Missouri state parks allows ebikes on bicycle trails, assisted-mobility devices on walking trails

A common question asked by visitors to the Katy Trail: Are ebikes and other assistive-mobility devices allowed on the trail?

A rider enjoys a recumbent tricycle on the Katy Trail
A rider enjoys a recumbent tricycle on the Katy Trail. Many riders choose recumbent bicycles, tricycles, ebikes, and other options, either because the options help with a physical problem or a disability, or because riders simply prefer them for other reasons.

Many don't know it, but--with reasonable restrictions--ebikes and assistive mobility devices for people with disabilities are indeed allowed on the Katy Trail and, indeed, on most trails across Missouri's large state parks system.

On trails where bicycling is allowed, access by any type of human-powered pedalcycle (unicycle, tricycle, etc) is allowed, as is ebike access.

On all state parks trails where walking or hiking is allowed, power-driven assistive mobility devices are--with reasonable restrictions--allowed.

An understanding of Missouri State Parks' accessibility and ebike guidelines is helpful right now, because the Missouri Department of Conservation is currently proposing rules to allow far greater bicycle access to Conservation Area trails. The new MDC rules (open for public comment March 2-March 31, 2021) need to allow for the same type of broad access for people at all levels of physical ability and disability, as do current State Parks rules.

(Look for a MoBikeFed Advocacy Alert on the new MDC rules when the public comment period opens March 2nd.  The issue of access to people at all levels of ability/disability is one issue we will be raising with the MDC during the public comment period.)

Missouri State Parks history of trail accessibility

As a public agency, State Parks has always worked to create access to parks and trails for people with disabilities--and also to many citizens who may not have a specific disability, but simply may not be able to walk or bicycle the required distances to visit state parks and trails.

But in 2016, when Missouri state legislators announced a bill to allow ATVs on the Katy Trail, the effort to allow greater accessibility to Missouri State Parks was supercharged. ATVs on the Katy Trail was, of course, strongly opposed by MoBikeFed, our members, and many other allied individuals and groups across Missouri.  In the  end, the proposal was defeated.

But one bright spot in that debate was a spotlight on the need for greater access to Missouri parks and trails by those who don't customarily bicycle or hike long distances.  Many people with disabilities are simply unable to bicycle or to walk the required distances.  These citizens enjoy the out-of-doors and pay their share of taxes that support our parks and trails.  And many of them would like to see, for example, the Katy Trail if a way is provided.

Since 2016, Missouri State Parks has made a concerted effort to increase the accessibility of the Katy Trail, including measures such as increased tram tours and other disability-friendly access opportunities, and by creating and publicizing clear policies allowing accessibility devices and ebikes on the trail.

The specific Missouri State Parks rules and regulations for ebike and mobility device access on trails

The Missouri State Parks Regulations can be found online. Bicycle, ebike, and trail regulations are in Chapter 2.
 
Excerpts from the State Parks regulations relevant to disability and ebike access to trails:
 
2. Electrically-assisted pedal-powered vehicle is a self-propelled vehicle containing an electric motor designed to assist or supplement pedaling, which does not exceed a speed of twenty (20) miles per hour.
 
Comment: The 3-class system for ebikes has recently been developed--perhaps after this rule was written.  State Parks rule allows Class 1 (pedal-assist up to 20mph) and Class 2 (throttle up to 20 mph) ebikes.  For most trail applications, either Class 1 or Class 1 & 2 are appropriate.  For consistency it is best to include standard definitions of the three classes in any ebike legislation, regulation, or rules.
3. Other Power-Driven Mobility Device (OPDMD) is any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines - whether or not designed primarily for use by individuals with mobility disabilities - that is used by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion, including golf cars, electric personal assisted mobile devices, or any mobility device designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes, but that is not a wheelchair, off-road vehicle, ATV, or motor vehicle.
4. Pedal-powered vehicle. A vehicle consisting of a tubular metal frame mounted on one (1), two (2), or three (3) wire-spoked wheels equipped with handlebars and a saddlelike seat, and propelled by foot pedals, more commonly known as a unicycle, bicycle, or tricycle.
 
Comment: Note that this definition allows for most commonly-used types of bicycle, unicycles, and tricycles.  Tricycles, particularly, are often used by people with disabilities to facilitate access.
 
A possible point of improvement: Recumbent bicycles are very, very common today and many times are used by people with some level of disability. They are commonly available in both bicycle and tricycle formats. Recuments, for example, are often seen on the Katy Trail. The requirement for a "saddle-like seat" could be taken by some to exclude some or most recumbent bicycles and tricycles.  State Parks should explore a refinement in this wording. 
 
There is no reason to exclude recumbent bicycles or tricycles on trails where other bicycles and tricycles are allowed.
All of the above are simply definitions of various types of devices.  Just as important are the details about where each type of device is allowed.
 
The first rule is where and how Other Power-Driven Mobility Device (OPDMDs) are allowed to operate--generally anywhere pedestrians are allowed to operate, with some reasonable restrictions:
(12) Traffic.

(A) OPDMDs may be used by persons with disabilities in all areas open to pedestrian use unless any of the following apply:
 
1. The type (gas or electric), size (width, height, length), weight, dimensions (tire size, ground clearance), and/or speed precludes its safe and/or non-hazardous operation;
 
2. Environmental conditions (volume of pedestrians, design, indoor operations characteristics, square footage, stationary barriers) preclude its safe and/or non-hazardous operation;
 
3. Operation of the device can reasonably be expected to damage the environmental, natural, or cultural resources;
 
4. The device is precluded by other operational restrictions;
 
5. Operation of the device conflicts with federal laws or regulations;
 
6. The state park or state historic site is unable to store the device, if requested;
 
7. Usage would violate 10 CSR 90-2.020, 10 CSR 90-2.030, 10 CSR 90-2.040, or any other state or federal law; or
 
8. The individual is operating the OPDMD in an unsafe or disruptive manner.
Use of ebikes and general pedal-powered vehicles (tricycles, unicycles, etc) is also defined.  Generally, these devices can be used whenever a trail is open for bicycle use:
(26) Use of Pedal-Powered or Electrically Assisted Pedal-Powered Vehicles. To facilitate accessibility to the public, the use of pedal-powered and electrically assisted pedal-powered vehicles is permitted on all trails designated for bicycle use.

State Parks no-turn-away camping policy for people who travel by bicycle or on foot

Another important state parks policy of interest to people who travel by bicycle or walk/hike to state parks--a no-turn away camping policy for people who arrive by bicycle or on foot:
Bicyclists, backpackers or others with limited ability to travel will be assured a camping space for the night of their arrival. Accommodations other than those available on a designated site may be arranged through the facility manager.
Thanks to work and lobbying by MoBikeFed board members and allies years ago, this policy has long been in place at State Parks on an informal basis.  Thanks to further inquiries by a MoBikeFed member and interested groups, in Summer 2020 the no-turn-away policy was written down and posted on the State Parks web site here.
 
 

Working for greater access for bicycling, walking, and trails around Missouri is one of the major goals of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. It is an important part of building a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails system in Missouri--another of our high-priority goals. We strongly applaud and support Missouri State Parks work to improve accessibility of State Parks and trails.

Your membership and generous financial support helps turn our Vision into reality!