December 27, 1999

Tony Acosta

Director, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs

1520 Lakeside Drive

Oakland, CA 94612

Re: The Costs of Mountain Biking

Dear Sir:

In 1990, a Mountain Biking Symposium was held in Vancouver, BC to discuss how to accommodate mountain biking in public parks. Although most of the participants were people who favored accommodating mountain biking, they were still honest enough to admit that its costs are enormous, it is very dangerous to participants and non-participants, and it ruins the experience of nature for all the non-bikers. Some quotes from the Proceedings follow:

"Mountain Bikers can cover 20 miles in little over an hour" Jim Sullivan, Overall World Veteran Mountain Biking Champion, Bellingham, Washington, p.6. "If you think you can control yourself when you're going that fast, you can't. You're kidding yourself. I know, and I race all the time. I've got to be realistic on this issue, people are going to go fast.", p.7.

"In 1988 I had the pleasure of [horseback] riding the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. That's the same year that mountain bikes were banned from the trail, because of erosion problems in southern California." p.12. "If you lose control of your horse when you're on some of those mountain trails, it's terrifying. We had three horses killed when I was on a ride in 1988. They went off the trail. Luckily, no riders were killed, but they were hospitalized with broken legs and stuff like that." P.15. Jim McCrae, President, Backcountry Horsemen of BC, Aldergrove.

Jim Rutter, Executive Director, Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia, Vancouver, "What you have when you go hiking is a communion with the natural order of things. You are moving slowly. You're part of it. The whole urban environment is left behind. Everything mechanical is left behind. The noise of a helicopter in the distance is an intrusion. As somebody said to me, he was hiking along the trail and he heard the rattle of the chain on a bike coming down the trail behind him. All the relaxation went out if his body. He was tense. He didn't know if this person would stop. He didn't know if this person would be friendly. He didn't know what to expect. He just knew that something mechanical was coming down the trail, fast, not savoring the atmosphere or where they were in the same way at all, and it kind of ruined his day." pp.23-24. "They seem to go absolutely everywhere they want. They certainly go past the signs. They ride past the GVRD [Greater Vancouver Regional District] staff at the gate, who try to stop them." p.27.

Tom Hall, BC Ministry of Forests, Victoria, p.32: "Off-road use of mountain bikes can spread noxious weeds. Mountain biking poses safety risks to other trail users. It poses visual impacts to other trail users, for example, tread marks. It can have an impact on the experience that is sought by other recreation users. It can contribute, along with other uses, to crowding, vis-à-vis the notion of carrying capacity. And it can damage recreation facilities and structures, primarily trails that were not designed for mountain biking use."

Gordon Smith, Park Planner, GVRD, p.37, "[Hiking trails used by bikers] get widened, especially on stair areas. A slope like that begins to erode out. You'll get a channel that water can then flow down. We get rutting."

Drew Carmichael, BC Parks Ministry, p.40, "Our intention is to get to the point that those trails that are open, will be signed open. Any trail not signed open is closed. The main reason for doing that is simply because we cannot keep a closed sign up. We feel it's a lot easier to keep an open sign in the ground. A closed sign can be replaced twenty times in a week up in the Whistler area, which to me means that we need to remove closed signs and put up open signs."

Roger Hamilton, Head, Policy and Operations, Visitor Services, Canadian Parks Service, Calgary, p. 42, "In national parks, our mandate is a little more restrictive than at many other agencies or organizations which are land use managers. Our role is to manage lands for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of people in such a way that it leaves those lands unimpaired for future generations. When mountain bicycles first started appearing it made our job that much more difficult, I assure you." P.44, "We also found that our safety concerns were underestimated. There were more accidents than we thought there were going to be." P.45, "It's a lot cheaper to maintain a trail to a standard for pedestrians or a horse than it is for mountain bikes. The number of people using these bicycles increased every year, very dramatically. This increase is continuing." P.46, "It definitely costs more to build trails to a standard that will accept the hammering that mountain bikes can give as compared to the hammering that pedestrians give."


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.


Mountain Biking Symposium Proceedings, Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia, c.1990.