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Conservation Department explores allowing bicycles on conservation-area service roads

February 27, 2021 at 6:05 a.m. | Updated February 27, 2021 at 12:48 p.m.
<p>Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation</p><p>The Missouri Department of Conservation has proposed regulations that would allow the expanded use of bicycles on most department-area service roads and add the allowance of electric bicycles. Shown in this photo is a cyclist on a trail at Canaan Conservation Area in Gasconade County.</p>

The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval to the Missouri Department of Conservation at its Jan. 22 open meeting on a proposed change to Wildlife Code of Missouri regulations that would allow expanded use of bicycles on many department-area service roads.

The proposed regulation initially approved by the commission did not include the allowance of electric bicycles. MDC staff are now exploring amending this regulation to include the use of certain classes of electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, according to an MDC news release. The use of motorized vehicles, including electric bicycles, is currently not allowed on conservation-area multi-use trails and service roads.

Bicycle use on Missouri's approximately 1,000 conservation areas is currently restricted to roads open to public- vehicle traffic and some multi-use trails. This regulation change would expand bicycle access to include most service roads on conservation areas.

"Many of our conservation-area users have expressed interest in allowing bicycles on service roads for greater access to the areas," Mike Hubbard, MDC deputy director and chair of the regulations committee, said in the news release. "Opening service roads to bicycles will provide greater opportunities for cyclists - and also hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers - wanting to access more of their conservation areas. Adding the allowance of electric bicycles will further expand that access."

The MDC Regulations Committee will revisit an expanded proposed regulation during its mid-year code review in July and present a proposed regulation, which could add the allowance of certain classes of electric bicycles, to the commission in August. If approved by the commission during its Aug. 27 public meeting, MDC would provide a public comment period in October. MDC will then review all comments received and present a final proposal for a final vote by the commission during its Dec. 10 public meeting.

If approved, the regulation change will become effective March 1, 2022.

Service roads are non-public roads on MDC areas used by staff to conduct resource management activities. They are listed on conservation area maps at areas and on the MDC website. Some service roads are currently used as walking paths by the public. MDC notes conditions of service roads on department areas vary greatly and are not maintained at the level of public multi-use bicycle trails and public roads.

Exceptions would be service roads on waterfowl-hunting areas during hunting seasons, select MDC areas that are closed to other activities during hunting seasons, and wildlife refuges. Exceptions would also include area-access roads used by staff at fish hatcheries and other MDC areas where bicycle use would conflict with other uses or cause damage to natural resources.

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