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E-Bikes on trails? Know the rules... 

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Few things seem to be as confusing these days as electric bikes, commonly referred to as e-bikes.  Class 1, class 2, class 3, class 4, pedal assist, throttle on demand, Speed "pedelec" (who makes up these names?) and mopeds. There are different motor sizes and maximum speeds, too.  To add a bit more confusion, different parks departments have different rules for e-bike usage. Whew!

So, let's start with some definitions:

An e-bike is generally defined as a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.) that provides propulsion assistance.
Then, there are the different classes:
Class 1/Pedal Assist: An e-bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the
rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle
reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2/Throttle on Demand: An e-bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance regardless of whether the rider is pedaling but ceases to provide assistance when the
bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 3/Speed Pedelec: An e-bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the
rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 28 miles per hour.
Class 4/Moped or motorcycle: The electric drive system can be activated through a pedaling action or throttle. The top speed is above 28 mph and/or the motor wattage may be greater than 750 watts. This class would be considered a motor vehicle which requires licensing and registration and is limited to certain motorized off-road trails or traditional roads.

Now that we know what an e-bike is, the next obvious question is "where can they be ridden?"
These are the rules, as of this writing. It's possible that things may change as e-bikes gain in popularity.

In Colorado Springs, Class 1 e-bikes are the only bikes allowed on the city's trail system and only on "urban trails". Urban trails are "...local commuting and recreational trails which traverse neighborhoods and connect to the core of the City...". If you're not sure what trail is an urban trail, this will make it easier: If it's paved, you're good. If it's a soft surface, you're not.  If you have a class 2 bike, you're not good. If you're inside a park, you're not good. Still not sure? Here's a list of Colorado Springs trails where you can ride your class 1 bike.

In El Paso County, the rules are slightly different. The county allows Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on primary and secondary regional trails. These are trails similar to Colorado Springs' urban trails, except that they're not paved. Primary and secondary country trails connect neighborhoods or urban centers. E-bikes are not allowed inside any El Paso County park.

Generally speaking, Colorado State Parks allow e-bikes: Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are allowed on park roads and designated bike lanes, and on multi-use trails and other areas (such as campgrounds, etc.) where non-motorized biking is allowed. Class 3 bikes are not allowed on trails.

In State Wildlife Areas, e-bikes are only allowed on designated roads, parking areas and campgrounds where motorized vehicles are allowed. They are prohibited everywhere else within a wildlife area.

State Trust Lands
 are only open to hunting, fishing and watchable wildlife activity and e-bikes are only allowed on established roads when used for those purposes.

In National Park Service properties, e-bikes are only allowed where traditional bikes are allowed. 

The wording in the National Park Service regulation is a little more convoluted in that it doesn't specify by class which bikes are allowed on trails, but the wording specifically states that "operators may only use the power provided by the electric motor to assist pedal propulsion of an e-bike." Another section limits speeds to 20 mph or less, so by definition, that would be a Class 1 bike.

The United States Forest Service has only a general statement regarding e-bike use. However, the local Pike National Forest has a more specific policy, which states that e-bikes are only allowed on roads and trails where motorized use is allowed. They are not allowed where motorized vehicles are not allowed, which includes trails open only to hiking, horseback riding and traditional mountain biking. They are not allowed wherever bikes are not allowed, such as designated wilderness areas.

The Bureau of Land Management has a pretty vague policy regarding e-bikes, which basically says to contact the local BLM office for guidance. So much for that.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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