American Trails is reporting that On March 15, 2011, new Department of Justice rules will allow certain “power-driven mobility devices” to be used on trails by “individuals with mobility disabilities.”
The report on American Trails, which is an analysis of the new ruling by Janet Zeller, the U.S. Forest Service National Accessibility Program Manager, states that “power-driven mobility devices,” if driven by a person who has a mobility related disability, will now be allowed on trails.
A power-driven mobility device is defined as anything with a motor that can be driven, regardless of size or horsepower. This includes golf carts, electronic personal assistance mobility devices (EPAMDs), such as the Segway, or any mobility device designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes.
As of now, the ruling only applies to trails on state or local government lands, as well as trails open to the public on privately or commercially managed lands. For some odd reason it doesn't apply to Federal lands, but that may change in the future.
The DOJ rules require an entity open to the public to make reasonable modifications in its policies, practices, or procedures to allow the use of other power-driven mobility devices by individuals with mobility disabilities, UNLESS: that entity can document that it has completed an assessment of the facility, trail, route, or area, before the person requesting use of the device arrived onsite, and the entity found that class of other power-driven mobility device could not be used in that location due to one or more of the following DOJ assessment factors:
(a) “The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
(b) The volume of pedestrian traffic;
(c) The design and operational characteristics;
(d) Whether legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of the other power-driven mobility device in the specific facility; and
(e) Whether the use of the other power-driven mobility device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.”
Regarding factor (d): It's not too hard to imagine that this provision will be challenged and provide an avenue for profound changes to trails. In the future, will trail managers be forced to make trails more navigable - in other words, will they have to remove impediments such as rocks, roots and even possibly water bars? Will there be a standard minimum width for all trails? Will some trails have to be re-routed to get around certain sections that are too steep, etc.?
It will be quite interesting to see where this all leads to.
American Trails will be adding additional information to their website to help the public better understand this new rule. To keep track of the latest information, you can click here.