Carroll County Times

Carroll officials looking for input on allowing motorized e-bikes on designated park trails

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

Carroll County officials are continuing to consider changing a law that bans all motorized vehicles from county-owned park trails, and allowing a certain class of e-bikes that operate when the rider is pedaling, with a motor that automatically shuts off at a top speed of 20 miles per hour.

The next step is a public hearing, during which the Board of County Commissioners and the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks will collect input from county residents and park users.


The public hearing has yet to be scheduled. Following the hearing, commissioners will vote on whether to change the ordinance.

Jeff Degitz, director of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, explained to commissioners that there are three classifications of e-bikes:

  • Class I has a motor that only operates when the rider is pedaling. Once it reaches 20 mph the motor automatically shuts off.
  • Class II does not require the rider to pedal. The maximum speed is 20 mph.
  • Class III is the fastest and most powerful type of e-bike. It has an electric motor that provides assistance while the rider is pedaling, and the motor stops assisting once the bike reaches 28 mph.

“Technically with the parks ordinance the way it is currently written, no motorized vehicles can be anywhere other than the park roads and parking lots,” Degitz said. “So an e-bike would be in violation of that ordinance if they were out on a trail.

“They don’t look noticeably different from a regular mountain bike, so it’s hard to tell [an e-bike versus a regular bike], plus we don’t have rangers who are out on the trails,” Degitz said. “What we’re trying to do is find the best practice as far as whether or not to allow them, and if so, how we would do that.”

Degitz said there is a growing number of e-bikes already being used on the trails.

“We have a large number of people who do take e-bikes out commonly, particularly up around the Union Mills and Hashua area,” he said. “It’s been a growing phenomenon. ... They’re becoming more popular in parks. So a number of different places are looking at how do they change or do they change their regulations, and how to work with that.”

A Parks and Recreation advisory board held a meeting in February and took input from the public on the use of e-bikes in county parks.

“At the advisory board meeting we did have a great discussion,” he said. “We had about 40 people in attendance at the meeting, and I think we got a really good cross-section of feedback from users of e-bikes, from the equestrian community, from hikers. We heard from a number of people that use e-bikes as a way to get outdoors and enjoy the trails.

“Some of the interactions we have between hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers now, everybody brings a certain perspective to the trail, and a certain desire for what type of experience they want to have,” he said. “We have some conflicts now with the different users.”

Degitz said the advisory board recommended allowing Class I e-bikes on trails designated by the department.


“I think it could be something that the public would enjoy,” he said. “I think it could be managed in a way where it doesn’t negatively impact the hikers and the equestrian community.”

“If we were to do this, it would require a change in the ordinance,” he said. “What we are suggesting is just the addition of a simple statement that would allow Class I e-bikes only on designated trails. Then we would educate the public with signage at those locations saying they are allowed at that site.”

District 3 Commissioner Tom Gordon III asked Degitz how the county would monitor e-bike use on trails, since there are no park rangers or police patrolling those areas.

Degitz said it’s an “honor system,” not unlike the requirement to walk a dog on a leash when using a trail.

Carroll County Breaking News

As it happens

When big news breaks, be the first to know.

“We have that on signs now, and we have a lot of people who take dogs off leash in parks,” he said. “Without having rangers or staff at those parks, it’s as much an educational effort as it is regulation. So our hope ... is that by having the signage that will help to educate the public.”

Gordon suggested that fines could be issued if a Class II or Class III e-bike is used on a trail.


“I have safety concerns when you’re talking about high speed,” he said. “I’ve seen enough people on mountain bikes that have no respect for people on a trail. The reality is, people don’t pay attention to signs. I mean it’s nice to have rules, but does anybody follow those rules, is part of my concern. I don’t want to find out six months from now somebody gets massively injured, because we allowed it. That’s my concern.”

District 4 Commissioner Michael Guerin said e-bikes are popular and the county needs to keep up with the times, but in the end, he was the lone vote against a public hearing.

“I have a lot of reservations about allowing this,” said Guerin, who expressed worry that people living outside of Carroll will come to county parks to ride their e-bikes. “You just don’t know what the unintended consequences might be. I’m going to be taking a really hard look at this.

“At the same time, maybe I’m just old-fashioned,” he said. “If you go to a park, and you walk or run, or be on a horse, or a ride bike, or a skateboard, you should probably be doing that.”