BikeMag.com - Full Article
The lawsuit could help clear up murky e-bike rules
November 13, 2019
By Nicole Formosa
It was only a matter of time before the lawsuits started. Electric mountain bikes are a touchy subject—their proliferation raises all kinds of questions, not the least of which is whether bikes with motors, regardless of how small and powerless, should be allowed on trails designated as non-motorized.
That’s the issue at the heart of a lawsuit filed three weeks ago by a group of equestrians and wilderness advocates, which claims that the U.S. Forest Service unilaterally decided to allow Class 1 E-Mtbs (Class 1 means pedal-assist power, not throttle, and speed is governed at 20 miles-per-hour) on 132 miles of non-motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest. The complaint isn’t necessarily that e-bikes are allowed on these public trails—though that is the root of the issue, to be sure—it’s that the Forest Service didn’t go about the process to allow them properly, according to the suit filed October 23 in federal court.
Earlier this year, the Tahoe National Forest clarified the e-MTB section on its website, posting a PDF with “additional opportunities” for class 1 bikes—class 2 and 3 bikes are allowed only on roads and trails designated for motorized use—on recommended non-motorized trails. This includes trails in and around Downieville, Truckee and Nevada City, and throughout the Forest, which spans 850,000 acres in California’s northern Sierra Nevada ( This includes trails in and around Downieville, Truckee and Nevada City, and throughout the Forest, which spans 850,000 acres in California’s northern Sierra Nevada ( see the full list hereOpens in a new Window. ) ).
The suit’s plaintiffs—the Back Country Horsemen of America, the Backcountry Horsemen of California, Gold Country Trails Council, The Wilderness Society and The Forest Issues Group—claim that by allowing additional access for class 1 e-bikes, the Forest Service acted without the appropriate public notice, comment period or environmental review process, which violates its travel management regulations...
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