Cycling Not Included in New Forest Service Rule

Bicycles distinguished from motorized vehicles

Feb 6, 2015
Outside Magazine
mountain bike national forest snow biking

The new rules will allow mountain bikers to use snow trails.    Hagbard_/Flickr

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service announced a new policy requiring local Forest Service managers to designate specific areas that will be open to snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles. While this came as unwelcome news to snowmobilers who feel they’re unfairly being pushed off trails normally used by skiers, cyclists learned that the rule doesn’t apply to them.

On Thursday, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) released a statement saying that the Forest Service has determined that bicycle use is outside the scope of the new rule. Bicycles are often banned from snow trails because they’re characterized as wheeled vehicles, but now the Forest Service distinguishes bikes as human-powered, differentiating them from electric-powered bikes. “We’re glad to see that mountain biking is being consistently treated as a nonmotorized activity,” Jeremy Fancher, IMBA’s interim director of government affairs, said in the statement. “Though in this case that also means that the rule does not apply to us.”

IMBA will now work with the individual forests to outline the over-snow trails, since plans like that can affect bike access. “All travel management planning, for both summer and winter uses, is vitally important,” said Fancher. “IMBA chapters should work closely with their region directors to track and participate in such planning—each forest’s plan is unique and will benefit from the involvement of local recreational users.”