FAYETTEVILLE — The City Council will soon consider some new rules about which types of e-bikes are allowed on the city’s trails.
The new regulations are partially aimed at aligning Fayetteville’s rules with state laws that define the different classes of e-bikes, but also will address what types of bikes are allowed on both paved and soft-surface trails.
Arkansas defines an e-bike as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets one of three classifications:
Class 1: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
Class 2: A bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
Class 3 : A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.
City staff said while many companies list bikes at 750 watts, most of those actually only produce 749 watts, which would ensure that nearly all of the most popular brands of bikes would continue to be legal on Fayetteville’s trails.
Proposed paved trail rules
The new law would only allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on paved trails.
Other electrically-powered personal mobility devices – like electric skateboards, e-scooters and one-wheels – would also be allowed as long as their motors meet the 750 watt definition.
Fayetteville currently has an ordinance that prohibits golf carts or comparable sized vehicles and gas-powered vehicles on shared-use paved trails. The rule includes exceptions for city maintenance and emergency vehicles. A separate law would continue to allow pedicabs on trails.
The speed limit on paved trails would remain at 15 mph.
Proposed soft-surface trail rules
Staff said they are getting increased complaints about vehicles that are are damaging the city’s soft-surface trails, which is something another proposed rule change aims to address.
More and more mountain bikers and people who walk or jog on soft-surface trails, staff said, are noticing high-powered electric dirt bikes that are tearing up the surfaces of the trails and creating dangerous ruts or new paths that can lead to safety hazards or drainage problems.
City staff said after seeking feedback from local mountain bike organizations, they decided to only allow Class 1 e-bikes, meaning any electric bicycle with a throttle would be prohibited on soft-surface trails, regardless of its power output.
The proposed rules for paved trails last month were discussed and approved for recommendation by the city’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee and the City Council’s Transportation Committee. The soft-surface rule changes were discussed in early August by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Education and enforcement
City staff said if approved, an education program would be enacted that includes community outreach and signage notifying trail users of what is allowed.
Anyone found in violation of the laws would be subject to a fine of up to $500.
Enforcement would mostly be complaint-driven, staff said, but the Police Department’s trail patrol division could also be leaned on for enforcement at times.
Dane Eifling, the city’s mobility coordinator, said the two rule changes would likely be presented to the City Council at the same time in the coming months.