Monday, November 24, 2014
What's New in the New West
Home » New West Network Topics » Travel & Outdoors » Outdoor Recreation » A Wicked Threat: Mountain Bikes in National Parks
Perched like a vulture on a snag, the threat of mountain bikes in National Parks stares down on the fraying edges and core of our National Parks and the dream and vision of what National Parks can and ought to be. Over the years, mostly years in which mountain bikes were nothing but a worrisome blot poking over the horizon, the vast majority of the American people came to see and believe that National Parks could be enjoyed by walking the trails or riding the paved roads, whether on your bike or in your Chevy. Americans came to that understanding along with some parallel understanding that National Parks were mostly natural areas. Not only are they a delight to lay eyes on, but they protect what Americans vaguely understand to be ecological integrity; things like clean air, native wildlife, plants, all mixed into a largely protected landscape.

A Wicked Threat: Mountain Bikes in National Parks

Perched like a vulture on a snag, the threat of mountain bikes in National Parks stares down on the fraying edges and core of our National Parks and the dream and vision of what National Parks can and ought to be. Over the years, mostly years in which mountain bikes were nothing but a worrisome blot poking over the horizon, the vast majority of the American people came to see and believe that National Parks could be enjoyed by walking the trails or riding the paved roads, whether on your bike or in your Chevy. Americans came to that understanding along with some parallel understanding that National Parks were mostly natural areas. Not only are they a delight to lay eyes on, but they protect what Americans vaguely understand to be ecological integrity; things like clean air, native wildlife, plants, all mixed into a largely protected landscape.

It seemed intuitive that such a exceptional idea, and the exceptional places that brought that idea to life, should be free of mechanized access. It was a given that it excluded motorized access, and we should give thanks daily to the visionary and hard working people who did spend their time and effort on protecting Park integrity, particularly given the exponential rise is the abusive and destructive use of off road vehicles. With snow machines already prying the door open, an avalanche of mechanization, pollution, and conflict is surging forward. Yes, the motorized recreation world is drooling over access to National Parks and the Bush administration has been there with their legislative and rule making pry bar, trying to force even more commercialization and exploitation.

And now we have the prodding threat of mountain bikes. This is another retreat from the notion of what a National Park represents, and what role it has to play in the psyche of a free America. Along with Wilderness, no human construct represents freedom of the masses like National Parks. It may well be that America will continue to turn National Parks over to the kinds of people that engineered the financial and housing free fall in America — the anti-regulators, the anti-democracy and the anti-science — the people who take extreme risks with rights and your assets.

Most hikers are negatively impacted by even occasional, let alone regular, flow of bikers on trails or walking roads. Bikes and bikers are a physical threat, they are inherently aggressive, they kick up dust, and they can impose a mechanical sound on the immediate area. Other times they just sneak up and surprise hikers, and for a species like us that is heavily visually oriented, mountain bikes are an ugly intrusion of mechanization and urbanization.

Bikers, it is claimed, only “want” some front country routes, the ones that receive concentrated routine use from day hikers, the ones that older hikers use almost exclusively, and those that people with children use almost exclusively. No conflict there, right? The claim that people are going to use bikes more as they age, just when their balance, eyesight and hearing is in decline, is nonsense. Just the opposite is true. The front country routes are going to be increasingly important for older walkers and families, so conflict will increase. Seems like forcing conflict on your most intense use areas is the goal.

I’ve personally had my share of the excuse that bikes are less of a physical and psychological impact than some other kind of park use, presumably making their cumulative impact acceptable. Some kinds of park use involve natural means of travel — and yes, they have to be tightly regulated, as in horse use — and some, as in the bike proposals, involved artificial, man made means of off road travel. A bike on a ridge top provokes a substantially negative and different physiological, psychological and behavioral response from a person than a horse or someone on foot. The distinction is dead clear.

Some people that have slipped into the great void of indifference want to throw the bikers a “bone.” All people have a right to have their iron in the fire, but make no mistake about it, many are there to put another brand, another form of privatization, on public lands, in this case National Parks. Outright promoters of mechanization of Parks are driven by the same behind-the-scenes political agitation driving the off road vehicle set — manufacturers and dealers, corporations and people who promote commercialization at any cost. Lets see how that’s been going. First, renewed snowmobile use in Yellowstone, continuing widespread slaughter of bison with its huge ecological and psychological changes, then guns in all national parks (please don’t try to tell me the NRA doesn’t speak for gun manufacturers and sellers!), and recently a call for widely extended cell phone use/coverage, towers included, in Yellowstone. Now, another step: mountain bike mechanization of the park. Anyone see a trend here, or the rumblings of an avalanche?

It’s a common ploy by promoters and the indifferent to call for activists and citizens and scientists to “look the other way.” It’s not worth our time and effort, they proclaim. And it works. Wilderness activists and citizen supporters drop the ball when they think they don’t have to defend every inch of public rights, every public principle and process, and every vision of public ownership. Americans are again faced with another serious threat to public lands, but this time it’s mountain bikers in National Parks. Seems like it’s time to not just push back but reclaim the line that was wisely and rightly drawn in the sand by early visionaries.

Brian L. Horejsi is a wildlife scientist, public process advocate and frequent user of Yellowstone National Park.

About Guest Writer

Comments

  1. Mark Eller says:

    I prefer a different metaphor from the one Mr. Horejsi chooses to open with: Perched like an eagle on a precipice, mountain biking is ready to soar in national parks. Mountain biking, in fact, is already in flight in the NPS — more than 40 national parks currently support riding on dirt roads or trails. And guess what? The vast majority of park visitors enjoy having the option to ride their bikes in gorgeous settings. Why shouldn’t they? Mountain biking provides a low-impact, healthy, human powered way to recreate — and ecologists (including ones that conduct studies funded by the NPS) conclude that its impacts are about the same as foot travel. So, is Mr. Horejsi’s objection to cycling based on aesthetics? Perhaps he is offended by the sight of a bicycle on a ridge top, but most park visitors are, in fact, happy about to see fledgling mountain bike programs in national parks spreading their wings.

  2. Dave Chase says:

    Let’s be intellectually honest — there are bad actors in every trail user group whether they are mountain bikers, hikers, equestrian or motorcyclists. Having once lived in an area (Seattle) where trails regular got closed to mountain bikes, I’m glad to be living in an area (Sun Valley area) where there’s more than peaceful coexistence between the various user groups. There is outright cooperation and friendship. We have a trails advocacy group that welcomes all user groups – motorcyclists, equestrian, hikers and bikers. When you have work parties and meetings that involve all parties, it goes a long ways towards the narrow minded demonizing that one group can have towards another.

    We have the same cooperation amongst snowmachine enthusiasts and backcountry skiers. It doesn’t hurt that we are blessed with lots of terrain to recreate but I think a lot of it is attitude. If you want a model for cooperation, you needn’t look any further than Central Idaho.

    I rarely have ridden a horse but I do a ton of mtb’ing and hiking and find that there is far more in common than not. I never road motorcycles but I appreciate the fact that it was the motorcyclists who originally put in the hard work to create many of the trails we enjoy. Though there’s more difference between the motorcyclists and other user groups than say the mtb’ers and hikers, there’s a spirit of openness and cooperation that goes a long ways towards us all enjoying the trails in our own way.

    I’ve never quite gotten the distinction that allows for boats in national parks (both motorized & not). Even if you just limit it to boats/canoes/kayaks, how are they any more/less “mechanized” than a bike?

  3. Dennis Bragg says:

    Brian needs to check his facts and history. There were a few brief summers back in the mid-80s when mountain bikes first started to become popular when they were legal on any and every trail in the park system. The same was true in the national forests and wilderness areas. That’s because NPS simply wasn’t prepared for the “new” mode of travel and it wasn’t covered by any existing regulations. However, around 1987, all of the agencies took a “shut it down because we can’t figure it out approach” (especially typical of NPS). The Forest Service followed suit in a vast majority of areas, including designated wilderness. Since that time, individual park units were given the authority to designate certain select trails in the frontcountry for bike use. In many parks, such as Olympic National Park, these are usually old roads previously closed to vehicle traffic, or in one case, an historic railroad grade.
    Far from being a “vulture perched on a snag”, mountain biking in certain select circumstances already took flight more than a decade ago.

  4. Daryl L. Hunter says:

    Mountain bikers beware, many of you are environmentally minded but aren’t radical but now the radicals are coming after you. First the National Parks, it has started in the National forests.

    Dave Chase makes some excellent points, I am a quiet sports person, horses, xc skiing, dog sledding, but I support the rights of all others, ATV’s, Snowmobiles, Mt, bikes, etc.

    What we all must understand is the radical environmentalists are coming after us all – one sport at a time.

    All communities ought to adopt Sun Valley’s trails effort and realize that all of us have more in common than not.

    We all want to be out in the woods and someday we may be to old to hike or mountain bike and it will be nice if we have an easier way to get there so we don’t have to relinquish the woods to the young.

  5. Michael Pearlman says:

    Instead of worrying about cyclists as the enemy, why not view them as a group that has just as much interest as the author in protecting public lands.

    Contrary to what the author writes, shared use is a concept that has worked successfully in many, many parts of National Forest around the country. I’m not in favor of putting mountain bikes on every sacred hiking route in the lower-48. But allowing individual parks to locally decide where it’s appropriate to allow cyclists seems reasonable to me, despite your slippery slope argument. The fear of Yellowstone becoming the next Moab is highly misplaced.

  6. Jay J says:

    In many National Parks, there are limits on how many backpackers are in the designated backcountry/wilderness Zones – by simply having limited and designated campsites and one must be registered and scheduled to those sites. NOT the most desired plan, but it has been relatively effective for decades. When certain trails, areas or campsites are too sensitive (either due to over sue or seasonal conditions) they are CLOSED to use.
    So, as I stated earlier ; LIMITS on Numbers are the beginning to the proper use by ALL. All that AREN’T motorized travel – beware the union of Motorized Users to non-motorized under the guise of User Rights!! the arguement of boot to bike impact is hazy, depending on the area And the Surface make-up, BUT Motorized cause MORE than just physical trail impact (even if they do stay on the trails) – the smell, noise, fuel discharge (even for the 4 strokes) is simply NOT ACTCEPTABLE in the backcountry or Wilderness areas of the Ever Shrinking undeveloped Lands in the WORLD!!

  7. Walt Chudleigh says:

    I hope you will give space for an article with the opposing point of view or publish the above comments. Mountain bikes are far less intrusive and damaging than horses, mules or cars. One of my worst back country experiences was backpacking out of the Wind River area during a rain storm in ankle deep liquifying horse manure left by the 50+ horses which had just passed carrying tourists up. How does this compare with the impact of MB tires? The radical environmentalists are really in a major land grab, particularly in wilderness areas. You either ride a horse in or don’t go at all in the most arid areas like we have in parts of Utah. It is not feasible to carry sufficient water and there are no reliable water supplies. I am over 60 and still enjoy mountain biking. I find it to more more enjoyable than hiking and would love to see more trails open in the publically owned land in which I am theoretically a part owner.

  8. Jay J says:

    An incident like that in the Winds of WY was the action of an Illegal horsepacker groups that large aren’t allowed in the Winds – so there you saw an acception. As for areas with natural limits; water, terrain and so forth – THAT is the WAY of the World. Also -age is NOT an excuse; one must modify one’s activities due to natural limitations
    Again – this issue is NOT a Land Grab and I don’t want to see ALL lands closed to Mtn bikes; but only appropriate trails and the correct times of the year. Here in S.E. WY – we have a trails for;X-C SKiers, Snowshoers, Bikers, Runners, Riders and ect. ; some trails are limited to certain uses, closed at seasonal times of Extra sensitivity to use and to the Type of trail grooming it has (snowshoers stya OUT of cut ski tracks) – this is ALL within 9 miles of town and totals less than 25 miles of trails in all.
    Education, co-operation and civilty have helped to make this all work. Our only problems, as of late – have been Illegal ATV’s and such – that ignore the clearly posted trails!!

  9. Chaos Tamer says:

    My friends, who run “eco-friendly mountain biking adventures”, eagerly looks forward to being able to expand their business into the National Parks off of designated paved and dirt roads and on trails heretofore available only to horseback groups and, where more rugged, foot traffic. Group campsites in the backcountry can be reserved – and group sizes in many Parks may only be limited by the campground capacity set by the Park. Faster in and faster out on bikes means more trips on the trail to reach the “base camp” experience. A new, great opportunity for fun and profit. What a country!

  10. Jim Fuge says:

    Does everyone remember the ‘single track’ trail destruction arguments from the early 90’s? Never happened. Mt. bikes lead to motocross,… didn’t happen.
    Yes, mt. bikers know they need to be in control of their bikes,…so do horse riders and hikers, respectful of each other.
    Here’s the short version. Land is protected by those who use it and know to protect it.
    Pressure on public lands will increase as population increases. The more who can use the land the more will show up and protect it from abuse and attack by commerce and private interests. I live in Durango and we have the multi-use trails all around town, w/o much problem. Conflicts between different user groups,… seems like they are resolving themselves, where they don’t agencies are stepping in. There aren’t that many real conflicts. The arguments being made in the above article by Brian Horejsi lack pragmatism and divide rather than unite these groups that all share an interest in protecting and enjoying the land.

  11. Nature Grrrrl says:

    As pressure on public lands increases as the population increases is NO EXCUSE to bring in those activities that are very consumptive and require a heavier footprint on the natural environment. We need less, not more.

    Mountain biking propaganda as spewed out by IMBA is making fools out of many public landowners and authorities. What mountain bikers demand is out of pure selfishness and disregard for the consideration of others who step lightly into the forests.
    Mountain bikers are no different from the ATV’ers, ORV’ers and mudboggers who rip it up. Kudos to Brian Horejsi for telling it like it is. Thank you.

  12. Daryl L. Hunter says:

    To all,
    See, You are officially on the Nature Nazi’s hit list!

  13. Raymond Nelson says:

    Mountain bikers selfish? I don’t think so. Around here I’ve never seen hikers out to help on a trail maintenance or building day. I did come upon one lady squatting to take a leak right in the middle of the trail though. I guess that’s what she thought of our hard work.

    I agree with Jim, the more people allowed to use the land, the more that will show up to protect it. The only propaganda I see is the radical environmentalists. “it’s my toy, and you can’t play with it” I guess they never learned to share when they were growing up.

  14. Arne P. Ryason says:

    I don’t know why I read this stuff. It reminds me of Mel Beck’s letters to the editor in the Pacific Sun in Marin about 20 years ago. The attitude on the “me first” Marin trails is childish and pathetic. In Idaho we all get along, whether it be hiking, biking, horseback riding or motorcycle riding. The trails here are expertly designed and well maintained. Thousands come here to ski, hike, ride bicycles and enjoy nature. There is no destruction of nature due to mountain bikes. The shrill propaganda from the anti-bicycle forces is almost funny. Too bad they take themselves so seriously. All are welcome here. The Sun Valley, Idaho area has some of the nicest trails I’ve ever ridden. That’s why we moved here. All are welcome, but leave the holier-than-thou attitudes at home.

  15. Bikerumor Editor says:

    Wow. Really. Where to begin rebutting this uneducated rant.

    Since the other commenters have adequately covered the legitimate reasons why mountain biking is a perfectly acceptable and coherent use of NPS land, let’s break apart a couple other parts of his post.

    First, I don’t know too many mountain bikers that are personally responsible for the current financial crisis and housing bust. If anything, it’s the Wall Street brokers and lenders that are responsible largely by a) engaging in predatory lending practices and falsifying (or at least encouraging or allowing false) income claims and b) by leveraging future income on mortgage “packages” many times over before investors were able to catch up to the fact that these groups of mortgages were so worthless that no one could even properly value them.

    Secondly, mountain biking wasn’t even a reality when the NPS was formed. So to argue that MTB was never an intended use of the National Parks is like saying cars were never an intended use of the roads. After all, roads were originally used for bikes and horses.

    Fringe opinions like this are great for stirring up comments and conversations, and hopefully inciting action. If you disagree as vehemently with Mr. Horesji as I do, use that as motivation to join IMBA. If their IMBA membership goes up because of this, then we should thank the author for voicing his narrow minded opinion.

  16. From Colorado says:

    I visited Yellowstone this past summer in late July. I consider myself an environmentalist and was surprised at the volume of traffic in the Old Faithful and Mammoth areas within the park. Mammoth needs an environmental impact and traffic study to improve the experience in this area of the park. I was glad to get out of the Mammoth area. I’ve been reading the articles on snow mobile use and now mountain bikes in the national parks. We did a lot of hiking in Yellowstone that included areas remote such as the Petrified Forest area near the Lamar valley. While I agree that the use of the park in the winter season needs to be limited or denied to give the park a chance to recover from the summer tourist season (call it the on-slaught). But, adding the use of mountain bikes (private owners only no organized commercial enterprises) would not add that much impact to the park and may just help reduce the number of cars on the roads within the park. I am surprised that horses are allowed in the park and no one complains but, the use of mountain bikes is causing uproar. Allowing mountain bikes in the national parks is no different than allowing horses in the national parks. Horses leave more impacts to the trails and waterways than mountain bikes would. I was amazed at Yellowstone and want it protected for future generations but, with additions that provide non-commercial, low impacts to provide options to the visitor. Yellowstone, it really is a wonderland.

  17. Steve says:

    Really this is about selfishness, not environmentalism.

    People like Mr. Horejsi want to have public lands all to themselves, and it makes them angry to have to share them with anyone else. Look carefully: there are no facts in this article, no empirical studies…just his own distaste for seeing other people, cloaked by big, scientific-sounding words.

    The facts are unequivocal. As Gordon Cessford of the New Zealand Department of Conservation states, “Although mountain bikes clearly do have physical impacts on tracks, these did not appear to be of any greater significance than those from other track users, despite the general perception to the contrary. And, although safety concerns were also commonly highlighted, the problem related more to apprehension about what might happen rather than concern based on any inherent danger, or an established record of incidents.”
    You can read the entire report here:
    http://www.mountainbike.co.nz/politics/doc/impacts/index.htm

    If your really want to dig into the studies he cites, Seney/Wilson and Thurston/Reader both show that the impact of a person on a bicycle is roughly equal to a person on foot, and substantially less than a person on a horse. Go read them for yourself.

    This should all be common sense for anyone who, like myself, has spent many weeks backpacking in Wilderness areas and state parks. I would much rather deal with the occasional bicycle than with thousands of pounds of feces stinking up the trails, and with the horrible trail damage that 1000-pound horses do with four metal-shod hooves. I can always tell when I’m on a popular horse trail, because it’s six inches deep in sand or dust over exposed rocks and it smells like s**t.

    Finally, anyone who equates mountain bikes with off-road motorcycles is lacking common sense. Is a road bicycle the same as a Kawasaki Ninja? Is a Schwinn cruiser the same as a Harley? Why are mechanized skiing and rock climbing equipment OK, but bicycles a horrible menace?

    What Mr. Horejsi advocates is segregation. Separate and unequal access. It’s no different than white Southerners wanting to keep blacks out of “their” schools. Even his language is the same…just substitute “black people” for “mountain bikers”, and you could be reading racist propaganda from the 1800s.

    “Black people are a threat, they are inherently aggressive…”
    “A black person on a ridge top provokes a substantially negative and different physiological, psychological and behavioral response from a person than a horse or a white person. The distinction is dead clear. ”

    So if anyone in the mainstream “environmental” movement wonders why you have been losing your power and relevance ever since the 1970s, you have your answer right here:

    If you keep the public out of public lands, the public will no longer care about preserving them.

    We need to turn this around. Mountain bikers are enthusiastic. They do trailwork. And there are a whole lot of them. They want the same things everyone wants: more land, and better trails to see it from. Bring them into the tent, and we can start winning preservation battles instead of just fighting over access to what’s left.

  18. Jesse Kodadek says:

    I was going to rebut this pathetic rant one point at a time, but I decided I will just say this:

    Brian, you sound like an attention starved jerk, someone not even worth having a beer with.

  19. Nature Grrrrl says:

    Gawd! You mountain bikers are so predictable, The same old arguments and pseudo-scientific reports written by mountain bike advocates, themselves.

    “Conservation” organizations need to be fumigated of wheeled locusts who try to brainwash us by telling us their form of wreckreation is no worse than a Sunday hike in the woods. What is wrong with all of you?

    Horejsi has nailed the problem we face from those environmental/conservation poseurs on wheels. Who is calling who selfish?

    Get off your bikes. Walk and step gently in the forests and natural parks. That is called caring and preserving public lands. Ripping and shredding forestland and parkland trails on the back of wheels is really ignorant, to say the least.

    Grow up “little” boys and girls. It is not just about YOU! It’s about the future of our natural places and wild lands and what kind of natural legacy we leave the following generations. Your “rants on the back of wheels” lacks touch with reality.

  20. rootskier says:

    Nature Grrl….since you are so concerned with the protection of fragile trail networks, surely you are a staunch critic of horse travel, no?

  21. Nature Grrrrl says:

    “rootskier”, your alias speaks for itself. You probably haven’t seen the damage your bike tires do to the roots of trees. Horses don’t speed down steep slopes, around curves, and scare the hell out of wildlife and hikers. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    In fact, I find a bit of horse plop does wonders for slowing down bikers. There is nothing like it for “lubricating” bike chains and derailliers. That is probably your beef with equestrians, huh? Wheeled sports do not belong on off-road parkland and forested trails.

    Yes horses can do damage, but it has never been so widespread as the damage done by off road recreational yokels, whether motorized or mechanized. And equestrians are much more considerate of those around them.

  22. Jared F says:

    Not to flog a dead horse, so i won’t. I’ll just say this, look at all the replies to this article, how many are intelligently and calmly answered, how many are pro mountain bikes and how many are against them. The results speak for themselves.

  23. Mickey Garcia says:

    There’s probably a fundamentalist gene or gene set running in the human population that is expressed in some individuals more strongly than others. Fundamentalists see life through a prism of absolutes. Absolutely black or white, absolutely good or evil, absolutely true or false, absolutely right or wrong. Fundamentalists see the world in oversimplified terms and there is Hell to pay when extremists, fundamentalists or zealots take over a movement whether that movement is secular or religious. Hopefully there is a pragmatic gene running in the human population that will prevail.

  24. Arne P. Ryason says:

    Extremists tend to be so radical that they are seen as unreasonable by the average person. Because of this they do harm to the cause they espouse.

  25. Huntergatherer says:

    Me carrying a firearm for personal protection has less of an impact on the environment than a mountain bike. I wonder how many of those defending bikes in parks defended the right to carry in national parks when that article was posted?

  26. Arne P. Ryason says:

    I would always defend the right to carry arms in the National Parks or anywhere else. I don’t carry a gun when I hike or ride my bike but I am seeing more people carrying sidearms in the Wilderness, designated or not. When I ask, the reasoning is that a foreign predator, the Canadian Gray Wolf, has been introduced to the area. My only encounter with a lone wolf resulted in me changing the route of my after dinner walk (by 180 degrees) around a vehicle accessible campground. Mostly I didn’t want to disturb whatever it was doing. I have heard other stories, though, such as people being treed, prey-tested and so on, which leads me to think about carrying a sidearm while deep in the woods.

  27. matt says:

    I have never heard of a single case of a wolf attacking a human. And gray wolves are native, and they were here before cattle. I have been charged by the destructive, non native, invasive creature none as the bull, set lose to pillage our ecosystem by ranchers.

  28. Daryl L. Hunter says:

    hey mountain bikers, is it becoming clear that the environmentalists want none of us in the woods so they can have them to theirselves.

    The face of the west is changing, what was once a frontier populated with hard scrabble farmers, loggers, miners, cowboys and ranchers has been infiltrated and is getting gentrified by interlopers from the cities that have a new plan for their adopted home, part of this plan is to end the grazing of our public multipurpose lands.

    Cattle grazing on our public lands has not always been an issue. Until recently cattle grazing was a natural part of the culture of the West. Cowboys, Indians, tumbleweeds and cows were the first thing to come to mind when thinking of the west. For the last couple of decades this perception has been muddied, a battle has been raging between cattle ranchers and environmentalists. The battle is rife with mistrust and misunderstanding by all.

    http://www.newwest.net/main/article/the_public_grazing_conundrum/

  29. matt says:

    Actually, cattle,cowboys, and tumbleweeds are not the first thing I think of when I think of the west. Large intact wilderness areas, grizzlies, wolves, bison, and cougars, funtional ecosystems, and yes Indians. Tumbleweeds and cattle are destructive,invasive species that don’t belong here. The sooner we get rid of them, the better.

  30. Arne P. Ryason says:

    Cattle are inefficient producers of protein. Also, only about two percent of the beef we eat comes from the romantic version of western ranching. Most of it comes from vast feedlots in the Midwest. It would be better to go vegetarian and eat hemp protein (all the required amino acids) than continue to waste energy and other resources raising cattle. Most feedlot cattle lead unhealthy lives. Read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

    What does this have to do with bicycles in the National Park system? Another tangent…..

  31. Dennis says:

    I’ve had it up to “here” with people who think that “their” way is the only acceptable way, who will not consider anyone else’s viewpoint. Those who start (and end) with the proposition that they know all and you know nothing. My problem with zealots of any stripe is that they do not understand the value of compromise and cooperation. They make everything a battle.

    “Perched like a vulture on a snag, the threat of mountain bikes in National Parks stares down on the fraying edges and core of our National Parks and the dream and vision of what National Parks can and ought to be.”

    Wow, I had no idea such a threat existed.

    “Over the years, mostly years in which mountain bikes were nothing but a worrisome blot poking over the horizon,…”

    I thought it was a great form of exercise, which allowed me to travel farther and see more.

    “And now we have the prodding threat of mountain bikes….It may well be that America will continue to turn National Parks over to the kinds of people that engineered the financial and housing free fall in America—the anti-regulators, the anti-democracy and the anti-science—…”

    Mountain bikes = financial crisis! Give me a break.

    “Most hikers are negatively impacted by even occasional, let alone regular, flow of bikers on trails or walking roads. Bikes and bikers are a physical threat, they are inherently aggressive, they kick up dust, and they can impose a mechanical sound on the immediate area. Other times they just sneak up and surprise hikers, and for a species like us that is heavily visually oriented, mountain bikes are an ugly intrusion of mechanization and urbanization.”

    Yeah, visually oriented – as in this guy and people like him don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion or viewpoint.

    “Inherently Aggressive”???? I have NEVER felt threatened by a mountain bike, whether on a backcountry trail or the hike & bike Katy Trail behind my house. Generally they say “On Your Left” as they approach from behind, and I courteously move right to SHARE the trail.

    Apparently this guy has his earbuds in while he hikes. Isn’t he listening to the birds, the sound of a river rushing downhill, the wind in the trees? Oh yeah, better keep your ears open for rock-fall, buddy. I would rather listen to the sounds of mountain bikes going by than the kinds of pontificating jerks I had to endure on more than one Sierra Club hike.

  32. Brian G. says:

    WOW! Wicked? Are you kidding?

    I’m a long-time hiker, trail runner, and backpacker, and a recent convert to mountain biking, so I feel I have a balanced perspective on this issue. To tell you the truth, I’ve always wondered why virtually all hiking trails are off limits to bikes. Where’s the incompatibility between biking and hiking? Speed perhaps? When I’m trail running I average about 7 mph. You know how fast the average mountain biker goes over the average stretch of technical singletrack? About 8-10 mph. Not much difference. Since running and biking are both faster than hiking, should running should be outlawed on hiking trails?

    Any other incompatibilities? Mtn bikes are not noisy In fact the only “compatibility problem” I’ve ever encountered while either hiking or biking is that bikes are TOO quiet and can surprise hikers and wildlife.

    What else…oh yeh, the old “bikes tear up the trail” argument. Actually the opposite is true. Studies have shown that biking creates similar or even LESS wear on trails than hiking, and not even close to the destruction from horses. If you think these studies are skewed, take a couple minutes and bike, then hike a section of soft trail. You will see that your shoes will tear up the ground more than a fat-tire bike. The problem with many trails that I see, especially the more remote ones, is that there is not ENOUGH “wear and tear” on the trails and they are overgrown.

    The biggest problem with mountain biking is that there aren’t enough places to ride in most parts of the country. I’ll bet hiking trails outnumber singletrack biking trails 1000:1 nationwide. And dirt/gravel roads don’t count…at all. Personally, I have ONE mountain bike trail within a 50 mile radius of my house, while there truly are innumerable hiking trails within just 5 miles.

    Hikers and bikers need to cooperate. Together we can build and maintain trails, and in all but the most heavily used areas (or where the terrain is too rugged for practical mtn biking) there’s no reason why they can’t be dual use.

  33. Arubatwoo says:

    Ryason (posting way back) is wrong about the invention of the mt.bike. In 1817, Baron von Drais invented a tandem-style wheeled vehicle with a wooden seat but no pedals; the rider “stepped” or pushed it along the ground by foot. The vehicle was called a “Draisienne.” It was NOT a mountain bike.
    Pedals came along in the the 1860’s but the actual inventor is still debated. Skipping over velocipedes, ordinaries, geared bicycles, etc., the derailleur was invented in the 1890’s. The mt.bike was cobbled together by a group of Marin County potheads in the 1970’s. Gary Fisher did NOT invent the mt.bike. He just was smart enough to take the idea to the bank.
    (Sidebar: the horse was first used by humans for riding etc. some 6,000 years ago, according to archeological digs in the Ural Mts. In fact, the horse is native to North America; the earliest fossils (eohippus, now renamed to something else) were found here. The horse thrived in NA, disappeared some 10K years ago, but not before it went over the Bering Land Bridge into Asia and parts east. Columbus reintroduced the horses to the New World in his 2nd voyage.)
    Back to bicycles. If you want to know the facts about the history of the bicycle, read “The Dancing Chain: the History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle” by Frank Berto. Yes, I know there is a boycott of his book because his wife is — oh, horrors! — Connie Berto, a stauch advocate of multiple-sharing of WIDE fire roads only and restricting mt.bikes from narrow footpaths. Read the book, you narrow-minded creeps, and get educated. And read “The Birth of Dirt” also written by F.Berto, the factual story about the mt.bike, and sections of which book has been plagiarized by other lesser authors since then.
    And while you are at it, educate yourselves about the serious safety hazards presented by fast, silent mt.bikes on trails. Read the documented deaths caused by mt.bikes — to hikers, horses, AND to other bicyclists. In fact, more mt.bikers have ‘offed’ themselves than any other kind of accident. But God forbid that anyone should talk about (shhh-h-h-h-h!) S-A-F-E-T-Y.
    Read about the miles of illegal mt.biker-built trails in USFS lands, despite miles of legal access, around Lake Tahoe for instance, and in Montana and other places such as New Zealand, British Columbia, Scotland, and elsewhere, for instance. Stop breaking your arms patting yourselves on the back about your arrogance and your entitlement attitude about demanding access to totally inappropriate narrow footpaths.

  34. Will T Smith says:

    First of all I’d like to reiterate the scientically backed stance that cycling has no greater effect on tread than hiking. Yes, the bicycle does give one greater range. However, this perspective is completely incongruent with the “non-mechanized” line that allows equestrians whose impact and range is profound and undoubtable. We will eskew the issue of all the semi-solid gifts the equestrians leave for all of us on the trail.

    There is a more basic issue here with access. There is a case to made for segregation in some places. Especially when one group is putting in the time, effort and labor to establish the trail. However, when taxpayer money builds and maintains the trail, policy should “in general” tilt towards the greatest access that is non-destructive and not dangerous.

    The practical effect for the practical approach is that most trails would be open to access to both cyclists and hikers. Some trails would be set aside for strict hiker usage. Some trails would be designated as cycling, equestrian or moto where hikers are informed and they know to avoid the area if they really don’t like mixed usage.

    The natural alliance is the “human powered” alliance. Hikers and cyclists belong in the same camp since they are moving themselves. Extreme environmentalists beware, Horsemen and OHV are just “riders” and they are EXTREMELY destructive. So think a little before you choose your allies.

  35. A Chap says:

    How completely unfair that a few idiot bikers give ALL mountain bikers a bad name! Brian H-whateveryournameis, open up your tiny little brain a bit. It’s this mentality that I stopped giving money to the Sierra Club. I hike, backpack, and mountain bike and have never had an issue with any other trail users, horseback riders either. Can you honestly say that HORSES don’t tear up the trail?