Bicyclists lamenting the reluctance of the National Park Service to embrace mountain biking on seemingly suitable park routes may have some good news to celebrate.
The National Park Service just announced today it will expand bicycle access in parks nationwide.
The new rule, available online at: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx, gives park superintendents the authority to allow bicycles on roads that are closed to the motoring public – like fire roads and roads used by park maintenance vehicles. Bikes are already allowed on park roads that are open to vehicles.
Do not expect a major shift in trail riding restrictions. The rule continues to prohibit bikes in wilderness and other areas where they would have significant impact on the environment or visitor safety. The NPS release specifically says, “The National Park Service will continue to prohibit bicycle use in eligible, study, proposed, recommended, and designated wilderness areas.”
The National Park Service says this rule moves decision making about where bike use is appropriate from a regulatory to a planning process. Nevertheless, to open existing or new trails to bikes the approval process still retains rigorous environmental compliance requirements and mandatory public comment on proposals.
New trails outside of developed areas will continue to require a park-specific special regulation approved by the director of the National Park Service.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “Bikes are a great way to exercise, get healthy, and experience the great outdoors. This new rule gives park superintendents greater flexibility to determine where bikes can be allowed in a park and additional authority to shut areas where cycling is jeopardizing visitors or park resources.”
The final rule, 36 CFR § 4.30, will be published in the Federal Register on July 6 and will go into effect 30 days later.