ST. GEORGE — After a new national park policy was implemented in August allowing the use of electronic bikes in areas where traditional bikes are allowed, parks in Southern Utah have worked towards compliance.
The new policy was announced Aug. 30 in order to be compliant with U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s order directing all Department of the Interior bureaus, including the National Park Service, to create a “clear and consistent e-bike policy.”
The NPS policy requires that parks allow class 1 pedal-assist E-bikes, defined as a two-three-wheeled bike with a motor of fewer than 750 watts that helps a cyclist while pedaling and travels no more than 20 mph, anywhere that regular bicycles are allowed.
In Zion National Park, e-bikes will be allowed on all roadways, except for through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, and on the Pa’rus Trail.
“Really, it’s just the benefit for the user, for the visitor, so they can just have that assist when pedaling through the park,” Zion spokesperson Eugenne Moisa said. “Our terrain isn’t extremely difficult, it’s pretty flat, and so it’s just to get them up the couple of hills that we have going into the scenic canyon there.”
Though the park will soon be installing charging stations to power their future fleet of electric shuttle buses, they do not currently have plans to provide any e-bike charging stations.
Zion officials say they are not concerned that allowing e-bikes in the park will cause any negative impacts to the environment or visitor experience. Their main concern has to do with bicyclist safety, as with all bikes on the road.
“We don’t see really any negative impacts from allowing e-bikes. It’s always bike safety, and if you’re on the road to be careful with the shuttle buses or the vehicles on the road,” Moisa said. “Otherwise, no real negative impact to having an electric bike. I think most of them are pretty quiet so there’s no real soundscape to be concerned about, and so it’s going to be great.”
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has made a rule that e-bikes are only allowed on authorized roads, since they currently have no trails designated for bicycle use in general.
The area does, however, have nearly 20 authorized scenic roads that bikes are allowed on. Information about these roads can be found on the NPS website.
Prior to the August policy change, Glen Canyon had no written rules regarding the use of e-bikes.
Park spokesperson Mary Plumb said that the policy change came at a good time, however, as they are currently in the planning process of creating more trails within the recreation area, and hope to make at least some of them bike-friendly.
“There’s a lot of interest by people who come to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to be able to hike on trails, and so this announcement about e-bike use is coming at an opportune time to be addressed at the same time that we look at new trails,” Plumb said.
In the future, the park will be announcing opportunities for public and local community involvement in the planning process.
Bryce Canyon National Park will allow e-bikes on all roads, as well as the shared-use path.
Arches and Canyonlands national parks will also be allowing e-bikes on all paved and unpaved roads that are open to the public. They do not, however, permit bicycles, e-bikes or otherwise, on any trails within the parks.
According to NPS, the new policy supports the Healthy Parks Healthy People movement to use national parks to benefit public health by getting more people outside and exercising. The change helps to support the 5-year Healthy Parks Healthy People Strategic Plan, started in 2018, which has 10 guiding principles and seven goals, all working to create a more healthy and sustainable world.
Utah National Parks will also be required to allow off-highway vehicles to drive on roads where other street-legal vehicles are permitted starting Nov. 1.
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