May 11, 2000
Gordy Slack, Senior Editor
California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California 94118
Re: Your Article, "Single Track Trail Mix"
Thank you for your excellent overview of this complex, but important issue. I could write a book on this subject, and probably should. I am apparently the world expert on the environmental harm caused by mountain biking.
Due to the newness of mountain biking, and the countless other serious environmental issues vying for everyone's attention, hardly anyone is aware of the widespread devastation currently being perpetrated on the parks and other natural areas of the world. I offer a few corrections and clarifications.
Replacing motor vehicle use with bicycle use is obviously beneficial. However, by the same token, replacing hiking in natural areas with biking in those areas is obviously not an improvement. Just a few of the negative impacts are increased speed, momentum, and distance traveled, noise, crushing small animals and plants, scaring and endangering other park visitors, and completely destroying the feeling of being in nature.
Comparing biking with hiking or horseback riding is irrelevant. It would only be relevant if we were considering allowing only one or the other, and we wanted to know which is more harmful. But the real question is, do we want to add mountain biking to existing human impacts?
The New Zealand "study" Eric Muhler cited ignored two of the major factors: impacts on wildlife, and the much greater speeds and distances traveled by bikers. That makes its conclusions worthless. It is like comparing bikes and cars by looking only at impacts to the pavement! But even if we were to assume it is correct as to impacts per mile, then bikers must have several times the impacts of hikers, given that they travel several times as far! It is a good example of the biased, "junk" science being used to rationalize mountain biking.
And last, mountain biking is not a way to experience nature, unless you mean the experience of ripping it up. It is simply using nature to create cheap thrills, and turn it into a human playground.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
P.S. For more information on the harm that mountain biking does, seehttp://home.pacbell.net/mjvande.