SALT LAKE CITY — Electronic bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in Utah and across the country. However, state conservationists are warning some e-bike riders that their bikes are now illegal in off-road parts of conservation areas.
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Class II and Class III e-bikes are now banned in off-road areas in all 193 wildlife and waterfowl management areas in the state. This comes after the Utah Wildlife Board approved a measure in August to reclassify Class II and Class III e-bikes as motorized vehicles, meaning riders must adhere to the same restrictions as cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.
Division officials explained that they changed the rule because some e-bikes are “ruining” the habitat intended to protect the state’s wildlife. They believe the rule change could help reduce habitat destruction.
“In areas where many e-bikes are used, there is significant damage to the living environment,” said Capt. Chad Bettridge, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, in a statement Thursday. “With the increased use of e-bikes, we see that these properties are becoming damaged, ultimately reducing our ability to manage them for their intended purpose.”
The division had some restrictions ahead of this week’s rule change. Officials allowed only Class I e-bikes on established roads and other authorized areas within waterfowl management areas. Class I e-bikes contain a battery and electric motor that can help a rider reach up to 20 mph when a rider is pedaling, but do not include an accelerator pedal, according to Bike.com. These types of e-bikes are not affected by this week’s rule change.
Class II and Class III e-bikes do have a throttle system. Bike.com notes that a Class II e-bike can enable a rider to reach 20 mph without pedaling, while Class III e-bikes can reach 45 mph via pedal assist. The website notes that some regions prohibit this type of cycling on off-road trails or mountain bike trails, much like the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has in its conservation areas.
Anyone caught riding a Class II or Class III e-bike in off-road areas will be charged with a violation, according to Bettridge. The complete list of the Division’s Wildlife and Waterfowl Control Areas can be found here.
“While we want to provide recreational opportunities at our WMAs, these properties have been purchased for the benefit of wildlife and the wildlife habitat,” he said. “These properties are public land, but they are not multi-use like many other state and federal properties.”