(But seriously, we need to stop greater incursions of vehicles in the open space lands, doncha think?)
Theyyyy’rrre baaaack! The quest for more single track trails by thrill-seeking bicyclists is on anew. And now the Marin Bicycle Coalition has joined the clamor for more single track trails to be opened for mountain bike use. I guess it’s not rewarding enough to help open bike paths along our roadways, or help kids with Safe Routes to School. No, now they’ve decided to use their considerable clout to hire a lobbyist because there just aren’t enough trails for bikers in the open space.
As someone who has represented hikers and equestrians on more than one occasion in the ongoing battle to keep our open spaces places of tranquility, not multi-use speedways, I have developed some simple rules for defusing the biker-hiker-equestrian conflicts on the mountain once and for all:
1. Don’t call them mountain bikes, call them fire-road bikes
This would be the easiest solution. It keeps them where they belong. No conflicts with wildlife, equestrians and hikers occur and no expectations unrealistically raised. Erosion and scofflaw illegal trailblazing will be eradicated. And all able-bodied bike jockeys who truly do want to experience the joys of winding mountain trails, can leave their bikes at home and walk.
2. License them
This is really a no-brainer. When I was a child, all bikes had to be issued licenses. This way, renegade bikers can be tracked down and cited appropriately. Assuming they don’t emulate TV criminals and obscure their license numbers, steal licenses from other bikes, or just steal the whole bikes and dump them in ravines when through with the thrill ride.
3. Make them go to pre-bike ownership counseling with at least one hiker and one equestrian in the room
In a mutually respectful setting, a neutral facilitator encourages all parties to let out their feelings. Then they can have a session of telling each other “How they really feel,” so long as only pillows and sofa cushions sustain damage from any unrestrained outbursts. Horses and small children should be kept outside.
4. Outlaw spandex
I know, this would impact the yoga, soccer mom and after hour club crowds too. But in light of the greater good that would result from making bikers wear ordinary clothes like ratty sweat soaked tee shirts and chain-catching blue jeans, that would be a small price to pay for renewed tranquility on the mountain.
5. (My personal favorite) Open a mountain bike theme park
This can have man-made mountains, narrow trails, fake snakes and other wildlife to squash under wheels. Chills and spills rides. Underbrush courses, for the really daring riders. Maybe adventure seeking volunteers can pretend to be hikers so the bikers can still enjoy shouting “on your left” as they pass perilously close.
Let the comments begin.
I've re-read each of my posts on this 50+ comment thread. Each of my posts has been about inclusion, respect for multiple trail users, courtesy, and proper trail design. Each of my posts have pointed out that mountain biking is an important form of outdoor recreation, exercise and transportation. I've tried to point out success stories and examples of cooperation by cyclists and hikers.
I don't feel compelled to answer for illegal trail building (it happens, and represents the vast minority of mountain bikers). I wouldn't ask a mountain bike hater to answer for the trash and vandalism endemic to hiking trails (which I see almost every time I hike or run), or why people can't seem to park safely at trailheads (e.g. Cataract trail on any spring weekend). I wouldn't ask car driver to answer for speeders or tailgaters. For the record, I've never advocated that mountain bikes belong on every trail, or don't need regulation.
In return, I've seen advocating violence against trail users, been told to leave Marin, and been called a bully for advocating inclusion.
The ironic part of this discussion is that I probably log more miles as a hiker/runner than most of the bike haters combined (20-30+ miles/wk on foot on Tam, MMWD, and MCOSD). See you on the trail. I'll be happy to see you out there whether you are on bike, foot or horseback.