Mountain Bike Racing A Serious Threat to Children and Wildlife

Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.

June 9, 2017

One of the primary goals of school is creating good citizens. Promoting an environmentally and socially destructive sport like mountain biking does the opposite! It is shameful that some schools (and the Olympics) allow their name to be associated with mountain bike racing. Mountain bikers have recently been promoting mountain bike racing in high schools and even middle schools around the country. Biology teachers are ideally placed to knowledgably oppose this trend.

This is, as they say, not rocket science. One look at a mountain bike, with its tough construction and knobby tires, and you know it's not up to anything good. Mountain bike tires are designed to tear up the soil, which is exactly what they do. As any retailer will tell you, a bike able to withstand the pounding they receive on trails will cost a minimum of $600. But what they won't say, and what you well know, is that per Newton's Third Law of Motion, the beating that the bike receives is identical to the beating that it applies to the ground (including any animals or plants in or under its path). Another proof of the destructiveness of mountain bike racing: not one land manager within 90 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area is willing to subject the lands under their care to such abuse.

Introducing children to mountain biking is criminal. Mountain biking, besides being expensive and very environmentally destructive, is extremely dangerous. Recently a 12-year-old girl died during her very first mountain biking lesson! Serious accidents and even deaths are commonplace (see http://mjvande.info/mtb_dangerous.htm). Truth be told, mountain bikers want to introduce kids to mountain biking because (1) they want more people to help them lobby to open our precious natural areas to mountain biking and (2) children are too naive to understand and object to this activity.

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996:
http://mjvande.info/mtb10.htm. It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say, as they frequently do, that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have exactly the same access as everyone else: on foot! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see
http://mjvande.info/scb7.htm). I found that of the eight studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's not!). What's good about that?

Mountain biking consumes wildlife habitat. Most people go to nature in order to find a certain kind of experience. Hikers can experience that nature through all of their senses, and so can be satisfied by a (physically) short trail. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, since they need to pay constant attention to controlling their bike, and since they travel so fast, don't really experience much of what they are passing. Hence, they need to go much farther in order to achieve the same "quantity" of experience. Consequently, they quickly become bored with any given trail, and need to seek out -- or construct -- more and more trails. That results in a huge amount of habitat destruction. Animals can hear and smell humans from far away, and therefore are inhibited from using their habitat not just on or near the trail, but in a swath at least a couple of miles wide. That is habitat loss!

Children and teenagers are especially harmful. Because they don't drive, and because most of them live in a city, they don't have easy access to places to mountain bike legally. Hence, they ride illegally, or even build their own trails illegally. The leader of Berkeley High School's Mountain Bike Race Team, for example, admitted under oath to riding illegally "about 3000 times", and induced other young people to do the same. This is in spite of the team's requirement that they only ride where bikes are legal.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million words. All that one has to do, to understand the impact of mountain biking, is to watch one of their videos (they are all the same: high speed and no stopping -- extremely boring!): http://mjvande.info/mtbvideo.htm.

For more information, see
http://mjvande.info/mtbfaq.htm.

 

Examples:

"Mountain Biking To Become School Sport in Montclair"

http://baristanet.com/2016/10/mountain-biking-become-school-sport-montclair/

"Middle, high schoolers on team for mountain bike racing event at Boyce Park in Plum"

http://triblive.com/local/plum/11265771-74/event-mountain-park

 

Abstract:

One of the primary goals of school is creating good citizens. Promoting an environmentally and socially destructive sport like mountain biking does the opposite! It is shameful that some schools (and the Olympics) allow their name to be associated with mountain bike racing. Introducing children to mountain biking is criminal. Mountain biking, besides being expensive and very environmentally destructive, is extremely dangerous. Recently a 12-year-old girl died during her very first mountain biking lesson! Serious accidents and even deaths are commonplace (see http://mjvande.info/mtb_dangerous.htm). Truth be told, mountain bikers want to introduce kids to mountain biking because (1) they want more people to help them lobby to open our precious natural areas to mountain biking and (2) children are too naive to understand and object to this activity.