Department of Interior announces e-bike regulations despite lawsuit, conservation concerns

Staff and wire reports

The Department of the Interior on Friday announced that it finalized electric bike (or e-bike) regulations that it says paves the way for land managers to allow more people, especially older Americans and those with physical limitations, to experience bicycling on public lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.

“Enhancing access to our public lands and expanding recreational opportunities to all Americans is a priority for the Trump Administration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said in a release. “The new regulations allow our public land managers to provide e-bike access to bike trails, enhancing the opportunities to utilize our public lands to create life-long memories.”

The final regulations come 13 months after Bernhardt ordered the National Park Service to grant e-bike riders the same access in parks as muscle-powered cyclists.

The policy change toward the end of August 2019 came without public disclosure and without an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal before it was implemented, moves that appear in conflict with the Code of Federal Regulations. The secretarial order called for the policy to be adopted “unless otherwise prohibited by law or regulation” within two weeks. It also called for public comment, after the fact, some time in the future.

Last December, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a lawsuit to overturn the Interior Department’s move to expand e-bike access in the National Park System.

The 31-page filing, made by PEER with three other conservation groups and two individuals, charged that the decision-making process violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The plaintiffs also argued that an advisory committee comprised of industry-friendly representatives met regularly with Interior officials to lobby for the increased access and helped develop the new policy.

Officials with PEER said Friday that Interior’s announcement would not derail the lawsuit.

Concerns ranging from the risks of high-speed e-bikes to visitors and wildlife, spooking horses on mixed-use trails, and degrading the quality of the backcountry experience have not been addressed, the organization said.

“The Park Service’s undue haste resembles an e-bike whizzing by with an irresponsible teenager on the throttle,” PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins said in a release. “Interior and the Park Service realized they were caught with their legal pants down and are scrambling for cover.

“This rule is the product of industry influence having nothing to do with improving the park experience – a topic on which the Park Service has yet to even do a preliminary assessment. Given the major challenges facing a Park Service in the grip of a pandemic, this is a questionable use of its limited regulatory resources.”

Bicycling is an excellent way to experience America’s rich natural heritage, and innovations in e-bike design have opened the possibilities for a greater number of people, particularly for those with limitations stemming from age, illness, disability or fitness, especially in more challenging

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Basic Interior Handrail Codes and Regulations

If you are getting ready to build a new home or renovate a old one and have handrails you want to incorporate then you need to get up to date on basic interior handrail code requirements.

Before we begin discussing basic handrail codes we need to make a clear distinction between handrails and top rails. A top rail is a barrier that keeps people from falling over. The handrail is the part you physically hold on as you climb the stirs. In this article we will be discussing handrails and not top rails unless the top rail is also the handrail.

When it come to handrails there are three code requirements that need to be followed:

  • Handrail hight
  • Handrail size
  • Baluster spacing

Handrail hights are simple. OSHA states that the handrail hight shall be no less than 30 inches to a maximum of 37 inches high. This may seem low for some locations but remember you can also have a higher top rail if the site is intimidating. IBC or the International Building Code requires handrails to be no less than 42 inches unless it is a 3 story building then your minimum hight is 36 inches. As a fabricator of metal handrails I typically make mine 36 inches high for most residential projects.

Handrail size is another issue and as a rule of thumb they should not exceed 2 inches wide and you should leave at least 1.5 inches of space between the handrail and the wall or top rail to allow easy grabbing without getting your hand stuck between the rail and wall.

Baluster spacing is a major safety issue when it comes to young children. The baluster is the picket or spindle of the handrail and spacing needs to be tight enough that a toddler cannot slip through the spaces. The spacing rule says that a 4 3/8 inch ball shall not pass through the spaces. What this means is a building inspector will have a 4 3/8 inch ball with them and if it passes through any baluster then your handrails are not up to code. Many people think the rule is a 4 inch ball but it is actually a 4 3/8 inch ball that cannot pass through the spaces.

Finally if you are planing to upgrade your home or build a new one you really need to check with your local building inspector. Some cities and counties might have different requirements. As a rule of thumb stick to a handrail hight of 36 to 37 inches, allow at least 1 1/2 inches of space for your hand to fit between the handrail and wall or top rail and keep your buluster spacing to 4 inches or less.

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