Oregon Parks and Recreation considers changes to e-bike rules

Woman riding a Class 2 e-bike (throttle-assist, 20 mph top speed) on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has launched a project to consider new rules for electric bike use in campgrounds, beaches and other parks facilities.

The effort comes as e-bike use has skyrocketed statewide and a new law that clarified e-bike types was passed by the Oregon Legislature last session.

You’ll recall in 2017 we reported on an unfortunate wrinkle in OPRD rules that meant bikes with battery motors were technically not allowed on the popular bike paths throughout the State Park system. That legal glitch was cleared up in 2018 when the State Parks Commission approved a new administrative rule that allowed e-bikes to be ridden on trails and roads wider than eight feet unless otherwise posted.

Now they seek to re-evaluate the rules to account for different types of e-bikes and different trail types. According to OPRD, the resulting change in rules is expected to be made later this year and could, “expand, limit or continue where e-bikes can be used.”

(Keep in mind, Oregon parks are managed with Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR), not the Oregon Vehicle Code.)

House Bill 4103 passed the legislature earlier this year. It brought Oregon in line with national standards and adopted a three-class system: Class 1 includes bikes that can go up to 20 mph with only pedal and battery power; Class 2 includes bikes that can go up to 20 mph with a throttle; and Class 3 includes bikes that can go up to 28 mph with only pedal-assisted power.

“OPRD’s current e-bike rules do not account for these differences between e-bike classes, so now is an ideal time to revisit current regulations and assess whether changes are appropriate,” reads an OPRD webpage.

A new survey is the first step in the public outreach process that will help inform which new rule(s) OPRD ultimately adopts. The survey asks respondents what type of activities they do in parks, how often they encounter e-bikes, and whether, “e-bikes on trails impact your recreational experience.” Another question: “Do you have any concerns about e-bikes sharing trails?” makes it clear that this process will tilt heavily toward ameliorating complaints from some park users that some e-bike riders don’t ride with respect to others.

I sincerely hope OPRD does not over-regulate e-bikes. They should focus on regulating behaviors, not bicycle types, just like they do with other types of vehicles. Any type of blanket exclusion of a particular type of e-bike could risk limiting access t recreational activities for many Oregonians.

The survey is open through August 31st. Take it here.

Stay tuned for the public comment period and any other news on this front.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Thanks for reading.

BikePortland has served this community with independent community journalism since 2005. We rely on subscriptions from readers like you to survive. Your financial support is vital in keeping this valuable resource alive and well.

Please subscribe today to strengthen and expand our work.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

24 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
maxD
maxD
18 days ago

This was my comment, I am curious if people like the idea of writing rules to govern behavior rather than equipment. “Motorized bikes and small vehicles like one-wheels can be great for connecting more people to nature and the outdoors, and expanding the pool of people who love and cherish our public outdoor spaces. However, speed and riding style can endanger people, especially people with kids or dogs. I urge you to focus rules on observable behaviors like speed, close passing, group size- something more easily enforced than class of e-bike. Maybe the speed of one user should not exceed twice the speed of another park user they are overtaking. If someone is walking at 2 mph, someone running or cycling past would need to slow to 4 mph to safely pass.

Monique R
Monique R
17 days ago
Reply to  maxD

It no world would it be easier to enforce a long list of behaviors that are only observable in the moment than it would be to determine if a particular bike is permitted under the rules. I do not travel with a speedometer and have absolutely no good way to judge how fast a particular walker/jogger is going, for example.

Cyclekrieg
17 days ago
Reply to  maxD

If you think e-bike class are unenforceable, your suggestion is far more so.

First, speed. Not all of these devices have speedometers. Humans are terrible at guessing the relative speed of other objects without some training. I do a lot of singletrack design and there lots of instances of people claiming mountain bikes are going very fast (“They go 30mph down this hill!”) but when you check the Strava data for that section, its much, much slower (Strava KOM/QOM might be 12mph.). The same will me true on a trail, especially if there is set speed limit. What use is a 15mph speed limit if you have no way to check your speed currently? What might feel like 15mph to you might be 11mph but feel like 18mph to a person you are passing.

Second, passing. How would anyone know how fast a person is going upon coming up on them? If I’m on a bike, e-bike or real bike, how can I know the relative speed of the Karen with headphones lollygagging down the middle of the path? I can’t, no one can. The correct thing to do is to ring the bell, call out the pass, and hope she doesn’t spaz out.

Living on a rails-to-trails path and using it commute, the fact is there is a lot of behavior by a lot parties which isn’t great. Not paying attention, not staying right, wearing earbuds, not moving over when asked, etc. I get the desire to legislate behavior, but we can’t. We can, however, legislate bike types and classifications.

Pberkey
Pberkey
16 days ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

If you’ve ever been to a place like Vietnam, you’d see how people can learn to flow together in peace and harmony without the need for restrictions. It’s just a matter of consideration for others.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
16 days ago
Reply to  Pberkey

If you’ve ever actually been to Vietnam and witnessed all the accidents (yes, a body lying in the road from an accident, that’s a great joy to see) it isn’t all “peace and harmony” as you claim.

Peter
Peter
15 days ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Sorry, that’s not my experience nor the experience of everyone I have met who have actually been in Vietnam for a long stay (3+ months). Indeed, I found that the majority of people in Vietnam are very considerate of others and the accident rate is much lower. People are not flipping each other off as they do so often in the USA.

Alexandar Hull-Richter
Alexandar Hull-Richter
17 days ago
Reply to  maxD

I completely agree with your comments, and I commented similarly.

The only problem with the specificity of your preferred rule is that most cyclists cannot actually balance a bike at less than about 6 miles an hour.

Fred
Fred
17 days ago
Reply to  maxD

Nope. You’re putting the entire burden on the cyclist to make the person on foot feel “comfortable.”

A person on foot also has an obligation to stay out of a cyclist’s way, which keeps everyone safe. A MUP is not a playground, though that’s how many families treat them. How about you start regulating those behaviors?

maxD
maxD
17 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I don’t disagree with your Fred, I think setting clear expectations for how to use a park or path is the best way forward. I know I don’t have the right rule suggestions, but maintain awareness, slow before passing, pass 2′ or 3′ away from people, be responsible for dogs or kids, that sort of thing. If we are going to allow motorized vehicles on a path, it seems productive to me to set expectations for all trail users rather than try to be too prescriptive about vehicle type. Not only can a bike be modified to operate beyond its “class”, a class 1 bike can be ridden dangerously and a class 3 can be ridden respectfully.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
17 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I shouldn’t have to walk on a MUP with my head on a swivel to watch out for bikes coming up behind me and then jump out of the way because it might inconvenience the biker.
And here I thought MUPs were to be used by all? Obviously us walking families can’t be safe with speeding elite bicyclists going down the paths in your view.

Watts
Watts
17 days ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

As I’ve noted before, bikers are not automatically better than drivers when it comes to dealing with those traveling slower that are perceived as impeding the way.

People behave like people, no matter how they travel.

was carless
was carless
17 days ago
Reply to  maxD

I feel that is a behavioral/training issue and less an enforcement issue. I don’t really see how Park Rangers would be able to effectively act as bicycle traffic cops, although a common sense of rules that they can’t enforce isn’t a bad idea, if it doesn’t already exist.

That being said, I cannot bicycle at only 4 miles per hour even on a regular bike so your speed limit seems rather absurd.

Chris I
Chris I
18 days ago

They’re just legalizing what has already happened at the state parks. Cheap Chinese e-bikes are all over the campgrounds now.

John V
John V
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

Just curious, what is the utility of saying “cheap Chinese” in this description?

Phil
Phil
17 days ago
Reply to  John V

Obviously there would be no issues if everyone just rode a Riese & Müller or Gazelle

Chris I
Chris I
17 days ago
Reply to  Phil

I wish I could afford those campgrounds.

Charley
Charley
17 days ago
Reply to  John V

The utility is in reinforcing the fact that e-bikes are no longer an expensive niche product, but rather have been commoditized. Thus, like many other cheap products made in China, they are relatively commonplace.

A lot of policy questions are strongly influenced by the frequency of the problem that the policy solves. When expensive and uncommon, e-bikes may have been operated by older, more experienced riders; now commonplace, an e-bike may be an impulse purchase from someone without a history of bike riding, and riders may exhibit a wider range of behaviors. Not to mention the sheer increase in numbers.

Valerie
Valerie
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I mean, it seems absurd not to allow ebikes in any area where cars can drive, like campground loops. (Obviously not highways)

John V
John V
17 days ago

Well, I predict they’re going to hear loudly from the same type of complainers about something new who consider scooters the scourge of the earth, and for that matter probably hate it when anyone rides any bike on trails.

I admit, I have a vague negative feeling when I see someone zoom around on trails on a bike covered in fairings like a dirt bike without pedals, or a one wheel that can trivially go 30mph+. But an e-mountain bike, class 1 or 2, I feel there is no reason to get upset beyond what I would feel about any thoughtless rider.

I like to think we should regulate behavior, but on a practical level I think enforcement is essentially impossible. Just like any other trail etiquette in the wilderness, you’re at the mercy of other people to just be courteous. They should probably ban certain kinds of vehicles to the best of their ability, but you’re just not going to be able to do anything about a jerk that fast passes you out in the woods any more than you can do anything about an annoying trail runner.

Fred
Fred
17 days ago

You can design a survey to lead to almost any result you want, and this survey is clearly designed to lead to the following result:

E-bikes are annoying and they *endanger* other users and therefore must be banned in state parks.

If you doubt that’s the intent, then ask yourself: where are the questions about e-bikes opening up recreational opportunities that are not otherwise available? Because that’s clearly what e-bikes do for many people who couldn’t otherwise ride from Banks to Vernonia on the wonderful rail-trail there.

I would like to turn this entire narrative around: Why are the needs of all foot-enabled users sacrosanct, while the needs of wheeled users are always secondary?

Think about it: every cyclist has to look out for and give way to every person walking or jogging on a path, even when that person is wearing headphones and is essentially oblivious to everyone else on the path! Yet OR state parks haven’t sent around a survey asking us if earbud-wearing trail users are impacting our enjoyment of the trails, though they clearly are. It’s obvious in this case that people on foot in parks have complained about e-bikes and the folks at State Parks are only too eager to solicit the comments of others who have also felt uncomfortable around e-bikes.

How about this proposal: Stripe every MUP so that bikes get half and people, dogs etc on foot get the other half. Then you can jog wearing earbuds, play around with your kids, walk your dogs etc and then I can cycle without you impacting my cycling – whether I’m riding an e-bike or not (how trad bikes interact with e-bikes is an issue for another day).

Paul H
Paul H
17 days ago
Reply to  Fred

Other commenters on this website have convinced me that you need jersey barriers to actually separate traffic

J_R
J_R
17 days ago

Pedestrians wearing earbuds are a problem. I have startled more than one who didn’t hear my bell until I was only 10 feet away though I dinged beginning at 40 or 50 feet.

Now that I’m in my mid-70s an e-bike is my most frequent ride.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
16 days ago
Reply to  J_R

According to some folks in these forums that’d be victim blaming and you are obviously travelling too fast for the conditions.
At least, that’s what would be said if you were in a car. Strange how bikes/e-bikes aren’t held to the same standard.

Brad
Brad
11 days ago

Class 2 e-bikes don’t belong on shared trails. Class 3 probably not appropriate either given the typical behavior I see. But what class is there for bikes that go faster than 20 with a throttle?