Senator Lee reintroduces bicycles into wilderness law
Senator Lee’s previous bill, SB 1695, was introduced in May 2019 and was supported by the US Forest Service and the Home Office, but lawmakers ran out of time to pass it before the end of the Congress session. This new bill, called SB 1696 is a reintroduction of SB 1695 which will hopefully get passed this time around.
Current legislation, drafted as part of the Wilderness Act of 1964, prohibits the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, motorboats, and other forms of mechanical transportation. This means that the current policy of the Home Office considers “mechanical transport” to include non-motorized ATVs, but also other outdoor equipment such as strollers and game carts. In 1984, as mountain biking emerged and cyclists began to explore off-roading, the term “ mechanized transport ” was clarified by the forest service under increasing pressure from traditional environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, and mountain bikes were found to be intrusive. .
However, the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act could change that. This bill would add wording to the Wilderness Act to ensure that the rules limiting “mechanical transportation” do not include forms of non-motorized travel in which the only propulsive power is one or more people. However, SB 1696 would not be a general permit for cycling in the wild, as local land managers could continue to prohibit all bicycle access depending on what is necessary to preserve nature’s character.
We will keep you posted on the progress of the bill as it is passed by Congress. For more information on the wilderness debate, click here. For more information on the bill, click here.