Senator Mike Lee has re-introduced a bill that could help bikes return to wilderness areas. The Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act would empower local managers of Wilderness areas to decide whether to allow and how to regulate non-motorized travel.
Senator Lee's previous Bill, S.B. 1695, was introduced in May 2019 and was supported by the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior but legislators ran out of time to vote on it before the congressional session ended. This new Bill, referred to as S.B. 1686 is a re-introduction of S.B. 1695 that will hopefully be voted on this time.
The current legislation, written as part of the Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, motorboats, and other forms of mechanical transport. This means that the current Department of Interior policy considers “mechanical transport” to include non-motorized mountain bikes but also other outdoor equipment such as strollers and game carts. In 1984, as mountain biking emerged and riders started to explore off-road, 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 deemed unwelcome.
However, the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act could change that. This bill would insert language to the Wilderness Act to ensure that the rules restricting “mechanical transport” do not include forms of nonmotorized travel in which the sole propulsive power is one or more persons. However, S.B. 1686 would not be a blanket permit for bicycling in the Wilderness as local land managers could continue to prohibit any bicycle access depending on what is required to preserve the character of the Wilderness.
We'll keep you updated with the progress of the bill as it passes through Congress. For more information on the Wilderness debate, click here
. For more information on the Bill, click here