Fayetteville approves new e-bike rules for city trails


FAYETTEVILLE — Some recent changes to the city’s e-bike rules took effect this month.

City Council members in November approved an ordinance to amend Fayetteville’s regulations regarding which types of e-bikes are allowed on the city’s trails.

The new regulations are partially aimed at aligning the city’s rules with state laws that define the different classes of e-bikes, but also address what types of bikes can be used 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 that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that stops adding power when the bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 2: A bicycle with a throttle-actuated motor that stops providing assistance when the bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 3: A bicycle with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, but continues to add power up to 28 mph.

New paved trail rules

The new law only allows Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on paved trails.

Other electrically-powered personal mobility devices – like electric skateboards, e-scooters and one-wheels – are also be allowed as long as their motors meet the 750 watt definition.

City staff said while many companies list bikes at 750 watts, most of those actually only produce 749 watts, which means nearly all of the most popular brands of bikes will remain legal on Fayetteville’s trails.

New soft-surface trail rules

Staff said they were getting increased complaints about vehicles that were damaging the city’s soft-surface trails, which is something they’d hoped to address with the new rules.

More and more mountain bikers and people who walk or jog on soft-surface trails, staff said, have noticed high-powered electric dirt bikes 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 rules for paved trails 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 by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Education and enforcement

Before the council decision, city staff said an education program would be enacted that includes community outreach and signage notifying trail users of what is allowed. The city’s Parks, Natural Resources and Cultural Affairs department this week began promoting the rule changes on social media.

Anyone found in violation of the new rules could face fines of up to $500.

Enforcement will mostly be complaint-driven, staff said, but the Police Department’s trail patrol division could also be leaned on for enforcement at times.