Where Can Electric Mountain Bikes Be Ridden in New England

Monday, October 31, 2016

Where Can Electric, Power-Assist Mountain Bikes Be Ridden in New England?
 
Electric mountain bikes (e-MTBs) are now being produced and promoted by the bicycle industry and sold through some bicycle dealers in New England. While there are only a few brands and models currently available, many of the major bicycle companies soon plan to introduce them to the US market.

Currently there are four classes of e-bikes:

  • Class 1 e-bikes have a maximum speed of 20 MPH, a motor that is 750 watts or less that is activated by pedaling.
  • Class 2 e-bikes are the same as the Class 1 but may utilize a throttle such as a regular motorcycle rather than be pedal-actuated.
  • Class 3 e-bikes may attain speeds up to 28 MPH.
  • Class 4 e-bikes may have motors greater than 750 watts and attain speeds faster than 28 MPH.

Most current electric mountain bikes fall into the category of Class 1.

Where can e-MTBs be ridden off-road?

It is important for consumers and bicycle dealers in New England to know where e-MTBs can and cannot be ridden on natural surface trails.  Pedal-assist electric bikes can give more people the power to go further and to ride more trails, where allowed. To this end, the New England Mountain Bike Association has contacted many of the major land management agencies in New England to determine what the management policy is for e-bikes on trails. We will update this webpage as more specific information comes in and is verified.

The short answer is that all the major state and federal land management agencies in New England allow e-bikes only on trails which allow motorized recreation. E-bikes may also be ridden on private property and private trail systems with the permission of the landowner.

Many local trail systems are managed by town conservation commissions or land trusts that have not fully developed policies specific to electric, power-assist vehicles. However, those we’ve spoken to verify that regardless of the amount of power emitted by the electric motor, they are still by definition motorized and are managed as such.

How e-bikes are managed on paved public paths is unclear, and frequently state and local regulations have not yet caught up to the technology of e-bikes, and there is no definitive list of where e-bikes are allowed to ride on paved pathways.
 

State-by-State Guidance on e-MTB use

Connecticut
 
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) does not specifically call out e-bikes in their regulations but currently manages them as a motorized form of recreation.
 
There are two public motorized trail systems where e-bikes and motorcycles are allowed. Pachaug State Forest (Voluntown CT) has 58 miles of motorcycle trails available to e-bikes. The forest is open yearly except during mud season.
 
E-biking is also allowed at the US Army Corps of Engineers’ property, Thomaston Dam (Thomaston CT). There is formally designated trail area on the west side of the dam that is open to trail bikes that are open from late-May to September.
 
E-bikes are not allowed on any other trails in the Connecticut state park system. They are also not allowed at any of the other popular mountain bike destinations, such as Rockland Preserve (Madison CT), Pisgah (Durham CT) or Mianus River Park (Stamford CT).
 
e-MTBs may not be ridden on local conservation land or land trust properties that prohibit motorized recreation.
 
Maine
 
Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands treats e-bikes as a motorized vehicle and allows them only on trails designated for motorized use. Maine has an extensive network of motorized trails available to e-bikes. Regional Manager, Gary Best, recommends the Androscoggin Riverlands (Turner ME) as an excellent place to ride e-MTBs.
 
The Mt. Agamenticus Conservation Region allows e-MTBs on their multi-use, motorized trails but they are not allowed on any of the hiking or hiking/biking trails.
 
e-MTBs may not be ridden on local conservation land or land trust properties that prohibit motorized recreation.
 
Massachusetts
 
e-MTBs are not allowed on any non-motorized trails in Massachusetts. There are no places to legally ride e-MTBs on public land within the Route 128 beltway and there is only one within Route 495.
 
Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation’s regards e-bikes as “motorized personal vehicles”, (as opposed to a “bicycle”) and allows them on trails designated for motorized use. Currently there are eight state parks that offer opportunities for e-bikes:

The US Army Corps of Engineers does not have a formal e-bike policy but they appear to be allowed on the motorized trails at Hodges Village Dam (Oxford MA), blazed in orange. This is the only USACE property in Massachusetts that allows motorized use.
 
e-MTBs may not be ridden on local conservation land or land trust properties that prohibit motorized recreation, including properties owned by The Trustees of Reservations.
 
New Hampshire

In New Hampshire e-bikes may only be ridden on trails designated as motorized or on private trail systems with permission of the land owner. e-MTBs are not allowed on any non-motorized trail in the NH State Park system, per resolution 7301.18: “the recreational use of electric and power-assisted bicycles on natural surface trails shall be managed within the same rules and regulations as motorized vehicles.”
 
New Hampshire has an extensive motorized trail network available for e-MTBs. The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Hopkinton Everett Dam (Contoocook NH) has a popular 26-mile multi-use trail system. Jericho Mountain State Park (Berlin NH) also offers many miles of multi-use trails available for e-MTBs.
 
In the White Mountain National Forest, the US Forest Service allows e-MTB on designated snowmobile trails in the Saco Ranger District when such trails are open to snowmobiles.

e-MTBs are allowed on private property and private trails with permission of the landowner. One such property is PRKR Mountain Trails (Littleton NH) which does allow e-bikes on the trails.

It should be noted that e-MTBs are not allowed on trails at Stonewall Farm (Keene NH, or the FOMBA trails (Auburn NH), per the Manchester Water Works which owns the property.
 
e-MTBs may not be ridden on local conservation land or land trust properties that prohibit motorized recreation.
 
Rhode Island
 
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management manages e-MTBs as motorized. Currently, there are no parks in Rhode Island that allow e-MTBs except during permitted motorized events. As such, the popular mountain bike destinations, Big River Management Area, Arcadia Management Area, Burlingame State Management Area and Lincoln Woods are off limits to e-MTBs.
 
e-MTB may be ridden on private property with permission of the landowner, but they may not be ridden on local conservation land or land trust properties that prohibit motorized recreation.
 
Vermont
 
Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation regards e-MTBs as a category of motorized All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and allows them only on trails designated for ATVs. Currently there are no State Park trails open to ATVs. ATVs, including e-MTBs, are allowed on frozen bodies of public water.
 
Vermont does have an extensive number of Class 4 roads that are open to recreational vehicles, including e-MTBs.
 
Many of the popular mountain bike destinations in Vermont do not allow e-MTBs.  This includes, among others:

  • Kingdom Trails (East Burke VT)
  • Green Mountain Trails (Pittsfield VT)
  • Trapps Family Lodge (Stowe VT)
  • Cady Hill Forest (Stowe VT)
  • Perry Hill (Waterbury VT)