Mountain Biking and the Entitlement Mentality

Michael J. Vandeman

April 27, 2024


Mountain bikers continually whine that they are being discriminated against, since they don't get all the trail access that they want. Of course, this is nonsense. Discrimination means that they are being treated differently than others. But the exact same rules apply to everyone, so there can't be any discrimination. There is also no "right" to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: Any land manager can ban bicycles from trails, as long as they have a good reason. Of course, there are many such good reasons -- accelerating erosion, endangering other trail users, endangering themselves, disturbing the wildlife, etc.

But mountain biking is an addiction (i.e., an activity that is pursued in spite of it doing serious harm to a person or their loved ones). Even people who break their necks in a mountain biking accident still want to mountain bike, e.g. pedalling by hand. The addiction and feeling of discrimination add up to an "entitlement mentality". This explains mountain bikers' belief that they are entitled to break the law -- ride trails closed to bikes, build new trails without authorization or environmental approvals, etc. Lately I have been posting a sign at trail heads explaining how to do habitat restoration and how to report illegal mountain biking. Every time I post it, a mountain biker rips it down. Or folds it so that the latter instructions can't be seen. Obviously, they want to be able to continue breaking the law without getting caught.

So why are they so eager to join the Sierra Club? They don't seem to understand that the Sierra Club is a wildlife conservation organization, not a mountain biking club. They also don't seem to understand that trail maintenance is not wildlife conservation. Trail maintenance is an attempt to repair the damage that they themselves have caused, so it has no net benefit. It's also impossible: soil that has been washed away is never coming back! And instead of benefitting the wildlife, it actually harms them: the presence of humans drives them away and prevents the use of their habitat.

So what's a poor mountain biker to do? Learn to enjoy riding on pavement. And when you want to visit nature, walk -- just like everyone else! And stop wrecking our parks!