New E-Mobility Policy Aligns Regulations on Area Multi-Use Trails

With the approval of a new policy allowing e-mobility devices on trail sections owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), regulations are now consistent on Seattle’s multi-use trails. In 2018, Washington State passed a law (SB 6434) allowing some electric-assisted bicycles on shared-use paths, unless a local regulation prohibited it. In Seattle, the only regulation limiting such devices was with SPR, creating an inconsistent regulatory patchwork at a time when new forms of personal transportation were expanding rapidly.

To decrease confusion and adapt to the technological changes already underway, SPR conducted a Multi-Use Trail Pilot that allowed the same electric-assisted bicycles on multi-use trails as those owned by other entities like the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Port of Seattle, and the University of Washington. It also set a new 15 mph speed limit for all users on these shared-use paths. During this pilot, SPR reached out to community organizations, gathered trail data, and conducted a broad community survey to assess use of and opinions about multi-use trails in Seattle.

This research showed that the vast majority of those surveyed in Seattle support both the allowance of Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes in Seattle (electric-assist limited to 20 mph) and also the new 15 mph speed limit for all users. Regulatory consistency, accessibility, and safety were the top concerns heard in our outreach.

Following the pilot and outreach, SPR worked with other trail owners to ensure alignment of our policies. We looked to create a new policy that would be flexible with new technologies yet still responsive to the key concerns of the community. SDOT’s bike share program was expanding to include e-scooters, so SPR’s new policy took a broader look at e-mobility devices. Rather than limit the policy to specific devices such as e-bikes, SPR incorporated language that kept the same power and speed limitations but was less specific about the technology, as long as it was electric.

The new Multi-Use Trail Policy officially began on August 26, 2020. Here it is in brief:

  • 15 mph speed limit for all users
  • E-mobility devices allowed on multi-use trails (under 750-watt motor, e-assist stops at 20 mph)
  • No other forms of motorized vehicles allowed
  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities

Seattle Parks and Recreation will be working with SDOT to install speed limit signs along these multi-use trails in addition to the existing safety signs in place. We will also be sharing information about this updated policy to key community partners and stakeholders who have expressed interest throughout the process.

We would like to thank the many comments received from the community online, at public meetings, or on the trails during the pilot for this policy. Our intent throughout the whole process was to increase safety, accessibility, and equitable recreation for all users on these trails. We believe the new Multi-Use Trail Policy does just that.

For a larger and more detailed map than the one below, please visit SDOT’s bike trail map. (Look for that map’s orange lines indicating multi-use trails.)