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Electrically Assisted Bikes Now Allowed on AGFC Owned WMAs

By Randy Zellers AGFC Assistant Chief of Communications, 06/20/20 2:23 PM

 

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously to allow Class I electrically assisted bicycles on AGFC-owned wildlife management areas at Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Recent changes to Arkansas state law determined that certain classes of electrically assisted bicycles were not classified as motorized vehicles, which has resulted in some confusion on their use on Arkansas WMAs that do not allow motorized vehicles but do allow mountain bikes.

Brad Carner, chief of the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division, said the change left the previous code language unclear about the use of electric bicycles on AGFC-owned lands managed for wildlife recreation. A proposal was developed to allow only Class I electrically assisted bicycles to be used anywhere a traditional bicycle may be used on AGFC-owned WMAs. Class I bicycles are defined as an electric bicycle with a motor that provides assistance only when the operator is pedaling and ceases to assist the operator when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour. Other electric bicycles are subject to the same restrictions as motorized vehicles on WMAs.

The proposal was reviewed through public comment surveys, with 65 percent of respondents who provided input on the regulation in favor of allowing the bicycles. However, some opposition was aired to possible conflicts with the many user groups on WMAs and concerns about interference with the quality of hunting on these public areas. Four speakers from the public spoke in opposition to the regulation, while one spoke in favor of it and its ability to help aging hunters access more remote areas on WMAs.

Commissioners had a lengthy discussion on many caveats of the proposal. While commissioners Stan Jones of Walnut Ridge and Ken Reeves of Harrison stressed using caution toward possible conflicts with other users of WMAs and keeping a close eye on the impact the vehicles would cause on wildlife, Andrew Parker and Anne Marie Doramus brought up the increased opportunities for outdoor recreation these bicycles may provide.

Carner stressed that the regulation would only be in effect on the 61 WMAs the AGFC owns and would not be in effect in the 78 WMAs that are owned by other agencies and organizations and cooperatively managed with the AGFC for wildlife habitat and recreation.

“Most of those are other public land agencies, like the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, etc.,” Carner said. “And each of those landowners all have their own access restrictions in what is allowed.”

Commissioner Bobby Martin of Rogers also was in favor of the use of Class I electric bicycles on WMAs and recognized the need to stay up to speed with the innovations in this growing industry.

“Multiple constituents are studying this,” Martin said. “And we need to move forward at some type of a measured pace on all of this, because we’re going to learn.”

This was the last official meeting of the Commission during Reeve’s appointment, whose seven-year term will expire at the end of June. The Commission unanimously voted to elect Commissioner Andrew Parker of Little Rock as the chairman for the next fiscal year and Commissioner Joe Morgan of Stuttgart to serve as vice-chairman.