Cyclists have access to national parks in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Whether e-bikes are permitted depends on the determination by the superintendent (manager) of the park.
If the superintendent determines that e-bikes or certain classes of e-bikes should no longer be allowed on trails or administrative roads, or that conditions for use should change, the superintendent must make such changes in the park compendium under the process laid out in 36 CFR 1.5, including the requirement to provide adequate public notice in accordance with 36 CFR 1.7, and comply with NEPA and other applicable laws.
If the superintendent determines that no change should be made to e-bike use on trails or administrative roads, the superintendent must certify that decision by resigning and dating the compendium action and complying with NEPA and other applicable laws. In either instance, the updated compendium provisions allowing e-bikes should cite the regulations at 36 CFR 1.4 and 4.30(i), not the rescinded Policy Memorandum 19-01.
E-bike Lovers keep a record of the rules and regulations pertaining to the national parks in the DMV area. See below this article a list of parks and trails in the National Parks System's units in our region.
The following regulations normally apply to bicyclists and e-bikers on designated biking and multipurpose trails in national parks:
In addition, a person operating an e-bike is subject to the following sections of 36 CFR part 4 that apply to the use of traditional bicycles:
What is an E-bike Under Federal Law?
An e-bike is a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of not more than 750 watts (1 h.p.) that provides propulsion assistance.
A Federal definition of “low speed electric bicycle” is included in the Consumer Product Safety Act. Many states have adopted policies for regulating e-bikes consistent with this Federal definition, including in some cases a labeling requirement identifying an e-bike’s compliance with the following classifications:
Amended per October 2, 2020 and November 2, 2020.
When is an E-bike a Motor Vehicle?
Devices with electric motors of more than 750 watts (1 h.p.) of power and that are not defined as a 1, Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike in the classification system are managed as motor vehicles under 36 CFR Part 4.
Except as specified in the Superintendent’s Compendium of each national park, the use of an e-bike within the park is governed by State law, which is adopted and made a part of the Superintendent’s Compendium.
Motor vehicle definition under 36 CFR Part 4
Motor vehicle means every vehicle that is self-propelled and every vehicle that is propelled by electric power, but not operated on rails or water, except an electric bicycle, a snowmobile, and a motorized wheelchair.
Motorcycle means every motor vehicle having a seat for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more thatn three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor.
36 CFR § 1.4 - What terms do I need to know?
Note: The spelling mistake is in the CFR - it is not ours
In other words, if you buy a device that looks like an E-bike with an electric motor of more than 750 watts (1 h.p.) of power and that is not defined as Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3 in the classification system (with a maximum of 28 MPH), you are riding a motor vehicle and no longer a e-bike.
As a result, you are no longer allowed to "e-bike" where regular bikes are allowed in national parks with a motor of more than 750 watts. It is also certain to assume that you need a motor license, wear a helmet, and have insurance to operate the vehicle.
How Much Speed and Power do You Need?
Remember Simon Cowell's accident when he broke his back on an out-of-class electric vehicle that was initially reported by the media to be an e-bike? He played with a "SWIND EB-01 hyper electric bicycle." It has a 15,000 watts (15 kw) motor and it has pedals - have a look here. This is a motorcycle that does not belong on biking trails.
The SWIND EB-01 hyper electric bicycle
compared with a Specialized Levo Turbo class 1 e-mountain bike and a high-duty Riese & Muller Delite Class 1 e-mountain bike.
Who needs so much power?
A 15,000 watts motor is 20 times more powerful than an e-bike with a 750 watts motor. In comparison, a pro Tour De France athlete may produce some 500 watts.
Buyer, be aware! Check the maximum speed and power of the motor of the e-bike you are interested in.
Although the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) appears not to make a distinction between the nominal and peak power of the motor, you may want to use the peak power of the motor as guidance if this information is provided by the manufacturer. The law is also not clear if you can have multiple motors that are not more than 750 watts.
Note: If you buy an e-bike conversion set, ensure that the motor is not more than 750 watts and doesn't go faster than 28 mph to gain legal access to NPS trails when this is permitted by the superintendent of the park.
Interested in E-biking in National Parks?
Explore our growing collection of self-guided e-biking trail descriptions.
As usual, please check the latest regulations before heading out as we do not provide legal advice on this website.
Nps.gov. (2020). Electric Bicycles (e-bikes) in National Parks - Biking (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/biking/e-bikes.htm [Accessed 14 Dec. 2020].
Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet in Washington DC.
Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 1 touring e-bike.
Dr. Gregory F. Maassen
FOUNDER E-BIKE LOVERS