E-Bikes on Tahoe Donner Trails

Like many landowners across the nation, Tahoe Donner has reached the point where there is a need for increased communication, education and consideration about the topic of electric bicycles, commonly referred to as e-bikes, on the Tahoe Donner trail system. With support from the board of directors, the new year brings the launch of a new membership outreach initiative about e-bike regulations on our trails.

Over the next several months, management will engage the membership on this topic through focus groups, a member survey and member comment, and findings and recommendation(s) will be presented to the board at the February board meeting. The management project leads are Annie Rosenfeld, Director of Risk Management and Real Property, and Christina Thayer, Trails Manager.

Management has no opinion on what the recommendation(s) will be at this time. Through a member outreach initiative, board and staff expect to discuss the full spectrum of possible outcomes, including keeping the existing rule as written, adding language to specify more clearly that motor-powered bikes include e-bikes, permitting e-bikes on specifically designated trails or fully including e-bikes across the entire trail system.

SPECTRUM OF POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
E-Bike Spectrum of Possible Outcomes


BACKGROUND

An e-bike is an electrically assisted bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts of power. Available for multiple uses, e-bikes can assist with longer rides and enable riders with limited physical ability to enjoy outdoor recreation more fully.

CURRENT TAHOE DONNER RULE
Under the current Tahoe Donner Covenants Rules, the association prohibits motor-powered bikes on common area and other association-owned property:

Covenants Rules Association Owned Property, section 2.2 OffRoad Vehicles: Snowmobiles, motor-powered bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), off-road motorcycles and off-road use of any motorized vehicle is prohibited on Common Areas, and other Association-owned properties, except that the Association may use such vehicles in the furtherance of its operations.

Because an e-bike is a bicycle equipped with a small electric motor that assists a rider with speed, elevation or a combination of both, it is considered banned under the current rule.

Under California law, e-bikes fall into Class 1, 2 or 3:

CLASS 1 E-BIKE
E-Bike Class 1Low-speed, pedal-assisted bicycle equipped with a motor that activates only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour
CLASS 2 E-BIKE
E-Bike Class 2Low-speed, throttle-assisted bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour (pedaling not required for electric assist when using throttle)
CLASS 3 E-BIKE
E-Bike Class 3Higher-speed, pedal-assisted electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph; operators of Class 3 e-bikes must be 16 years or older and wear a helmet

OTHER COMMUNITIES + E-BIKES

With e-bikes gaining popularity across the country in recent years, other resorts, associations and communities dealing with similar e-bike issues can provide valuable insight. Benchmarking to better understand how other communities have dealt with e-bikes include:

E-BIKE LAND MANAGEMENTCOMPARATIVE METRIX
Y= Yes; N= No; M=Mixed; NS= No stance

  E-Bikes Permitted
Y/N/M/NS
Rules/Policy or Under Evaluation Management Strategy Issues Notes  
REGIONAL
Tahoe Donner Association N Under evaluation; currently not allowed None Opinion split Little to no negative interactions; signage needed
Truckee Donner Land Trust NS Defer to USFS policy or adjacent lands None Trails cross multiple managed lands
United States Forest Service (USFS) M No e-bikes on trails; allowed on roads
Pilot program areas allow bikes
Signage, web, word of mouth; no enforcement other than verbal notice Poachers; no enforcement; controversy USFS re-evaluating regulation and management strategies; Tahoe Forest is a pilot forest area under e-bike evaluation
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) M Permitted on OHV roads and trails; permitted on authorized non-motorized trails; not permitted on non-authorized non-motorized trails; site-specific management Signage, web, maps, local word of mouth, ranger enforcement Poachers BLM to issue site-specific management decisions under individualized land-use plans. Rules under NEPA evaluation for change
California State Parks M Permitted on OHV roads and trails; permitted on authorized non-motorized trails; not permitted on non-authorized non-motorized trails; site-specific management Signage, web, maps, local word of mouth, ranger enforcement Poachers; no enforcement; lack of consistent park rules Individualized rules from park to park tends to cause the most issues
Northstar Mountain Bike Park Y Permitted on all trails within the park area signage, maps None Not a multi-use area; no equestrian or pedestrians to contend with; building uphill travel trails for e-bikes
Sommerset HOA in Reno, Nevada N No motorized bicycles or skateboards allowed on trails Covenants rules – fines applied to association dues; signs Cyclists don’t have identification to fine a fee to association dues E-bikes have not posed a problem yet; trails connect to Peavine trails, and HOA wants to encourage bicycle commuting to trails
Peavine Trails on USFS Land M No e-bikes on non-authorized trails; allowed on designated trails and dirt roads Signage, kiosks, maps, trail organizations None Mixed area of dirt roads and trails provided e-bike and non-e-bike trail use in same area
Washoe County Parks and Open Space M No e-bikes on non-authorized trails; allowed on designated trails and dirt roads Signage None No issues yet
Marin County Parks and Open Space M E-bikes permitted on multi-use pathways; not permitted on dirt roads and trails unless specified Limited signage, maps, web search, ranger enforcement with tickets Very limited enforcement opportunities Rules vary from trail to trail; signage is increasing to allow e-bikes on dirt roads and some single-track trails
Tamarancho – Mt. Tamalpais Trails Y E-bikes permitted on all trails and roads None None, possible more bikes No signage prohibiting e-bikes; some trails don’t allow any bikes
Auburn State Recreation Area M E-bikes permitted on all trails and roads unless designated otherwise None; speed limits posted None Not currently re-evaluating; no significant policy needed
NON-REGIONAL
Park City Trails and Open Space M Allowed on multi-use trails and soft surface trails over five feet wide; not allowed on single track within the Park City town limit Signage, maps, web search Poachers; controversy Town is currently evaluating a rule change to allow e-bikes on single track within town limits; signage will be a management strategy
Moab Trails and Open Space M Allowed on federal designated-use lands; not allowed on non-motorized trails Signage, maps, town, posters, word of mouth Poachers; limited enforcement Many riders poaching; contentious in town
Sedona Trails and Open Space M Allowed on multi-use paths and paved trails; not allowed on single track Signage Poachers; enforcement; growing demand; desire Policies are being re-evaluated for allowing e-bikes on specific single track trails; managed by local organizations
Mammoth Mountain Y Allowed on all bike park trails; Follow USFS regulations in surrounding forest and trail use areas Signage, maps, shops, lessons, local organizations, word of mouth None Embracing e-bikes and constructing e-bike-specific trail design for uphill travel; fee-use area
Sun Valley Trails and Open Space Y Mixed-use permits e-bikes use on many designated single track and roads Signs, maps, apps, shops None Trails are multi-use and permit e-bikes with adequate signage to educate users about etiquette; town map has link for best e-bike trails

Please note that this list is a random sample of organizations and associations.


TIMELINE

To ensure a transparent, member-centric, widely accepted, sensible and sustainable outcome, this process must be built on a foundation of member outreach. Our member outreach plan includes education and information through community forums. The feedback gained will be crafted into a member survey distributed with a deadline in early February. The report from the survey will be provided to the board at the February board meeting, which will determine the potential for a possible e-bike rule change.

DECEMBER 2020

  • Build educational platforms through Tahoe Donner News and website creation

JANUARY 2021

  • Tahoe Donner News story published
  • Conduct member-centric focus groups to capture various members’ interests, concerns and hopes for outcomes. Focus groups will be held via lunch forums (12-1PM) and happy hour forums (4:30-5:30PM). To register for a forum, click here. Forums will be formatted with “pro” groups in favor of rules change, “con” groups not in favor of rules change and those who are undecided:
    • January 14 (FORUM FULL): Lunch forum | Pro group
    • January 16: Happy hour forum | Undecided group
    • January 18: Lunch forum | Con group
    • January 19: Lunch forum | Undecided group
    • January 21: Happy hour forum | Con group
    • January 23: Happy hour forum | Pro group

FEBRUARY 2021

  • Conclude survey with membership to create summary report in time for board meeting
  • Conclude benchmark study view other communities and their stances on e-bikes on trails
  • Deliver research findings and summary reports to the board of directors and membership
  • Board of directors will choose one of two steps based on feedback:
    • Any rules modification require a 45-day member comment period once the proposed changes are published; once the 45-day notice is issued, the following two board meetings will hear member comment in addition to members being able to write in feedback to be included with the agenda topic
      • If a rules change is recommended, at the conclusion of the 45-day member comment period, all feedback is provided to the board, who will then decide and consider adoption of the proposed rule changes
      • Signage and education campaign on the rules would be implemented
    • Member feedback could show the board that rules modification is not needed but existing rules should be amplified through communication, signage, etc.

MARCH 2021 (IF RULES CHANGE IS RECOMMENDED)

  • Discuss action item at special board meeting to approve publication of 45-day notice, including proposed rules change
  • Publish 45-day notice in Tahoe Donner News

APRIL 2021 (IF RULES CHANGE IS RECOMMENDED)

  • 45-day notice begins
  • Discussion at regular board meeting, but no action

MAY 2021 (IF RULES CHANGE IS RECOMMENDED)

  • 45-day notice ends
  • Board considers adoption of rules change

JUNE 2021 (IF RULES CHANGE IS RECOMMENDED)

  • Implementation of rules change via documents, signage, communication, etc.

FEATURED DOCUMENTS

As progress continues, additional documents will be added to this cumulative list:


MEMBER PARTICIPATION OPPORTUNITIES

FORUMS – COMPLETED
The purpose of each forum was to:

  • Provide members with a platform to express their e-bike hopes, questions and concerns
  • Probe for understanding the foundation of members’ opinion
  • Explore members’ thoughts and ideas on the right way forward on a spectrum of outcomes of e-bikes on TD trails
  • Provide opportunity for members to listen to contrary opinions, should they choose, to provide insight and understanding

Participants were invited to ask questions, voice concerns and hopes, share opinions and come up with possible acceptable alternatives to the current rule. Forum facilitation encouraged respectful, active participation of attendees while exemplifying the positivity and love of TD trails vibe we all share.

Member forums will be held via Zoom lunch forums (12-1PM) and happy hour forums (4:30-5:30PM) and formatted with “pro” groups in favor of rules change, “con” groups not in favor of rules change and those who are undecided. Upon signing up for a forum, management will contact each participant with a Zoom invite ahead of the forum. Forums will be held on:

    • January 14 (FORUM FULL): Lunch forum | Pro group
    • January 16: Happy hour forum | Undecided group
    • January 18: Lunch forum | Con group
    • January 19: Lunch forum | Undecided group
    • January 21: Happy hour forum | Con group
    • January 23: Happy hour forum | Pro group

FEEDBACK
To provide written feedback on e-bike usage on TD trails, click here.

For specific questions about the outreach process in general, email trails@tahoedonner.com.