Briones "Pilot Project" - A Disaster for the Parks!

Michael J. Vandeman

February 25, 2023


To the East Bay Regional Park District:

It's guaranteed to fail, like the original "pilot project" of allowing bikes on trails. That's because the real problem is the presence of the bikes themselves. Bikes don't mix with natural-surface trails, wildlife, or other trail users. That's why they aren't allowed on sidewalks, botanical gardens, or art museums! Duh!

1. I attended your "Briones Park Pilot Project" meeting today (2/25/23). Jim O'Connor said that when people visit the parks, they will learn to protect the parks and the environment. It's obviously not true. Of all the 100 or so people there, I was the only person who came by bicycle. One woman, who lives nearby, walked. Everyone else came via a motor vehicle. Mountain bikers claim that mountain biking benefits the environment, but actually the opposite is true: most of them drive a motor vehicle to the parks, as they demonstrated today. They also claim that they do trail maintenance, and that this benefits the parks. But actually, trail maintenance, like trail construction, destroys habitat, due to bringing people into the habitat. The purpose of trail maintenance is simply to try to fix the damage that the mountain bikers themselves have caused - there is no net benefit. I suggest that in the future you hold meetings in a more transit-accessible location. In the 30 years that I've been observing mountain biking, the only thing that mountain bikers have ever advocated is access for their bikes. Not a bit of environmental- or wildlife protection ethic has ever rubbed off onto them. But Jim is biased, because he is a mountain biker and his son is a mountain bike racer. In my experience, once someone buys a mountain bike, they will forever feel obligated to defend it, especially after they have spent several thousand dollars on the bike. Imagine spending that much money on a bike and then having nowhere to ride it! Psychologists call this "cognitive dissonance".

Another example: I do habitat restoration on the Clark Kerr Campus and other places. Hundreds of hikers pass nearby, but not one ever offers to help. I've been handing out hundreds of business cards with instructions for how to do it. Most people react positively, but so far not one person has ever shown up to help. The truth is that recreation doesn't lead to conservation - just more recreation. What does lead to conservation is science, specifically conservation biology. E.g. E.O. Wilson, arguably the most famous modern conservationist, started the Half Earth (for the wildlife) and 30x30 projects.

Jim made it clear that he was not there to listen - that apparently his mind is already made up. He never replies to my emails or phone calls - even though he is a public employee and hence works for me! Jim also talked about "balancing" recreation and conservation. That's nonsense. The word "balance" has a meaning in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and accounting. Everywhere else, it is meaningless.

2. We don't need a "pilot project", because we've already experienced 40 years of pilot project (or 20 2-year pilot projects), all of which was a total failure (one definition of "insanity" is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome):

3. Mountain bikers never obey the 15 MPH speed limit. They always do whatever they feel like doing, regardless of the rules - like the mountain bikers who illegally rode around the meadow during the meeting, in full view of the police.

4. Mountain bikers always ride trails closed to bikes, e.g. the East-West Trail (also called "side-o") on University of California property & Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve. The EBRPD police don't even try to stop it. They refer it to the UC police.

5. Mountain bikers always build illegal trails, because they are never satisfied with the number of trails they have access to. This is easy to understand: they ride so fast that they experience almost nothing of what they are passing, and hence quickly get bored with any given trail and want another and another, endlessly: they are insatiable. Jim said that having access to more trails should make them satisfied. Nope! It has never happened, and never will happen, for the reasons I listed.

6. Mountain bikers commit hit-and-run accidents - running into hikers or equestrians and leaving the site of the "accident".

7. They scare hikers (how would you feel if a 50 lb machine & 200 lb mountain biker were headed toward you at high speed?), destroying their enjoyment of the park.

8. They spook horses, and have caused injurles that led to horses being euthanized.

9. They cause erosion: knobby tires are perfectly designed to tear up the soil - they even call their activity "shredding" - rare honesty! Hikers, by contrast, simply flatten the trail. Horses (the horse evolved in North America) are wildlife and arguably have the right to go wherever they want to, though I would hope that they are not shod.

10. They drive the wildlife out of their habitat: wild animals don't like to be around humans (hikers and equestrians do the same, but don't travel as far, and hence do it less).

11. They injure themselves frequently, often requiring very expensive rescues via motor vehicles, such as off-road vehicles and helicopters. See e.g. and In this very park, in 2000, the Park District made the mistake of allowing a mountain bike race. One mountain biker crashed and ended up in a coma, and then brain-damaged - and divorced! See

12. By their behavior they teach young children that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

13. By heckling me while I spoke, they demonstrated their attitudes very clearly: they have no respect for their elders (I will be 80 in a few days) or anyone who disagrees with them. Several of them harrassed me throughout the event, which just proves that they can't justify mountain biking rationally, and so need to personally attack anyone who opposes them (that's called "ad hominem").

14. By legalizing bootleg trails, you send the mountain bikers the clear message that building illegal trails is acceptable. You are rewarding them for breaking the law!

15. There is no good reason to have bike-only trails. It's not fair to the majority of park users to be excluded from part of it, especially since mountain bikers have access to all of it (they can all walk, of course). Keeping mountain bikers and hikers separate will obviously do nothing to help people learn to share the trails - just like the "separate but equal" segregated schools we used to have. A rule banning hikers from some mountain biking trails would never stand up in court. The trails belong to all hikers - including mountain bikers without their bikes. The "flow trail" and "bike park" would destroy wildlife habitat for no real benefit. Mountain bikers have millions of miles of roads they can ride; they don't need to destroy wildlife habitat - especially when we actually need to protect more habitat to prevent the Sixth Extinction crisis. The Earth's wildlife habitat is a finite resource! We can't afford to lose any more of it. A "bike park" is not a park; it's the opposite. It not only serves a tiny minority of the population, but it teaches them bad habits (skidding, jumping, etc.) that they will inevitably import into the other parks, to the great detriment of the wildlife and the other park users.

16. I asked a number of EBRPD staff members if they could think of a good reason for allowing bikes on unpaved trails. Not one of them could answer that question. They all refused to try, and walked away. Luckily, there were a few people there who actually came to listen, which made it worthwhile. (To be clear, everyone has access to the entire park system. All mountain bikers are capable of walking - if they weren't, a flat tire would strand them. The question is Why should they be allowed to bring a bike with them? There is no legal right to do so, as decided in federal court in 1996: see The Park District has the right to ban bikes from all unpaved trails, and, in fact, that is the only equitable solution to the mountain biking "infection".) Some of the staff talked about a "need" for more trails for mountain biking. That is nonsense. There is no such "need". Humans don't have a "need" to mountain bike, only a wish.

17. From what I heard today, the "pilot project" will be a failure - just like the last one(s). But the Park District apparently will try to pretend that it was a success. That would be very unfortunate. Honesty is the best policy. To be honest, you will have to admit that allowing bikes on trails was a huge mistake. And the sooner that this is recognized, the better. The "pilot project" only delays the inevitable: the need to protect our precious remaining wildlife habitat from destruction and abuse. And I suggest that you not put mountain bikers like Jim O'Connor in positions of authority, as they are inherently biased in favor of mountain biking.