MOUNTAIN BIKERS' ARGUMENTS FOR TRAIL ACCESS
“Share” the trails. Why won’t you share? You must be selfish and elitist. We just pedal along with our families enjoying the outdoors. We’re “hikers on wheels.” The true demographic of mountain bikers is white males between the ages of 16-40. They are well educated with a strong sense of entitlement. They tweet, blog and Facebook, using soothing words to the unwary.
The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) was founded by Jim Hasenauer. CORBA, the Concerned Off Road Biking Association, is the IMBA local wing of IMBA. IMBA headquarters is now in Boulder, Colorado. They started in the Southern California area, then moved several years ago to Boulder. Interestingly, I understand that mountain bikers have been removed from some local trails around Boulder due to user conflict and environmental damage issues.
Unlike the slower moving traditional trail users, the BASIS of mountain biking is personal best challenges, downhill speed, adrenalin thrills and is ever expanding for more difficult trails as riders gain ability. It is an EXTREME sport.
Speed is basic to the experience. Bikers have their heads down, watching the ground in front of them, while pedaling hard, often with ear buds for their music (against the law while skiing in California and Colorado as well as other states). They don’t see other trail users until they are right upon them when it is very difficult to stop, if they stop at all. They wear all forms of body armor, which speaks to the danger of their sport. Bike designers are building bikes more capable of handling rough terrain with increasing speed.
You won’t see hikers, equestrians and other traditional trail users geared up in helmets, face shields and body armor. Most traditional trail users are traveling at a walking speed.
Mountain bikers far outnumber others who must be rescued, flown by helicopter to the hospital, or carried out by emergency workers, at a considerable expense to the taxpayers and local economy.
“Multi-Use” trails is basically a lie. When bikers are allowed on trails with other slower users, multi-use quickly becomes the exclusive use of the bikers. Other traditional trail users abandon the trail due to safety and quality of life issues.
Bikers: We’re really nice guys. It’s only 1 % of rogue bikers who cause trouble.
Equestrians/Hikers No! When you are traveling at 10 times the rate of speed of other trail users, nice doesn’t cut it. It’s an issue of physics, once a bike is speeding on a trail, airborne coming over a “ramp”, they can land on a child, a horse, a senior citizen or endangered animals. It doesn’t matter how nice they are.
Bikers: If you don’t let us on your trails, you will lose the trails:
Equestrians/Hikers: This is a scare tactic to intimidate equestrians and others into compliance with Bikers demands for access. It is not true! No trails have been taken away from equestrians and handed over to bikes. If a trail is closed by a land manager, the trail will be closed to all. You will lose your trails if you allow bikes on them, as it is too dangerous for most traditional users.
Bikers: If you let us on your trails, we’ll “educate” our people:
Equestrians/Hikers: Mountain bike clubs have had nearly 20 years to “educate” their members. If it were possible to do so, we wouldn’t be having these conflicts now. Most important is that most mountain bikers don’t belong to any bike club, so they don’t get the message at all.
Bikers: It’s not really dangerous; it’s only a “perception” of danger:
Equestrians/Hikers: Hikers, equestrians and horses have been killed or severely injured due to speeding bikes. There are stacks of documentation from all over the U.S. Europe, New Zealand and Australia. A Japanese biker was recently clocked downhill at 72 miles an hour. How’s he going to stop in time if a hiker or horse is in his path?
Bikers: We’ll form our own patrol groups and ride the trails:
Equestrians/Hikers: Now the bikers can “patrol” at top speed. Where this has been tried, it was found that the patrollers tended to cover up accidents and conflicts. They were protecting the bikers. The patrollers also rode on illegal trails as well.
Bikers: Just give us one little trail, just one. We’ll be good, and we’ll only ride that trail.
Equestrian/Hikers: Bikers do not ride on just their designated trail, but will ride everywhere. They get bored easily. They cut illegal trails, and build humps, ramps and other experience enhancing features. Now, illegal trails are called “social” trails. This is unenforceable and they are uncontainable.
Bikers: Give us a trail and we’ll have a “pilot program”. Land managers can come back in a year and see how it is going.
Equestrian/Hikers: BEWARE the pilot program. It is a ruse to gain access. Once a pilot program is in place, it is never checked again, despite promises from both bikers and land managers to do so. Once Bikers are established on the land, it is nearly impossible to remove them.
Bikers: We’ll put bells on bikes to warn people:
Equestrians/Hikers: Having someone ring a bell or a horn at every curve or blind spot would not only bring a continuous cacophony of sounds disruptive to the parks' wildlife, but would certainly be uncomfortable to the relaxation and peace that the parks provide to the visitors for their escape from the hustle and bustle of their urban existence.
Bikers: Train your horse to accept bikes!
Equestrians/Hikers: Most horses can be accustomed to bicycles. It is the sudden, silent and fast appearance of a bike coming round a blind curve, or bouncing in the air that will scare a horse. Even with the best trained "bomb proof" horse, there will always be the occasion when something completely unexpected occurs and the horse flight instinct kicks in.
The fact that a horse will put his survival instinct over his "trust” in the rider is B.S. There is always a breaking point. Certainly, if I see a problem coming, or the sight lines are good, I can reassure the horse that it's O.K., it's not a horse eater up ahead and we go on. That's 95% of the time, but then there's that 5% when it's all up for grabs.
Why should ordinary riders have to go through crowd control/police training on their animal just to allow an EXTREME sport group to rip and snort though peaceful trails? Hikers are the largest group of trail users, followed by equestrians, with bikes at the low end...90% of the users should totally bend over backwards for the 10% who are thrill driven, adrenaline junkies?
The idea that the public has to sponsor these guys, and go out of our way to specially train our horses just so the bikers can rip through the trails at 30 MPH is a ridiculous. When it is just horses and hikers, there's little conflict, and little environmental damage because horses and hikers are mostly moving at walk speed. Add a fast moving wheeled vehicle to the mix and it is largely incompatible.
We are being asked to be catering and spending money for an elite minority of extreme trail users. They are discriminating against the majority of trail users who have been using trails peaceably for years.
Bikers: Speed limits:
Equestrians/Hikers: Who will enforce them? Unenforceable.
Bikers: We’ll get off and push our bikes up steep hills and only travel in one direction.
Equestrians/Hikers: This was tried in Northern California by people naïve enough to believe this. Very shortly afterwards, people were infuriated by bikers coming downhill at speed. Unenforceable!
Bikers: We’ll ride alternate days:
Equestrians/Hikers: Hikers, traditional trail users and equestrians can ride on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Bikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday? Who knows about Sunday? This is a classic IMBA type move to introduce bikes where they were never permitted before. What it really means is that bikes will be on the trail 24/7. If caught, they can claim that they weren’t aware it wasn’t their day. Unenforceable!
Bikers: There are no records of conflicts in State Parks or County Parks in California.
Equestrians/Hikers: State Parks and other land management agencies have no place to file a complaint. State Parks etc. doesn’t want to know about user conflict. That is the same with county agencies. Complaints end up in the round file, no record of them.
Bikers: Once we’re on a trail, there’ll be problems, but it settles down quickly and the problems go away.
Equestrians/Hikers: That’s because all other trail users have left, leaving only the bikers. They usually don’t complain about each other.
Bikers: We’ll help maintain the trails.
Equestrians/Hikers: Mountain bikes are very damaging to the environment, cutting deep ruts with their tires, scraping pedals alongside boulders, cutting grooves in sandstone. They also fell trees to build jumps, pile up dirt for “Whoopdedoos,” jumps, hollow out banks for velodrome curves, and build walls for stunts. That is all in the name of maintenance. It’s very expensive to fix. Recently in L.A., it cost $40,000 to fix a section of trail that had been built into a bike playground. Traditional trail users cause very little trail damage, maintenance costs are insignificant.
Bikers: Put in “pinch points’ and other safety measures that will force the bikes to slow down
Equestrians/Hikers: Another piece of feel-good legislation. It’s all about speed. The bikers ride around the pinch points and create new trails to circumvent speed controls. Land managers spend large sums of money to accommodate bikers by trying to physically make a trail “safe’.
Bikers: Put up signage.
Equestrians/Hikers: Any signage usually is quickly vandalized or removed entirely. Bikers yell at other users to get off “their” trail. They usually don’t yield to other users, but expect the users to scramble off the trail to allow them passage.
Bikers: If you give us more trails, we won’t be using traditional trails and building rogue trails for challenge and amusement.
Equestrians/Hikers: Bikers are constantly seeking new challenges and thrills. Even given an area just for them, they continue to cut a network of illegal trails. They get bored easily and want to expand their trail systems. Now the new word for illegal trails is “Social trails.” It sounds a lot nicer and disguises the damage done to the environment. This is lipstick on a pig.
Bikers: It’s not fair. There should be parity.
Equestrians/Hikers: Unlike equestrians, cyclists can ride in the parks, in the mountains and on the roads. Bikes are portable. You can’t fold a horse up and put it on top of your car. The primary concern of the equestrians is safety and a place to ride. There are many safe and suitable trails available for multiple-use. Most mountain bikers consider a safe trail boring. Narrow Single track trails are the desired goal for bikers. Furthermore, there is no such thing as equal protection under the law – a fundamental American right - for equestrians: A Biker can replace a broken bike part; a horse owner cannot replace a broken horse part.
Bikers: Hikers and horses do the same damage to trails that bikes do.
Equestrians/Hikers: This is laughable. The bikers “science” to prove this theory was created by other bikers. A quick look at a bike magazine is testament to the environmental damage done.
Bikers: Equestrians have extreme sports as well for those who want speed, challenges and thrills. There’s rodeo, calf roping, pole bending, bull riding, cross country jumping events.
Equestrians/Hikers: The difference is that those equestrians come together, rent a field or arena, pay the insurance, put spectators behind a fence or in bleachers and enjoy their sport. Mountain bikers want to practice their extreme sport on public land, at public expense while putting the public at risk.
There is no easy solution to this safety problem. Separate trails for bikes, preserving whatever bike free trails that exist in your area or creating new bike free trails are the best choices. Traditional trail users who are being disenfranchised need to pull together and fight the bike onslaught.