BikePortland

Oregon begins process to legalize electric-assist bikes in state parks


E-bikes are currently illegal on paths like the Banks-Vernonia. A new rule would change that.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wants to update their rules regarding electric bicycles.

As we were first to report last summer, electric bikes are not currently legal to ride on paths in Oregon State Parks. That’s because park paths are governed by Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR), which currently classify electric bicycles as “motor vehicles” — thereby prohibiting their use. (Note that roads outside of state parks are governed by Oregon Revised Statutes which define e-bikes as bicycles). With the rising popularity of pedal-assisted e-bikes, State Parks officials recognize that the OAR is outdated.

Now they’ve begun the process to officially amend the rules to make it clear that electric-assisted bicycles (as defined in ORS 801.258) are allowed in State Parks. The OPRD website has posted a “notice for proposed rulemaking” and there’s a comment form to receive public feedback.

2018Electric-assisted-bicycle-notice

As currently written (beginning on page four the document above), the new rule would:
– allow pedal-assisted e-bikes on all roads and trails eight feet or wider;
– “Restrict speed and manner of operation to a reasonable and prudent practice relative to terrain, prevailing conditions, equipment, personal capabilities, personal safety and the safety of all other park users”;
– give individual park managers discretion to increase or restrict e-bike access if they feel it’s prudent for the context or conditions of a path;
– allow e-bikes on the seashore (where non-motorized bicycles are already allowed);
– and prohibit e-bikes on off-road trails, except when posted otherwise by a park manager.

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Here’s how the state explains the need for a new rule:

“As use of electric assisted bicycles has increased, riders have expressed desire to utilize trails and roads under ORPD management. Opening trails and roads that are eight feet and over and the ocean shore will allow electric assisted bicycles to ride in places that have greater space available to reduce conflict with existing visitors. Existing trail users including equestrians, bicyclists and pedestrians have expressed concerns with increased trail conflicts as user groups are expanded. We are proposing restricting use of electric assisted bicycles to wider trails where greater space is available for multiple types of user groups. If a park manager determined a narrower trail was appropriate for electric assisted bicycles, the proposed rule provides the flexibility to allow for it be signed as open to electric assisted bicycles. The proposed rule would also allow electric assisted bicycles on the ocean shore in areas where other bicycles are currently allowed. Riders would need to follow current rules regarding speed and manner of operations. As with all vehicles, electric assisted bicycles would not be allowed to harass wildlife or ride in snowy plover nesting areas.”

The rule would help open up cycling as a viable mobility option for many more Oregonians. People like Forest Grove resident Chris Billman— whose frustration with this legal grey area spurred him to become the first Oregon resident to get an ADA permit for his bicycle — would no longer have to operate in the shadows. And with legal clarity, bike shops and bike rental companies near State Parks are likely to see a boost in business.

Please share your feedback about this new rule on OPRD’s website or via email at OPRD.publiccomment@oregon.gov. Comment period is open until 5:00 pm on May 18th. There will be six public hearings on the rule change between April 23rd and May 7th. They’ll take place in Hood River, Salem, Redmond, Newport, Bandon, and Warrenton.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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