In the summer of 2022, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) released their draft policy on the use of e-bikes on bike trails found in state parks and forests. The policy regulations include all trails on DCNR lands from paved shared-use paths and public roads to rocky singletrack trails. Shortly following the release of their draft e-bike policy, DCNR organized a public comment period in which the Bicycle Coalition participated and submitted recommendations to improve safety for all trail users. On 11/28/2022, DCNR released its final draft of their E-Bike Policy for State Parks and Forests. Despite the significant number of letters sent in support of our recommendations, no changes have been made to the finalized policy for e-bikes.
The purpose of their policy is to provide guidelines that will allow the use of e-bikes on trails that are already open to the use of traditional bikes. These guidelines are consistent with the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code and include the following:
- Weigh no more than 100 pounds;
- Do not exceed 20 miles-per-hour using the motor
- Have motors that do not exceed 750 watts; and
- Have fully functional, operable pedals.
Shortly after the release of DCNR’s draft e-bike policy, the Bicycle Coalition published Questions and Answers about Electric Assist Bikes in July of 2022, that covered its position on e-bikes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As e-bike sales are rapidly increasing year after year, the Coalition prepared its statement to answer frequently asked questions and listed its policy recommendations for the Greater Philadelphia area.
The Bicycle Coalition supports the accessibility of cyclists to be able to ride comfortably on trails with safety being a priority. After reviewing different state parks and trails’ successes, we are able to incorporate policies and recommendations we fully support into Pennsylvania trails. We published an action alert addressed to DCNR’s trail managers and legislators in response to the public comment period with the following recommendations:
- Update the state vehicle code by properly defining the three-class system as outlined by People for Bikes’ published a one-pager that offers a Model Electric Bicycle Law with Classes.
- Set a speed limit for all trail users (we suggest 15 mph). The speed limit could be lowered where there are conflicts in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
- Add trail etiquette signs at trailheads.
- Permit e-bikes and other low-speed personal vehicles on paved shared use paths with a posted speed limit.
- Display maps and/or regulations at trailheads to show where e-bikes are allowed.
- Publish maps to show where e-bikes are allowed on trails.
In total, 144 letters were sent to DCNR’s policy office in support of regulating e-bikes on trails by establishing a speed limit of 15 mph or less. Because of the increase in e-bike technology and ridership, supporters believe that limiting e-bikes by something other than speed will not be an effective strategy to improve safety for all trail users.
It’s important to note that e-bikes can be used on DCNR-managed trails where traditional bikes are allowed, including DCNR-managed motorized trails and public use roads unless they are marked as prohibited to bikes. Additionally, the PA States Game Commission continues to ban all e-bikes, including roads that are open to motor vehicles. Local trail managers need guidance from the State, making it clear that motorized vehicles do not include e-bikes defined by the State Vehicle Code. The Bicycle Coalition and residents of Pennsylvania may refer to the state’s e-bike policy in their municipalities if they encounter any issue while utilizing the trails. While the policy follows guidelines that are generally agreeable, the Bicycle Coalition will continue its efforts to improve the safety for all trail users throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.