Bikepacking the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

Bill for Long-Distance Bike Trails Introduced in Congress

The Community Bicyclist

WASHINGTON, D.C. /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – On March 3, 2023, leaders in Congress reintroduced the Biking on Long Distance Trails (BOLT) Act (H.R. 1319/S. 605). PeopleForBikes applauds this move from a bipartisan group of recreation champions seeking to identify potential long-distance bike trails across the United States.

“The BOLT Act will help rural recreation economies plan for and meet the growing demand for bicycling as a low-cost, emission-less, and tourism-driving activity,” said PeopleForBikes President and CEO Jenn Dice. “This bill proves that bike policy brings both sides of the aisle together to expand access to recreation infrastructure. We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors, all champions for the outdoors, to advance the BOLT Act.”

The BOLT Act builds on the success and momentum of the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020 by recognizing the importance of long-distance trails to inspire backcountry discovery while supporting small rural communities. The legislation will require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior to:

  • Identify no less than 10 existing long-distance bike trails on federal lands in excess of 80 miles in distance (The Ouachita National Recreation Trail from Highway 88 near Mena to Highway 7 near Jessieville easily falls within this definition.)
  • Identify 10 areas where opportunity exists to develop or complete long-distance bike trails on federal lands in excess of 80 miles in distance
  • Coordinate with stakeholders on the feasibility of completing long-distance trails and the resources necessary for such projects
  • Publish maps, signage, and promotional materials highlighting the positive aspects of the long-distance trail networks
  • Issue a report, with input from stakeholders, outlining the details of existing and proposed long-distance trails and their promotion
Riding up to the Moonshine Shelter on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Riding up to the Moonshine Shelter on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

PeopleForBikes Is working with its advocacy partners and the bill’s sponsors to ensure the BOLT Act remains included in a larger recreation policy package. As one part of the larger America’s Outdoor Recreation Act in the 117th Congress, the full House of Representatives approved the BOLT Act and the proposal sailed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Arkansas Outside reached out to two members offices of the Arkansas congressional delegation, Senator Tom Cotton and Representative French Hill. We are waiting to see what standing opinion they will have on the bill.

Besides People for Bikes, the Bolt Act has been championed by advocacy groups like the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), the Adventure Cycling Association, and Bikepacking Roots.  A timeline of the bill was created by IMBA:

  • January  2018: Long Distance Bike Trail concept is proposed

IMBA hand-delivers an administrative action concepts memo to the Department of the Interior’s Senior National Advisor to the Secretary for Recreation. The memo identifies the concept of designating a legacy system of long-distance bike trails. This sets the stage early for the eventual introduction of the BOLT Act.

  • 2018-2021: IMBA’s concept memo makes its rounds in Congress

The concept memo makes its way around congress while IMBA targets specific long-distance trails with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act.

  • November 18, 2021: BOLT Act is introduced

The BOLT Act is introduced by Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The bill is co-sponsored by Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY), and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“This bill would allow the Department of Interior to pinpoint opportunities to develop or complete long distance bike trails as well as allow the Department to promote these exciting opportunities to the American people. As mountain biking’s popularity continues to increase, this legislation will make outdoor spaces more accessible to Americans and bolster outdoor economies nationwide.” – Senator Ben Ray Lujan

  • December 2, 2021: The bill is added to the hearing schedule by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

The Energy & Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the BOLT Act. The bill is heard alongside several of IMBA’s priority bills to benefit mountain biking and outdoor recreation, including the Parks, Jobs and Equity Act; the Recreation Not Red Tape Act; and the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, among others. These bills are all candidates for an expected Senate Recreation Package.

  • January 2022: IMBA mobilizes its network of Local partners to support the BOLT Act

IMBA Local partners support the BOLT Act by adding their organization as signatories to a letter to Senators Joe Manchin and John Barrasso urging lawmakers to pass the bill.

  • January 14, 2022: A letter with suggestions for refining BOLT Act language is submitted to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Non-profit partners Bikepacking Roots and Adventure Cycling Association express their support for the BOLT Act. IMBA, along with the two organizations, submit a letter to the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The letter contains suggestions for refining the language on the BOLT Act, including a clearer definition of a trail and a resource that contains examples of existing and potential trails that could benefit from the bill.

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Bikepacking Roots and Adventure Cycling Association also encourage their members to write their representatives in support of the BOLT Act.

Some of Adventure Cycling’s most iconic routes are the ones that showcase our public lands, and allow people to experience these amazing places in a sustainable way. We envision a future where long-distance trails enable more people to take advantage of the incredible assets of this nation. – Adventure Cycling Association

At Bikepacking Roots, we strive to connect bikepackers to landscapes through immersive, beautiful, and iconic routes on public lands. Routes that could be developed from the BOLT Act will further connect bikepackers to America’s public lands. In connecting with landscape through the medium of bikepacking, cyclists have powerful experiences that lead to a stewardship ethic and advocacy. – Bikepacking Roots

  • January 30, 2022: The bill is heard by the House Committee on Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee

The BOLT Act is included in the hearing schedule by the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, with mountain bike advocate Jen Hanks testifying on the bill.

“The BOLT Act will make an investment in cycling infrastructure allowing more people the opportunity to experience the backcountry. The mental and physical benefits of being outdoors cannot be denied. Building cycling infrastructure is also good economic policy.” – Jen Hanks

  • May 3, 2022: The BOLT Act passes through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

IMBA submits a letter of support on behalf of IMBA Local partners.

The bill is included in America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, passes through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and now awaits passage in the full Senate.

  • June 15, 2022: The BOLT Act passes through the House Committee on Natural Resources

The bill passes through the House Committee on Natural Resources and now awaits passage in the full House of Representatives.

  • July 20, 2022: The BOLT Act passes the full House

The bill passes the full House of Representatives under suspension of rules.

  • March 3, 2023: The BOLT Act is reintroduced in the 118th Congress

The bill is re-introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives.

Ozark Outdoor Supply Spring Hiking Ad

While the larger package failed to cross the final hurdle of a full Senate vote, we anticipate broad bipartisan support will usher the BOLT Act and our other recreation policy priorities to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

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Representatives Susie Lee (NV-03), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Kelly Armstrong (ND-at large), and John Curtis (UT-03) introduced the BOLT Act in the House of Representatives and Senators Ben Ray Lujan (NM), Kevin Cramer (NE), Martin Heinrich (NM), Joe Manchin (WV), and John Barrasso (WY) lead the Senate’s introduction.

Setting up camp at the Moonshine Shelter on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Setting up camp at the Moonshine Shelter on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Gudrun Mountain Bike Festival

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