Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 10:53:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Marin County's Disgrace at the Bicycling Hall of Fame
Dear Mr. Olken:
I am bemused by the dialogue between you and Ms. Alvillar over Jacquie Phelan. As a 3-century native of Massachusetts but having lived over half my life in California, and as someone who has used my bicycle as my main means of transportation for thirty years (logging something ove 50,000 miles on ratty old tenspeeds), I think I can see how your differences could arise. I think I would have the same view of bicycling as you do if I were still in Massachusetts. I would certainly be proud of a family connection to Dr. White, whose devotion to bicycling as one of the ultimate forms of healthy cardiovascular exercise was brought to my attention by my father about 45 years ago.
Try to picture something very different from Dr. White. Picture, for instance, a store called the Fat Tire Bike Shop in Terri's and my town of Fairfax, California (a quiet litle town that would fit comfortably into rural New England) that looks more like a Cambridge drug paraphernalia shop, featuring psychedelic T shirts picturing drug-crazed speed demons on mountain bikes. Picture the annual Thanksgiving Day Repack Road ride, on which Fairfax's Elliot Nature Preserve is turned into a mad freeway, with typically 800 mountain bikers, clad in spandex and flaunting the latest in multi-thousand-dollar hi-tech mountain machines, careening down Pine Mountain past my house, tearing up three miles of spectacular scenery in about ten minutes; until last year they would tank up on barrels of donated beer at the top of the mountain before the ride, but the beer was banned recently.
Picture my housemate coming home with a black eye after she discovered an influential local realtor doing repairs on an illegal mountain bike trail built in publicly-owned habitat of the rare and endangered California spotted owl, and he gave her a shiner and told her he would kill her. Picture county officials unwilling to enforce the rules against mountain biking on single-track trails, because millionaire bike dealer Patrick Seidler had taken the touted Supervisor Kress (and others) to Holland on a free junket and arranged a coalition between bikers and real estate developers to support a strip of development heading north from Marin County to Santa Rosa.
Picture the county sheriff with a member of the board of supervisors tearing down a gate on private property at the request of mountain bikers so that they could trespass at will. Picture a culture of Silicon Valley nouveau-riche techies with money to burn, money to spend on $2500 toys, money to corrupt every local politician in sight, and no understanding of the
environmental and health values for which your organization undoubtedly stands, tearing up the countryside on the weekends the way off-road motorcyclists used to. Picture an old lady out for a quiet walk in a woodland park, suddenly forced off a narrow foot trail into a poison-oak patch by a raucous crowd of mountain bikers going 20 miles per hour who have just passed a "No bicycles" sign.
Picture that picture repeating itself on a daily basis. Picture my frustration when I politely informed a bicyclist that he was about to ride through a patch of rare wild white ground iris, he took no mind, and the next day I returned to find a quarter-mile of trail covered with shredded iris leaves; a few weeks later I saw him at the aforementioned Fat Tire Bike Shop and he laughed at me, saying gleefully, "We make the rules now," and I knew he was in practice correct.
Is this a scene of which Dr. Paul Dudley White would approve? Of course not. But it is the reality of Marin County mountain biking. So if you and Terri have misunderstandings, it is hardly surprising. OK. You wanted dialogue, you've got dialogue.
Very truly yours,