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 brought the launch of a new membership outreach initiative about e-bike regulations on our trails.
Over the past several months, management has engaged the membership on this topic through focus groups, a member survey and member comment, and findings and recommendation(s) have been presented at multiple board meetings in 2021. The management project leads are Annie Rosenfeld, Director of Risk Management and Real Property, and Christina Thayer, Trails Manager.
Through a member outreach initiative, board and staff discussed 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
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:
Low-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
Low-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)
Higher-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:
- U.S. Forest Service – use of e-bikes
- Arizona State Trail Report
- People for Bikes in Virginia, Colorado, Idaho and Utah
- Bureau of Land Management – use of e-bikes
- California E-Bike Laws
- Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) – use of e-bikes
E-BIKE LAND MANAGEMENTCOMPARATIVE METRIX
Y= Yes; N= No; M=Mixed; NS= No stance
|Rules/Policy or Under Evaluation||Management Strategy||Issues||Notes|
|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; Truckee and Carson District approved e-bike use on 35 miles of singletrack trail||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|
|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.
To ensure a transparent, member-centric, widely accepted, sensible and sustainable outcome, this process has been built on a foundation of member outreach. Our member outreach plan has included education and information through community forums. The feedback gained was crafted into a member survey distributed with a deadline in early February. The report from the survey has been and will be used at future board meetings, which will determine the potential for a possible e-bike rule change.
- Build educational platforms through Tahoe Donner News and website creation
- Publish Tahoe Donner News story
- Conduct member-centric focus groups to capture various members’ interests, concerns and hopes for outcomes; forums provide “pro” groups in favor of rules change, “con” groups not in favor of rules change and those who are undecided
- 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
- Present member survey summary report at March board meeting
- Board provided feedback and direction to move forward with drafting a rules change and adaptive management plan as part of the interim plan this summer
- Present update and possible next steps for e-bike regulation at the April board meeting
- Present draft proposed rule change and Adaptive Management Pilot Program; staff will seek board approval to implement pilot program
- Discuss action item at a board meeting to approve publication of 45-day notice for proposed rule changes
- Post 45-Day Notice: Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Rule Change, Electric Bicycle Regulation and Other Noted Changes
As progress continues, additional documents will be added to this cumulative list:
- 45-Day Notice on Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Rule Change, Electric Bicycle Regulation and Other Noted Changes
- Regulation Update – presented at April board meeting
- E-Bike Survey Summary Report
- Regulation Evaluation – presented at March board meeting
- Member Feedback and Comments as of February 8, 2021
- January 2021 Tahoe Donner News Article – page 24-25
- November 20, 2020 board meeting presentation
- E-Bike Usage Comparison Matrix – see above section to view table
MEMBER PARTICIPATION OPPORTUNITIES
Forums have been completed. The purpose of each forum was to:
- Provide members with a platform to express their e-bike hopes, questions and concerns
- Probe to understand 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.
To provide written feedback on e-bike usage on TD trails, click here.
For specific questions about the outreach process in general, email firstname.lastname@example.org.