Electric MTBs now Authorized on PA State Bike Trails

Electric MTBs now Authorized on PA State Bike Trails

Michaux State Forest photo: Sidewinder00 Rothrock State Forest photo: Konnect1 The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) just released a policy, effective immediately, allowing electric mountain bike usage on department managed trails that currently allow bicycles. The policy applies to thousands of miles of bike trails and public-use roads, and in an unusual twist, does not specify its application to a particular class of e-bikes. Rather, the policy focuses on the operation of e-bikes. “DCNR’s policy is focused on managing behavior, not devices.”

According to the updated rules, electric assist cannot be used at speeds above 20mph and exclusive use of the motor to propel the bike — that is, using a throttle — is prohibited. If that sounds a lot like the definition of a Class 1 e-bike, that’s because it is. However, the Pennsylvania code leaves open the possibility of operating any class of electric bike on trail, as long as the rider doesn’t use the throttle, or exceed 20mph under power. Still, there are limits; bikes must weigh less than 100lb and the motor cannot exceed 750W.

Popular mountain bike trails and riding areas that fall under the State DCNR include Bald Eagle and Rothrock State Forests where the popular Transylvania Epic stage race takes place each year. The policy applies to all state parks and forests, however it does not cover state game lands, National Forests, or land managed by cities and counties.

As to the question of whether the state of Pennsylvania considers e-bikes to be motor vehicles, they have this to say: “E-bikes are classified the same as bikes in the Vehicle Code. DCNR, therefore, considers them primarily human-powered with electric propulsion assistance. The Vehicle Code states that a pedalcycle is ‘a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a pedalcycle with electric assist.’ DCNR will regulate e-bikes the same as traditional bikes.”

Still, the Pennsylvania DCNR reserves the right to limit e-bike access on specific trails if necessary based on future usage and safety concerns.

Another common question the DCNR addresses is how the new e-bike rules will be enforced. First, they’ll start with a public communications effort.

“DCNR will use its public outreach tools, including social media, e-newsletters, website, and
signage (as needed), to educate the public and advance safety protocols. DCNR rangers have
the authority to cite users who are creating unsafe trail conditions or causing unwarranted
damage to the resource.”

Read the state’s FAQ and eMTB fact sheet.