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Can't we all just get along? Photo courtesy of the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance.

Rule Allowing More Mountain Biking in National Parks No Big Deal

Before I launch once more into the endless mountain biker vs. hiker controversy, I want to reaffirm that I’m still not a mountain biker. I commute around town on paved streets on my mountain bike, but it has never been on a trail.

Even though you could say I don’t have a dog in the fight, I have to ask, why do we have so much heartburn over the proposed rule to allow mountain biking on more trails in our national parks? Is this really worth the stress it creates?

Hikers and mountain bikers agree that they should be natural allies in wildland protection, but of course, this never happens unless hiking groups agree to something less than “big W” Wilderness–i.e.something that’s “bicycle friendly.” Witness the International Mountain Bike Association’s (IMBA) recent success in convincing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the California Wilderness Act because it prohibited mountain biking on several state parks.

Like the National Rifle Association in its success in stopping the erosion of gun rights, IMBA has been extremely effective in preventing new Wilderness bills from passing. I’ve already written au nauseam about that ongoing debate (click here if interested), but now we have a new wrinkle, the proposed Bush administration rule to give national park superintendents more authority to open up selected trails to mountain biking.

Hiking groups will oppose the rule when the administration officially releases it, but I say, for several reasons, they shouldn’t fret about it.

First, the rule won’t translate into a wholesale opening of national parks to mountain biking. It will only allow park managers to open selected trails on a case-by-case basis. In any scenario, the vast majority of trails and many parks in their entirety would remain off-limits to mountain biking.

Second, most if not all national parks with a significant mileage of hiking trails have most of the park designated as Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Even with this rule in place, park managers couldn’t open the vast majority of backcountry trails to bicycles unless Congress reversed the Wilderness designation, which has never happened, not once in the 44 years since the Wilderness Act passed.

Third, most trails that could be opened are so-called “frontcountry” routes that probably used to be roads i.e. not the cream of the crop for hikers.

Fourth, everybody seems concerned about the steady decline in national park visitation, so perhaps allowing mountain biking might help reverse the trend and greatly increase the constituency for supporting proper funding of our national parks–something mountain biking groups don’t really prioritize now because they can’t ride there.

Fifth, there are a lot of weak knees around nowadays, but still a lot of interest in staying healthy and fit. As the population gets older, baby boomers like yours truly and President Bush and his Trek “Mountain Bike One” (viola, we do have something in common) have turned to bicycling as a low-impact alternative to running and hiking.

Sixth, throwing this “bone” to mountain bikers might make collaboration on issues that really mater a lot easier. So, hiking groups, in lieu of opposition or silence, how about actually supporting the proposed rule?

I’m sure the rule will go into effect during the last lame-duck days of the administration (along with several other rules as is always the case i.e. remember the Roadless Rule?). I’m also sure the rule will eventually result in more national park trails opened to mountain biking, but is this a social or environmental problem? Not for me.

I happen to live adjacent to a large city park that has heavy use from both hikers and mountain bikers. Are there conflicts? No. Do hikers hate seeing mountain bikers? No Do mountain bikers create more erosion or environmental damage than other trail users? No. Do mountain bikers ride out of control and cause safety problems? No.

The same would be true in national parks.

It’s already true, incidentally, in a few parks like Canyonlands where mountain bikers peacefully coexist on some park trails, which are really old jeep roads. A few years ago, I hiked every mile of trail in Canyonlands, often with mountain bikers on the same trail with zero conflict.

I’ve also hiked almost every mile of trail in Yellowstone National Park, and believe several frontcountry trails such as the route up Mount Washburn could be opened to mountain biking with no safety, social or environmental issues. Even if every trail in Yellowstone opened to mountain biking, it wouldn’t create one percent of the impact–social and environmental–private and commercial stock parties already cause in places like the Lamar and the Thorofare where relentless pounding by pack trains has ground a single track into a six-foot swath that gets so dusty you have to hike twenty feet apart to breathe or so muddy you can hardly walk.

I support continued use of horses and other stock animals in national parks, but I point out the real impact they have to put the issue of mountain biking in perspective. Compared to many other uses of national parks, the impact of mountain biking will be hardly noticeable.

Last month, I wrote about the proposed rule to allow more guns and loaded guns in national parks. I said it wasn’t an issue worth our time and energy. Those of us concerned about the future of national parks have much bigger fish to fry. The proposed rule to loosen up the authority to allow more mountain biking is exactly the same deal–or I should say, the same no-big-deal.

Correction: On September 27, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have, in the opinion of IMBA, prompted the designation of more wilderness areas in California, not the California Wilderness Act.

About Bill Schneider

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  1. Mountain biking on some trails in national parks is a great idea. Just as roads allow users to see more of the park in a shorter time span, allowing bikes in parts of the parks would allow increased access to areas otherwise over looked by some hikers who can’t or won’t bother hike the distances necessary to see parts of the parks. Given how well national parks have managed themselves within the legal boundaries they have now I don’t see any problem with this proposal.

  2. Wow- a hiker who doesn’t hate mtn. bikers? As an avid mountain biker who fell in love with mountain biking while studying wildlife biology in Missoula, I find your opinion to be a rare one among non-mtn. bikers. I have always been puzzled by the rules. You can hunt, fish, mine, land airplanes, ride horses, drive motorboats and snowmobiles in national parks and wilderness, but no mountain biking? I know a guy who was riding his bike in yellowstone in the winter on a packed snowmobile trail, when a ranger rode up to him on a snowmobile and kicked him out, telling him he was not allowed to ride his bike there. After many years of mountain biking, road riding and bike commuting, I have come to the conclusion that non-bikers simply do not like cyclists. Public land use laws do not make any sense. It is a proven fact: horses have waay more impact on trails than bikes. I have no problem sharing trails with horses, snowmobiles, dirtbikes, hikers, or anyone else, but I think access should be based on impact, not politics.

  3. Being a United Front against the TRUE enemies of Wilds lands is Natural for: hikers, bikers, snowshoers, skiers and so forth! BUT, as with ALL good things – something can be wrong and here “I” have to chime in with simple usage impact and number controls. In the Yellowstone backcountry – campsites and thus numbers of backpackers – are HIGHLY controlled; to avoid over usage or ID recent abuse. So, IF Mtn. Bikers (of which “I” am one -a s well as a backpacker and skier) are to use the National Parks trails – numbers will need to be limited/controlled; plus a TON of education for ALL users.

  4. Consider that, if the trails opened to mountain bikers will be “front country” trails and therefore not impact hard-core hikers, those who will be most affected will be the overwhelming majority of public visitors to the Parks – hopefully arriving by public transit in increasing numbers, of course – who do not venture far from blacktop because they are not yet accustomed to “off road” adventure by any means, or who are unable to go far.

    How shall access and protection for the elderly, young under supervision, handicapped, et. al. be protected and allowed to enjoy and learn from their Park visits? Cut down the number of trails available to them?

  5. I won’t tackle Bill’s thesis point by point but only want to say that my experience would be the opposite of his. For each place in the following assessment Bill says, “no” my experience is “yes”:

    “…I happen to live adjacent to a large city park that has heavy use from both hikers and mountain bikers. Are there conflicts? No. Do hikers hate seeing mountain bikers? No Do mountain bikers create more erosion or environmental damage than other trail users? No. Do mountain bikers ride out of control and cause safety problems? No.”

    I love to bike, including on backcountry roads. However bikes, with their speed and gears and oily chains and disruption of the peace and get-through-it-now approch, don’t belong in our few remaining wild places, including (but not limited to) those in National Parks.

  6. The conflict can be well managed by identifying some trail for bikers and others not. Conflicts can arise for example when you’ve got a rip snorting downhill run and hikers are coming up the trail. The wheel has been invented. We need to get over it and move on.

  7. I agree with you 100% Bill. Your opinion mirrors most of my experience. I am disappointed by the intolerance of some people who write in though. I would like them to be prohibited in National Parks so that my outdoor experience is more peaceful. That would be tough to legislate though.

  8. Lets not forget that children these days spend all too much time not being outdoors. If a 13 year old is more likely to visit a National Park because they can ride a bike, then the National Parks should provide this oportunity for our children. Why would you be preserving a legacy for those future generations that would rather play x-box.

    What is next are we going to ban someone from all of the trails because they like to wear red boots.

  9. I think what has caused the rift bewteen bikers and hikers in some places is not a matter of biking or hiking, its a matter of being a jerk and not being a jerk. As a biker and a hiker (and many other things), I have witnessed jerks on wheels and jerks on foot. My experience is its not whether bikes cause erosion or trail damage, it’s the interaction (or lack of) between bikers and hikers that creates this conflict, and trail erosion, or other impacts are used as a reason to provide fodder to the partisan fire. If folks on either tread or heel were to simply respect each other as fellow trail users (slow down, smile, wave, don’t spook, etc…) I think this ‘problem’ would not be so polarizing. Its a matter of being respectful – to the trail and the people who use it, and not a metter of how you choose to travel on the trail.

  10. I used to be a mtn biker. I just burnt out on the sport after 10 years.

    Maybe old age caught up with me but I hike now and I have nothing against Mtn bikers.

    I think bikes should be allowed on some dirt trails in national parks, as well as leashed dogs.

  11. The harm that mountain biking does doesn’t have much to do with the personalities of mountain bikers. Knobby tires are knobby tires, and they don’t belong in our precious natural areas — the last skimpy shreds of wildlife habitat decimated by humans. Separate trails is no solution: it either doubles the habitat destruction, or robs the majority of half of their trails. It’s also not a problem of “getting along”. Hikers and mountain bikers get along just fine, when bikes aren’t allowed on trails. The problem is the presence of BIKES, PERIOD. I have been asking for 14 years, but I have yet to hear even ONE good reason to allow bikes in natural areas.

  12. Mike.
    Other countries such as Canada and Argentina allow for mountain biking with in parts of their national parks. What is being proposed is a change of rules that would allow for some biking in areas that would be condusive to such recreation. Yellowstone front country is not wild. I don’t understand why you can hike to cell phone towers on “trails” that are really access roads but can’t ride a bike. What you want is only to have your very selfish vision of what wilderness is enforced by law. It is very self rightous that you have appointed yourself as a “protector” of wilderness.

  13. Maybe mountain bikers would feel more comfortable in Canada or Argentina (or Russia or China), where the environment is less of a priority? Or do they actually appreciate the work of the REAL environmentalists, who invented the national park and made them the protected jewels that they are?

    If I want to see nature at its best, I go to a national park. If I wanted to see bicycles and other large pieces of machinery, I would stay in the city….

  14. Wow.

    Cheal thrills. Rational Society. Nothing of value. Wow.

    As a fellow with some pretty bad knees from years of basketball, skiing and various other activities, biking and specifically mt biking provides the exercise and therapy needed for me to manage pain, ‘smooth’ the surfaces, and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. I think its quite fun and invigoratinig, too. My knees don’t hold up well to uneven trail hiking and I’ve had to all but give up any serious hiking and backpacking to my regret. I like to walk. I protect environments and wild places personally and professionally. I bike.

    My gooodness – why the vitriol against mountain biking, trail biking, pedaling off-pavement. Lets not confuse the act, with whether or not pedaling a bike in an area you don’t want to see a bike pedaled in should be allowed.

  15. Lord save us from ideologues and zealots. Barry Goldwater was quoted as saying extremism in the pursuit or liberty is no vice. He didn’t say extremism in the pursuit of exclusionary environmentalism is no vice. In any case, I’ve seen no evidence that bicycles on properly identified trails in National Parks and Wilderness areas are more of a threat to wildlife than hikers.

  16. Sorry about your “bad knees”, but that’s no excuse to abuse our scanty remaining wildlife habitat or the other people who use those trails! In fact, road biking, swimming, or rowing are far more appropriate activities for someone with bad knees. Mountain biking is notorious for causing serious accidents, paralysis, and death. Your excuse doesn’t hold water.

    As to evidence that mountain biking is a greater threat to wildlife than hiking, it is easily accessible to anyone who really cares: http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/scb7.

    As to “exclusion”, NO ONE has ever suggested excluding mountain bikers from the national parks. You have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else: ON FOOT!

  17. Bill writes that:
    “…most if not all national parks with a significant mileage of hiking trails have most of the park designated as Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964.”
    Not all –the famous wild backcountry of Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, for example, is recommended for wilderness designation but Congress has yet to act on these parks’ long-standing wilderness recommendation.

  18. Thanks for choosing safe activities for me Mike. Yep – I have had some serious injuries while riding. I still ride. I’ll stay home in my bubble now as to avoid any unnecesaary hurt that might be associated with pedaling, swimming, walking, or using stairs. I might trip and really injure myself or someone/something else.

    Thank you for amusing me. I’m off to swim home from work….

  19. The equestrian outfitters must love the mountain bikers. Remember when it was hiker versus equestrian? Now there is the mountain bike as the object of the “Two Minute Hate.”

  20. I did some checking. Most of Yellowstone’s backcountry and virtually all of Glacier National Park wild lands fall within national park recommended wilderness which is managed for (non-mechanized) traditional foot and packstock.

    I rode my bike yesterday on trails that cross Mount Helena City Park — Much as I love hiking and riding Mount Helena, its a city park –and not at all comparable to recommended wilderness in Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks.

    Wild Bill suggests that conservation groups endorse the bikes in parks rule change sought by IMBA –an interesting thought that begs another question –in exchange for what ? Would IMBA in turn support wilderness in yet-undesignated parks?

    for the wilds of Montana


  21. Foot travel damages ecosystems. It is much easier to step over barriers and travel cross-country on foot than on a bicycle. The uneven ground, fallen trees and rocks that a pedestrian can easily hop over stops 99.99995 percent of bicyclists. Ever since I was taught to back-pack in the late 1960’s, part of the lesson was how to travel cross-country using a topo map and dead reconning. To protect delicate ecosystems, foot travel should be banned and trails should be routed away from sensitive areas. Only bicycles should be allowed on trails to reduce the temptation of off-trail travel. Furthermore, back country camping should be eliminated, as it tramples campsites, improper sanitation pollutes water systems and the presence of human food disrupts the feeding behaviors of wild animals. Since the cyclist travels father per day than the hiker, back-country camping would become unnecessary. Land managers would designate long, medium and short loop rides for visitors. Each would have designated stopping points for views, observing wildlife, etc. Camping areas, if any, would be officially designated and located to minimize impact on wildlife. Park or Wilderness areas thus managed would provide a safe user experience and minimize humans’ impact on the land. Because bicycles travel farther per day, larger areas so designated could be justified.

  22. I find it ironic that people bemoan the “horrible” impacts of mountain bikes in the backcountry, while having become completely inured to the ridiculous amount of impacts our parks and other protected areas already see in the name of vehicle access. Every reason I’ve heard for why mountain bikes are such an abomination in our wilderness apply 100-fold to motor vehicles. If you want to improve the health and safety of our national parks, why not put your energy into getting automobiles banned? I feel fairly confident in saying that in successfully doing away with paved roads, parking areas, traffic jams, etc. any impacts created by mountain bikes in contrast would be considered minimal.

  23. Roads and motor vehicles are definitely a problem, which is why I spent 8 years fighting them, before moving on to wildlife advocacy. NOT ONE mountain biker that I know of has ever done that. Instead, they spend all their time asking for more access for mountain bikes.

    Allowing bikes on trails greatly increases the number of people in wildlife habitat, as well as the distances that they travel, multiplying human impacts on nature and wildlife several times. We can’t afford that. The huge list of endangered species is proof that our impacts are ALREADY too great.

    Can anyone name even ONE good reason for allowing bikes in natural areas? I’ve been asking for 14 years, but I’ve yet to hear one good reason. Mountain bikers can walk, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!

  24. “NOT ONE mountain biker that I know of has ever done that.”

    That’s interesting. Maybe you should get out and talk with more mountain bikers. I’d say the majority of people I know that mountain bike also pursue lots of other outdoor activities (including hiking – I know, shocking…) and are active conservation advocates.

    “Mountain bikers can walk, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!”

    Great. When the park service starts requiring that everyone leave their 50-ft. motorhome, towing their Cadillac Escalade, at the park boundary, I’ll start thinking about getting behind that agenda. In the meantime, I’ll be putting my energy into opposing all the far more impactful things that our public lands mgmt. agencies allow to take place on our land.

  25. The decision of what sort of activity is allowed in a Nat Park is up to the supervisor; past ones in YS have decided that kayaking and mt biking won’t take place there. Seems to me that given the 40 parks that do allow biking (and numerous ones that allow kayaking) and the millions of acres available to bikers, we are capable of going somewhere elese for our thrills. I don’t miss biking on trails in YS, I can bike just outside the border – what’s the problem?

    In terms of impact – cars, RVs, hikers, are concentrated on about 1% of parkland in YS, this will change with bikes that can cover mores miles thereby changing the definition of what constitutes the frontcountry. Is the Slough Ck trail frontcountry – it is only 10 miles long? Is Hell Roaring? Bikes charging down the road from Washburn is not exactly an ideal scenario.

    Bikers need to grow up and get over their sense of entitlement. You want to ride in the Park – ride the two weeks before traffic is allowed in or go elsewhere.

  26. One good reason: Bicycles stay on trails. Hikers step off trails, set up camp more often and destroy nature by their sheer numbers, concentrated in campgrounds, visitor centers and such. National Parks are not “natural.” Too many visitor centers, museums, art galleries, interpretive signs, paved trails, tourist buses and so on. Many Years ago in Yosemite Valley I overheard one tourist ask another, seriously: “Don’t they turn off the water falls at night? They’re awfully loud.” If you want nature, come out here and get lost in Idaho. Oops. I gave it away.

  27. By jdj, 10-28-08: “The decision of what sort of activity is allowed in a Nat Park is up to the supervisor; past ones in YS have decided that kayaking and mt biking won’t take place there.”

    As it should be. I don’t think anyone is arguing that bikes should be given carte blanche in nat’l parks, but that there be some discretion about where it would be appropriate and where it wouldn’t. And I do think that there are some places where it would be perfectly ok, providing basic minimum impact guidelines are followed, just like any other other user group. We can all think of examples of clueless hikers, horspackers, etc. that created far more impact in a backcountry setting than they needed to. Obviously, that isn’t grounds for dismissing all hikers or horsepackers as inconsiderate trashers of the backcountry.

    By jdj, 10-28-08: “In terms of impact – cars, RVs, hikers, are concentrated on about 1% of parkland in YS, this will change with bikes that can cover mores miles thereby changing the definition of what constitutes the frontcountry.”

    By that logic, shouldn’t the definition of “frontcountry” have already been redefined in areas that allow travel on horseback? A horse rider can get 10 miles into the backcountry as easily as a mountain biker – does that mean it’s no longer “backcountry?” And if you want to talk about impact….

    Btw, I have absolutely nothing against horsepackers (we had horses when I was young), just pointing out that that I don’t see any consistency in logic being applied by the “no mountain bikes” to other user groups as well.

    By jdj, 10-28-08: “Bikers need to grow up and get over their sense of entitlement.”

    Ha! I think a pretty solid case for a feeling of entitlement on the part of holier-than-thou hikers could be made just by looking at some of the comments here. You are trying to advocate a blanket mgmt. policy across the board, when in reality you are talking about many, many different environments and contexts, some of which can handle responsible mtn. bike use, in the same way that in some areas of nat’l parks, off-trail hiking is not allowed. But the simplistic, black and white, “us vs. them” mentality is certainly alluring…

  28. “The harm that mountain biking does doesn’t have much to do with the personalities of mountain bikers. Knobby tires are knobby tires, and they don’t belong in our precious natural areas — the last skimpy shreds of wildlife habitat decimated by humans.”

    You wear smooth soled shoes to go hiking?

  29. The big one is mountain biking destroys trails and thus wilderness…….uhhhhh….trails destroy wilderness. But, guess what ? Without them….well you should be able to figure it out.
    Horses are a much larger impact on trail erosion than bikes. After designing many section where there is one off-shoot for horses and one for bikes and hikers; this is obvious to all really involved in trail design.
    I am an avid hiker, mountain biker, equestrian, trail runner. Plus and avid environmentalist and trail builder volunteer.
    I appreciate all sides. As stated above, trails should be designed properly and graded and water barred properly; with correct type of terrain for correct use. Harder rock surface for horses etc.
    Water in one big rain typically does more damage than either horses or mountain bikes.
    Long Time Member: Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Nature Conservancy, National Parks and Conservation Assoc.

  30. Vandeman rambles endlessly about V-shaped ruts. I have logged tens-of-thousands of miles in different trail conditions and have never seen these elusive V-shaped ruts. I have never seen a tyre for bikes that is wedge shaped that would create a V-shape. Does not make much sense. Although, I do not see logic in an angry has-been-never-was — shunned from the Sierra Club, laughed at by local east bay regional park officials, and has chose to “exist” in internet blogs — making sense. One has to see that he is inocuous, and just does not have anything to do but feed his thirst and obsession. Ignore him, as he does not exist in the physical world. His opinions and circular logic on his site can be used for classes in psychology and on logical fallacies, fraudulence, and plagiarism. Perfect demonstrations on how not to write or speak.
    That said, I have seen all parties that enjoy the outdoors harmonize and share trails. It is a simple matter of understanding and equality in action, with a sprinke of enforcement (self, peer, and/or patrol)! Ride/walk on, my friends…looks like we are all part of the great outdoors!!!

  31. The V-shaped grooves perhaps were not caused by a mountain bike. As mentioned, bikes do not have V-shaped tyres. The erosiveness caused by hiking on foot, on horse or on bike are all minimal compared to vehicles, and trail grooming by tractors. All in all, hiking, biking and equestrians cause minimal erosion to undeveloped portions of the world. It is important for safety reasons to ensure that there are multi-use and singular-use trail systems for different means of being in the great outdoors, with smart rules and regulations and enforcement programmes. Luckily, policymakers are able to see that and a have continued to move forward with allowing low-impact off-road cycling into parks where safety and conditions warrent such actions. Certain “activists” that have cherry-picked their opinions and subjective observations have actually raised awareness — awareness of multi-use trails and the importance of increasing trail usage.

  32. Jack, the “V-shaped grooves” were noted by a mountain biker who did a scientific study. I didn’t invent them. And I have seen them with my own eyes. The very nature of the bicycle tire ensures that bikes grind straight grooves. Tires are round but pretty thin, compared to flat-soled shoes.

    There is no benefit to nature or wildlife to having people in their habitat. Human presence is harmful, and more human presence is even more harmful. Bikes and other vehicles increase the human footprint. A bike, for example, multiplies the distance that one is able to travel by a factor of 10 or more! That also multiplies the impacts on wildlife. Mountain bikers also tend to get bored quickly with any trail they are given (because they travel so fast), and then want to build more and more trails. That destroys more habitat.

  33. “Where do you draw the line?” It’s really a no-brainer, Arne: if you CAN reduce your impact, and still enjoy life, you SHOULD. Obviously, mountain biking is an unnecessary, overly destructive activity. Everything that mountain biking provides can be accomplished much better, with FAR less impact, on foot. What do you think that people did to enjoy nature or exercise before mountain biking was invented?! We all WALKED. Now you want to call the extreme sport of mountain biking “normal”, and people who advocate walking “extremists”? The dishonesty of mountain bikers obviously knows no bounds. ANYTHING done in the name of mountain biking is supposedly acceptable, and anyone who opposed this destruction of nature for cheap thrills is called an “extremist”. Have you no decency?!

  34. “…the extreme sport of mountain biking…”
    “…destruction of nature for cheap thrills…”
    No decency, indeed. Everything is black or white. You hurt your own cause yet cannot see it. Interesting.
    Last word? I tire of this subject.

    PS: I helped stop a freeway to West Marin in 1968. My parents, siblings and I worked on Pete Arrigoni’s campaign for Supervisor. His opponent, incumbent Ernest Kettenhofen, wanted to continue the former Highway 17 (I think it’s 580 now) from the Richmond Bridge to Point Reyes Station.

  35. Arne, I’m glad that you helped stop a freeway project. That makes it all the stranger that you support mountain biking. But I have noticed that transportation activists often ignore wildlife (and vice versa). I have been both — fighting road construction as well as habitat destruction. The latter is a lot more interesting! I suggest that you read up on conservation biology, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

    By the way, there are many things that are black or white, such as death and extinction. They are FOREVER.

  36. So..Mike, Based on your theory of the distance a bike has the ability of traveling, running in the parks is just as harmful.

    NEW RULE: No running allowed in National Parks!

    Get to work Mike. This is a real problem. Think of all the erosion that’s currently being caused be these irresponible roughians!

    Oh and keep up the good work. I need a good laugh every once in a while.

  37. I am almost over laughing as well. I worked on stopping a freeway project in my youth, so it is “strange” that I support mountain biking. Actually, the fact is that I could see several decades into the future, and the route that the freeway would have followed had existing fire roads on it which are now used by mountain bikers, so I had ulterior motives.

    Years ago I heard a horror story about runners from some people walking on a trail with their dogs, a rare legal-for-dogs trail somewhere in Marin County, California. As they were walking, a couple of runners came up on them at high speed, yelling at them to get out of the way. There was no room, as the sides of the trail were steep above and below. The runners continued to berate the hikers as they made their best effort to get out of the way. In this case Mike Vandeman’s argument that mountain bikers are only concerned with traveling on the trails at high speed can be applied to runners as well.

    If runners were banned you’d have to ban all kinds of foot-transport, because even I will admit that sometimes, while hiking, I break into a run for a few paces.

  38. I don’t support running on trails, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to run, since they would miss most of the experience that a hiker would get. But the impact of a runner is still far less than that of a mountain biker. All you have to do is compare how far typical runners & mountain bikers can travel in a day.

    Maybe you can understand an analogy. The point of dancing, sex, education, etc. is not to get through the experience as quickly as possible! It’s to enjoy the process and learn something, neither of which are enhanced by speed. I guess we’d have to ask the mountain bikers’ spouses if they “get it”…. Now THERE’S a good research project….

  39. Funny. My spouse rides a bicycle way more than I do. My fault I got her started on it 25 years ago or so. I think I rode the thing twice this summer.

    Sometimes you have to walk a little fast if the light is fading and you want to get to the hot spring area and set up camp before the bears and wolves start using the trails at night. Then you get the whole place to yourself for a day or two to read and soak. I love Idaho!

  40. Mike, What all of this boils down to is that you do not enjoy mountain biking and you feel like you have some entitlement to be able to stop anything that you “get”. This is very obvious in the dribble you promote through your website. Well guess what. Not everyone enjoys hiking all the time. I am young and healthy enough to get excitement from riding a bike, in the woods, responsibly. I enjoy hiking some as well, but it’s not my favorite activity. You are confusing the type of riding that is done at places like Whistler to the normal riding people do on public land. Sure, there are some bad apples out there, but this applies to every group.

    As far as impact and erosion. I agree that, depending on the content of the soil, any traffic on a trail when it is muddy will cause erosion. There are close to 100 miles of bike trails and thousands of riders within a 2 hour drive from me. When it rains most of these trails are too muddy to ride without damage. Keep in mind that these are city parks with no staff on site. There is very minimal damage done during the wet months due to mud riding mostly be new riders. The reason is that we work hard to promote responsible use of these areas. In a National Park scenario, with staff to control what traffic sees a trail and educate newer riders, the affects would be non-existant. Common sense will tell you that a bikes impact on a suitable trail has no more or less impact than walking. But remember, you have to use common sense here. The study you continuously speak of with the V-shaped gooves is ONE study.

    I’ll stop here for now. I could go on and on for hours. Oily chains, large mechanical equipment, big knobby tires……

    I challenge you to think to consider one thing. What gives you the right, just because you don’t enjoy a particular activity, to try and further ban them from participating in the activity that they enjoy? Have an open mind on the subject and look at the common sense in an issue. Bikers do not want unlimited access to every trail. We want BIKING access to SOME of the areas that we too pay taxes to maintain, staff and protect.

  41. Robert, like most mountain bikers, you talk nonsense. You fabricated motives for me that have no validity whatsoever. I oppose mountain biking NOT because I don’t personally like it, but because it causes serious harm to organisms that have no way to protect themselves from humans: wildlife. I have said that from the beginning, but mountain bikers choose to ignore that, because they are totally ignorant of basic biology, and even more ignorant of conservation biology. You can’t talk about what you know nothing about. And you don’t care about wildlife, other trail users, or anything else except your own selfish pleasures.

    Mountain bikers ignore the law, and thumb their nose at the community, by riding and building trails illegally. It’s happened in every park that I know of. You also lie constantly about mountain biking impacts. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see that mountain biking does way more damage than hiking. And the science backs that up.

    Providing cheap thrills to a tiny minority of the population, while depriving the wildlife and other trail users of their rights, is not something that should be promoted. That’s obvious to everyone but mountain bikers.

  42. No one has any “rights” to trails. The use of a trail is a privilege granted by the land owner, whether it is a government or private agency. “Public land” is a misnomer.

    You can never win an argument with Mike. He is handicapped, however, by where he lives, the SF Bay area. This area has millions of people with a few thousand acres of “public” lands with everybody fighting over a few miles of trails. Of course there will be mountain bikers constructing illegal trails as they are banned from most of the official ones. I grew up in Marin and I used to spend a good amount of time hiking cross country, as the trails are too crowded. Hikers don’t need to build illegal trails because they don’t need trails. My favorite trails are “constructed” by generations of wild ungulates.

    Because he doesn’t drive, Mike will never see an area like where I moved to, where the situation is inverse. We have a few thousand people and millions of acres of “public” land. We have hundreds if not thousands of miles of trails. The user conflicts you have in the Bay Area are completely unheard of here. There is enough room for everybody and erosion is minimized by infrequent use. Trails are closed to all use (hikers, bikers, motorcycles, equestrians) as the snow melts. When they dry out and open in late June it is not unheard of to go for a hike or 20 mile bike ride and not see anyone. It’s all a matter of human population density versus trails available for recreation.

    Back to the original topic of this post, I almost never visit National Parks. I could care less if they allow bicycles on the paved trails in Yosemite, for example. Again, the reason is too many people, no matter where you go. Also, especially in the Sierra Nevada, the bears are totally habituated to humans so you need reservations to hike, you can only camp where there are steel bear-proof food boxes and so on. This is not a “wilderness” experience. A National Park is a park – kind of like Central Park.

    Mike Vandeman’s goal is a people-free wilderness. This would be possible in my area, in the Frank Church Wilderness. It is the largest one in the lower 48 states. All you’d have to do is gradually buy out the river rafters’ and horse outfitters’ permits, buy out a few private ranch in-holdings, tear up a few aircraft landing strips and “cherry stemmed” dirt roads. The sheer size of the place limits the number of people that can walk through. Banning equestrian travel, eventually, would reduce that number even further. It won’t be 100 percent “people free” in our lifetime, but it is a project that one could start now.

  43. Well, apparently a comment I tried to post earlier has been lost.

    It is obvious that from his site he has some personal agenda for being anti-cyclist. Maybe he can use his Ph D in psycology to get to the heart of the real issue. Being conscious about the environment and studying facts about the impacts is great. My issue with the material is that, depending on the subject being discussed, he is either against cycling only, against cycling and other activities, or maybe just against a surface protruding from the soles of shoes.

    He clearly lists hiking and camping as two of his interests. Yet advocates that he wants human free wilderness. Speaking of human free wilderness, how is this defined? All land was wilderness before we were created. Does that mean that the only way for us to create this is through total extinction of the human race? Once again, how can you be for something and against it all the same?

    per Mike: “You fabricated motives for me that have no validity whatsoever. I oppose mountain biking NOT because I don’t personally like it, but because it causes serious harm to organisms that have no way to protect themselves from humans: wildlife. I have said that from the beginning, but mountain bikers choose to ignore that, because they are totally ignorant of basic biology, and even more ignorant of conservation biology. You can’t talk about what you know nothing about. And you don’t care about wildlife, other trail users, or anything else except your own selfish pleasures.”

    You fabricated motives for me that have no validity whatsoever. Wow, those are his words. Nothing like a double standard. Generalizing an entire user group by saying “they are totally ignorant of basic biology” is ignorant in itself. I am educated in basic biology. I have not studied extensively but I did take it in high school and in college. A mountain biking friend of mine is a biologist and geologist. This alone proves that this statement has no validity. For him to challenge my education is nothing more than an elitist professors stab at debunking my opinions. You don’t learn everything in a classroom.

    One thing I’ve never understood is that we as humans are a species born into this world. Do we have no right to enjoy and use the land as much as any other species? Take a look at a map of the world. Notice the mass of land that is uninhabited by humans for all species to exist. Aside from highly sensitive areas, where a species may be on the verge of extinction anyways, are we arrogant enough to believe that a recreational trail that is built, maintained and used in a responsible manner going to cause the extinction of an entire species? Why is recreational use of a trail so terrible? Is it the impact we (humans which are animals) have against nature? Is a doe that is playing with a young fawn and crushing helpless organism beneath her feet for no other reason than selfish pleasures not as guilty as I?