The National Park Service (NPS) will issue new guidelines (you can read the pre-publication document here) that allow electric-motorized bicycles access to all trails and paths where human-powered bicycles are now allowed access. These new guidelines show that the Department of The Interior views its responsibility to maximize the use of public lands. While I strongly oppose the opening of these natural treasures to motorized recreational, I appear to be in the minority. Americans have given the Department of The Interior and the NPS a mandate to open these public lands to motorized recreation. Or is it a powerful trade organization that gave us this mandate?
I have detailed the many reasons why allowing motorized recreation vehicles on park trails and paths is a bad idea. I’m disappointed in the NPS’ decision. Allowing motorized bikes into non-motorized recreational areas is a terrible and dangerous idea. Reversing the decision will only come after a real-life tragedy. It may take a horrific wildfire. It may take the destruction of sensitive habitat. It may take a personal injury or death. It may take a multi-million dollar judgement against the NPS, an e-bike company or a trade organization for intentionally minimizing the dangers that e-bikes pose to disabled or elderly riders (especially on natural-surface trails).
If making National Parks more accessible to affluent, motorized visitors results in none of the problems I foresee, that will be fantastic. It would be crow I am willing to eat. I hope my concerns are unfounded, but they seem inevitable.
About the author: Jim “Jimmy Mac” McIlvain was Editor of Mountain Bike Action Magazine, Road Bike Action Magazine and Motocross Journal and a contributing editor of Electric Bike Action Magazine. He has been used as a resource by land management agencies in developing e-bike and mountain bike policy. Jimmy has served as an expert witness. He welcomes feedback or questions from land management agencies, retailers and riders who deal with e-bike issues. The Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels website is self-funded.