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Expanding Bicycle Use On Conservation Areas Proposed by MDC

MDC has proposed regulations that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails, such as at Canaan Conservation Area in Gasconade County (shown). Photo: MDC

Proposed regulations would allow expanded bicycle use on many conservation area service roads and/or multi-use trails while restricting access to heavily used areas and natural areas.

The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at its Aug. 27 open meeting on proposed regulation changes that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails. The Commission also gave initial approval to MDC definitions of bicycles and electric bicycles.

According to MDC, conservation-area users have expressed interest in expanding the use of bicycles and electric bicycles to include conservation-area service roads and multi-use trails for greater access to the areas.

Bicycle use on MDC’s approximately 1,100 conservation areas is currently restricted to roads open to public-vehicle traffic and some multi-use trails. Bicycle use is currently not allowed on conservation-area service roads.

Service roads are non-public roads on MDC areas used by staff to conduct resource management activities. They are marked on online maps on the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places. Some service roads are currently used as walking paths by the public. MDC notes that conditions of service roads on department areas vary and are not maintained at the level of public-use trails and public roads.

Most MDC conservation areas do not have applicable service roads or multi-use trails. The regulation change will impact approximately 300 MDC areas by allowing bicycle and electric bicycle use on service roads and/or multi-use trails. Approximately 30 of these areas will be closed to bicycle and electric bicycle use during all portions of the firearms deer hunting season and the spring turkey hunting seasons.

Exceptions would also include service roads used by staff at fish hatcheries and other heavily used MDC areas or where bicycle use could cause damage to sensitive habitats, such as designated natural areas.

Electric bicycles are defined by MDC as “any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device equipped with fully operable pedals, a saddle or seat for the rider, and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, and which meets one of the following three classes:

Class 1: electric bicycles are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour;
Class 2: electric bicycles are equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour;
Class 3: electric bicycles are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

The next step in the rulemaking process is for MDC to have a public comment period during October. MDC invites online review of the full regulation proposal and public comments October 1-31 at mdc.mo.gov/about-regulations/wildlife-code-missouri/proposed-regulation-changes. Comments received during this comment period will be considered and final proposals will go to the Commission for further action at its Dec. 10 meeting. If enacted, the changes will become effective Feb. 28, 2022.

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