Electric bicycles—or e-bikes—are becoming increasingly popular nationwide. These bikes look like traditional bicycles but are equipped with an electric motor that can be used to assist the rider. While there are a variety of e-bike types—ranging from pedal-assist, which simply give riders a boost, to bikes with throttles that allow users to choose to pedal or use the motor to get around—all are electric, which means that they do not use gasoline or emit exhaust fumes, and are quiet when the motor is used.
As these bikes gain popularity, questions arise about their use. At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we often get questions about whether or not e-bikes should be or are allowed on trails, and what concerns trail users might have about interacting with e-bikes.
RTC supports the passage of model e-bike legislation developed by the bicycle industry. Our support is predicated on the need to more clearly define in law the distinctions between bicycles with motors and motorized vehicles. Motorized vehicles—with the exception of motorized wheelchairs and snowmobiles—have long been prohibited on certain federally funded trails. We continue to support this prohibition but do not believe the definition of “motorized vehicles” should be so broadly construed as to automatically prohibit the use of bicycles with electric motors.
Download the "E-Bikes on the Trail" pdf to learn more about RTC’s perspectives on e-bikes and trail use.