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Lawmakers, wildlife officials study E-bikes on trails

A black bike with large wheels and a battery pack mounted on the frame hands from a bike stand outside in front of a fence.
Mark Arehart
FILE - An e-bike resembles a regular bicycle, with its batteries and electric motor integrated into the bike's frame. Enthusiasts see e-bikes on national park trails as a great thing, but some traditional riders and environmentalists see big problems ahead.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. (AP) — The use of electric bikes is surging, so lawmakers and wildlife officials are studying their impacts on trails to determine where they should be allowed.

The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources is conducting a survey that's looking at the use of e-bikes on natural surface trails, KING5 reported.

“We’ve already had like 7,000 respondents to that survey, and our public meetings, we had at least 120 people at each of those,” said Heide Anderson, recreation planner for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Legislation passed last year also directs wildlife officials to get input from several groups, including tribal leaders and the disabled community.

“E-bikes really provide a way for a lot of people to access trails and public lands that might not otherwise be able to,” Anderson said.

There are concerns about more use on public lands when it comes to wildlife, soil, and water resources.

“Our biggest mission is to protect the wildlife resources out there and so trying to balance now the two is very important to us,” Anderson said.

The survey wrapped up Friday, and wildlife officials have until the end of September to get a report to lawmakers.

“We want to think about where are the best places to use them,” said state Sen. Marko Liias, chair of the senate’s Transportation Committee.

The next step is policy. Officials hope the study will give clear rules and regulations on when and where e-bikes can be used.

“We don’t want to have folks come too fast on trails where that’s not safe, we want to make sure they have the right kind of bike for the right kind of trail. That’s part of what the department’s doing is just thinking through those details.,” Liias said.

The main goal is to get more folks outside.

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