options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited by fitness level, age or ability. For a state-by-state list of refuges where bicycling is allowed, visit: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/biking/.  

Neither traditional bicycles nor e-bikes are allowed in designated wilderness areas and may not be appropriate for back-country trails. The focus of the guidance is on expanding the traditional bicycling experience to those who enjoy the reduction of effort provided by this new technology. Refuge managers can limit or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use where necessary to manage visitor use conflicts and ensure visitor safety and resource protection.

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2019-0109, and will include details on how to submit your comments. An interim copy of the proposed rule is now available.

The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts hosting some 59 million visits every year. You can find at least one refuge in every state and every U.S. territory, and within an hour drive of most major cities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information visit www.fws.gov.