As electric bikes continue to grow in popularity, more and more governments and state legislatures are developing laws and codes that will state the rights and areas of usage for eBikes. Such is the case with the new Department of the Interior Order 3376, which has implemented the new rules for eBike usage on public lands for much of the United States. These rules have been implemented with the goal of simplifying where you can and cannot use an eBike, and will lead to better, more defined trail systems as time goes on and more parks implement the new rules. However, the new order can be a bit complicated to understand, so we’re here to break down the major changes and rules as put forth by the Department of Interior here in the United States.
What Is Order 3376 and Its Purpose?
Order 3376, developed by the Department of the Interior of the United States, has been implemented to encourage the usage of eBikes on public lands. With the health benefits that come with operating an eBike, along with providing aid to those dealing with issues of age, illness, and disability, the Department of Interior believes that eBike usage should be permitted in all areas where traditional bicycles are operated.
To encourage eBike usage, the new order has simplified and unified all eBike regulations across the four sub-departments and the lands governed by them. Any public land, park, or area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service will now follow the same rules and regulations. With this order, the Department of Interior hopes that the new regulations will clear up many of the restrictive and inconsistent policies that regulated eBike usage on public lands in the past.
The new rules and regulations will not apply to any lands managed by the United States Forest Service, as that is a sub-department of the Department of Agriculture. Consult the visitor’s center or visit online if you have any questions about which agency manages the public lands you will be visiting on your next eBike adventure.
What Are The Major Changes And Regulations Of Order 3376?
The 3-Class System Has Been Adopted
The three major classes of eBikes used within the eBike industry and throughout the world have now been adopted by all agencies within the Department of Interior. The three classes of eBikes are now defined as follows by the Department of Interior:
Class 1 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 3 electric bicycle: An electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.
One major restriction within this 3-Class System is that the eBike is not considered a motor vehicle as long as it has fully operable pedals and a motor that is 750 watts or less. For eBikes with greater than 750 W motors, they will fall under the same restrictions as other non-highway motor vehicles.
eBikes Are Largely Considered Bikes, Not Motor Vehicles, Under New Regulations
Under the new regulations, electric bikes will be treated the same as traditional, non-motorized bicycles when ridden on lands managed by the Department of Interior. eBikes shall be permitted where traditional bicycles are permitted, and they shall be restricted in areas where traditional bicycles are permitted. However, the one major difference is that all eBikes that follow the three class system will also be allowed for usage in areas restricted for use for motor vehicles only.
All eBikes must be ridden with the same care and attention as traditional bicycles, along with also requiring the same equipment. Any helmet, light, or other safety features or equipment required to ride a traditional bike must also be obeyed in order to operate an electric bike. Failure to obey the laws and regulations when riding an electric bike will match the same punishment that corresponds to failing to operate a traditional bike properly.
The above rules shall be followed unless specifically otherwise stated. Local land managers have the right to designate trails for specific kinds of bicycles. This includes allowing managers to designate trials for traditional bicycles only, for eBikes only, or for specific classes of eBikes only. If not otherwise stated, all classes of eBikes will be allowed to operate on a trail that permits traditional bicycle operation. Please remember to consult your local land management agency or overseer for up to date trail designations. Also be aware that even if not posted on the trail itself, you will be expected to check online for any special trail designations.
Are There Any Special Or Otherwise Noteworthy Rules Or Exceptions Between eBikes And Non-Motorized Bicycles?
- Do not trespass. Special emphasis has been made reminding bicyclists that you cannot ride through the federally designated wilderness with either an eBike or traditional bike. This order also reminds bicyclists that they cannot ride on state-protected land either, and to be respectful when riding in all other areas.
- Obey state law unless there is a conflict. In any situation where there is additional regulation or rules put forth by the state, they must be obeyed when operating an eBike. The exception is when a state law conflicts with the regulations put forth by this order and the Department of the Interior. If there is a conflict between state law and the Department of the Interior, you should follow the rules as put forth by the Department of the Interior.
- Be respectful of the local environment and wildlife. Be considerate when you use your eBike motor. It is highly recommended not to use the motor on wet, muddy, soft, and other vulnerable trails. The state asks that you stay on existing trails, and that you don’t try to cut switchbacks. Additionally, animals may be frightened by the fast speeds and noise produced by electric bike motors. Please turn off your motor when passing by horses, cattle, and other wildlife. Failure to do so may result in serious fines.
- Yield and be respectful to non-motorized trail riders. The Department of Interior highly encourages all eBike riders to carry a whistle or bell that will allow you to alert riders you are approaching from behind. When you are operating an eBike, you are expected to yield to all non-motorized users, no matter which direction the traditional bicyclist is traveling. Lastly, please be aware and try to anticipate other riders as you operate an eBike, showing the same precaution and care as if operating a normal bicycle.
Conclusion: A Step Forward In eBike Universality
With the passage of Order 3376, the Department of Interior has greatly codified what you can expect and need to know when it comes to riding an eBike on many public lands throughout the US. While local land managers now have the responsibility of specifically designating individual trails, eBikes can comfortably use any of the three traditional eBike classes on the same trails as normal bicyclists throughout the United States. The passage of this new order greatly simplifies the rules and regulations governing eBike operations, and will hopefully lead to revamping regulations from other departments to further simplify owning and operating electric bikes.
For additional information about Order 3376, we recommend visiting the following resources:
The Full Text of Order 3376 from the Department of Interior
The Department of Interior Press Release on Order 3376
Additional Suggestions and Safety Tips for eBiking on Public Lands
Full eBike Regulations as Implemented by the National Park Service
Full eBike Regulations as Implemented by the Bureau of Land Management
Full eBike Regulations as Implemented by the Fish and Wildlife Service
Full eBike Regulations as Implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation
A Summary and Q&A from PeopleForBikes on eBiking on Public Lands