Paul Andrews

Always something new in Marin’s hiker-biker wars

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access on August 31, 2009 at 9:37 am

The mtb wars in Marin continue apace. KTVU provides a video report (linked by updating tensions between mountain bikes and hikers. The report winds up being fairly sympathetic to the biking side, which is something of a surprise. Typical mainstream reports slant the blame toward the bikers.

One bromide does pop back up, concerning kids “screaming down the trails” on mountain bikes, supposedly endangering the health and well-being of hikers, children, dogs and so on. You know, I’ve yet to encounter a documented report of a bike colliding with a hiker and causing serious injury. And this is in nearly 20 years of mountain biking. I think I would have heard.

Not to dismiss hiker/pedestrian concerns, because I’ve been in a situation where bikes ripping down a trail too fast scare the bejesus out of me. But that’s as far as it goes. Yes it’s rude and disruptive. Still, every time I hear a complaint about the occasional bad actor on a mountain bike, I think of the scores of times I’ve encountered trails littered with trash, beer cans and other crap that mountain bikers have nothing to do with. Or the times I’ve been sworn at or blocked (by 3 or 5-abreast squadrons of anti-mtbers) or even swung at with a walking stick while riding on trails open to bikes. They don’t represent the vast majority of hikers, but they do exist.

There are jerks on both sides of this coin. But the majority should not be tarred with them.

The report notes some trails are being booby trapped. The most notorious case two and a half years ago involved barbed wire across an unmarked (that is, not specifically indicated as no-bikes, although not specifically permitted either; we avoid the vague and usually inappropriate term “illegal”) and widely used trail in Marin. Most of the current booby traps are of a less potentially homicidal nature — sticks, brush, and the ever popular blowdowns dragged across connector trails.

I enjoyed hearing Mark Weir‘s commentary, but in the pantheon of spokespeople available to address Marin mountain biking issues, he’s probably not the first guy I’d think of. Still, Mark’s attempt to get official approval for a pump track is worth noting. Not that most local and regional planning authorities even know what a pump track is or have a process to permit one, it’s nonetheless a shame that they turn a deaf ear in this case.

There’s considerable hope on the horizon. Marin has a hugely popular high-school mountain biking curriculum that is going to put a whole new generation of mtbers into mainstream society. Their mindset will be completely 180 degrees from the “ban the bike” intransigence of the old-line environmentalists. Someday, multiple use will be taken for granted in Marin and the U.S., the way it is everywhere else around the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: