Friday, March 30, 2007

Mountain Biking: "A thrill- and speed-based activity"

The letters to the editor below are from the Marin Independent Journal in response to the controversy about the behavior of mountain bikers in the Marin watershed.

Not all uses compatible
( March 24, 2007)

Ron Acker (Saturday Soapbox, March 17, "Marin trails should be open to all") drags out the often-repeated mountain biker lie that he doesn't have access and he pays taxes.

Actually, he does have access, just like the rest of us.

His bike, which can propel him to speeds exceeding 20 miles per hour, pays no taxes to any parks or open space districts and has no inherent right to access. Otherwise, I should be allowed to drive my four-wheel drive on Marin fire roads and my motorcycle on the trails.

The rules are to ensure the preservation of the land and the enjoyment to all. Since mountain biking is a thrill- and speed-based activity, it is incompatible with other uses. The fact that many mountain bikers violate regulations that apply, especially speed limits, means Acker is not being honest when he claims that bikers can be responsible and self-policing. They can't even stop from parking in residential areas near Tamarancho, despite being asked not to.

If you want access to trails, buy some land, build your own and put in a parking lot.

Carlo Gardin

Bikers and 'end of civilization' (March 27, 2007)
I guess this is the end of civilization as we knew it.

Brian Foster of Mill Valley (Readers' Forum, March 23) laments that while he was being issued a ticket for riding his bike on the presumably illegal Split Rock trail, hikers walked by unscathed. Poor baby.

Let's see. Although he broke the law, he wanted hikers who broke the law to be treated equally. Here's the thing. First, bikes harm a trail more per use than hikers since bike tires exert far more pressure (force per square inch) than hikers. Unless, of course, they are wearing spike heels.

But the main point is that it's illegal to be there, folks. If you get caught for speeding and your defense is that you were just following the guy ahead, tough darts. You got caught and will pay. This is like the "I don't mind getting tickets" comment from someone else. Talk about "us vs. them."

Why not try legal trails and see how much more peaceful that might be?

For the record, I neither hike nor bike, preferring driving to Sam's in my min-van for a nice ramos fizz, but I don't use illegal byways to get there.

Bob Wilkins
Mill Valley

'Arrogance, belligerence' (March 27, 2007)
I, too, have been the recipient of curses from the bikers racing by at high speeds down the trails on Mount Tamalpais. I have witnessed the erosion their tires cause to those trails.

I am dismayed at the arrogance, belligerence and entitled attitudes displayed by these bikers. I fail to understand why someone who seems only intent upon speed and a test of his/her physical endurance would choose to zip through the beauty of nature, oblivious to the gift of wild flowers, the sight of an owl or fox and of all the natural beauty around them. These bikers might as well be road biking.

And, a word about the Marin Municipal Water District. The water district has been an exemplary steward of its land. It maintains trails that allow the hiking nature lover access to the exquisite beauty of Marin's wild areas. The disrespect that trail bikers show for this is irritating, to say the least.

I remember a time before the mountain bike was invented. The trails of Marin were in good shape and offered a serene and safe environment for those who respect and commune with nature.

Suzanna Anderson

Other bike double standard (March 28, 2007)
Brian Foster of Mill Valley observes that there is a double standard for bikers and hikers. There is another double standard within the biking community.

Apparently for many of these fitness buffs, it's too hard to get going again after stopping at a red light, so they blow right through it. Or they make a "California stop" (not actually stopping) and turn right through the red light then make a U-turn and then another right to get around the red light.

Many times, I have seen these riders just turn into the crosswalk and proceed through. I applaud all those bikers who I see actually stopping and riding single file, obeying all the rules that cars have to obey and truly sharing the road.

Those bikers who feel they are above the law ought not whine when an officer is too busy giving them a ticket to stop others who are also breaking the law.

Eric Fransen
San Rafael

Equestrian's view of bikers (March 29, 2007)
I have the wonderful luck to often ride horses in Fairfax's Deer Park. I also have hiked those trails for years and never take for granted the beauty and quality of the trails and views.

The only problem I have had is with bike riders. First, let me say that the vast majority of cyclists I encountered were polite, cautious and friendly. Many people bike in that area, so even though the majority are law-abiding, there are plenty who are not.

On a regular basis, I have encountered bikes on single-track trails, bikes at fast speeds and bikes at dusk coming off hills above my horse, who pictures a predator and flees. On one ride, my horse got spooked because the cyclist coming around the corner came at such a fast clip that he had to skid into to us to make the corner. The horse shied toward a family with small children. As I apologized to the family, the biker was gone without so much as a glance back.

Another time, a group I was riding with had to endure an angry barrage from two cyclists who were mad they had to follow us on a single track. There were no turnouts for the horses. We were polite, wanting to avoid a confrontation. When they could get around us, they took off speeding down the next single-track trail, which consists mostly of blind curves.

My horse is young and needs exposure. When rules are followed, he doesn't seem to have a problem. I have moved him to a facility that has private trails where there are no bikes. The trails do not compare, but at least I can ride without worrying.

As regular hikers and riders, we all have stories of close calls and frightening moments. We also have stories of how incredibly beautiful the area is and how friendly some people are.

I have often thought of why the "few bad apples" have to spoil things. They do because they can.

Mary Venable
San Rafael

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At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Ulloa Sam said...

I agree with you for once!

Obnoxious mountain bikers, much like snowboarders, are a pain in the ass. But the key quote from these letters is this: "the vast majority of cyclists I encountered were polite, cautious and friendly."

So really, what's the big deal? Catch the handfull of retards and ticket them. They problem will go away.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Busting scofflaw mountain bikers is much easier said than done.

There is a larger point to the mountain biker issue: The reality is that riding a bike, whether in the city or on trails, is essentially a "speed and thrill" recreational activity more than it is a serious transportation "mode." Bikes are in fact primarily recreational accessories. It's amazing that the bike fanatics in SF have been able to manipulate the city's political elite to the point where it was ready to redesign city streets on behalf of, at most, 2% of the population. Fortunately, that eventuality was derailed by the recent injunction and court decision ordering the city to do an environmental review of the 460-page Bicycle Plan before it could happen.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Dave Jowlles said...

oh boy...

I'll take the bait for the benefit of others. (By the way you just doubled your estimate from 1% to 2%! That's good news!)

Your lawsuit, and I do mean YOURS because you and your attorney are literally the only 2 people in town who care about it, is nothing more than a costly tactic to satisfy your ego my friend. The result will be much taxpayer money spent, and eventual approval of the bike plan exactly the way it was originally written just one or two years delayed.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"For the benefit of others"? An act of great self-sacrifice, Dave! The 2% number is supposedly from the 2000 Census and is mentioned in the Bicycle Plan itself. The SFCTA says it's only 1% of city residents who commute by bike. You're typical in that you don't know that---or much of anything else---about the litigation or the Bicycle Plan.

You didn't mention two other important people who agreed with us: Judge Warren and Judge Busch, both of whom agreed on the injunction against the city. Busch, who inherited the case from a retired Warren, went further and, in a rather scathing critique of the city's deceptive behavior, ordered SF to do an environmental report on the two-volume, 460-page Plan. Also typical of that kind of arrogance is the implication that you don't have to follow the law like everyone else. After all, you aren't burning any fossil fuel!

Your comment is appended to a post made up entirely of letters by folks in Marin County who are fed up with the kind of arrogance your suburban comrades display on the trails in Marin's watershed. As I point out, cyclists in the city often indulge in the same kind of arrogance on the streets of SF.

Until the advent of my blog, you jerks had it all your own way, and we never saw any criticism of either your behavior as individuals or your political behavior. But the worm may have turned, Dave. Maybe city voters' overwhelming rejection of the hike in the tax on parking last November is a sign of things to come, that drivers are no longer willing to put up with shit from you self-righteous jerks with your anti-car agenda.

One good thing about making the city do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan is that the city's neighborhoods will get an idea of what you folks have in store for their streets---taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. Their reaction will be interesting to watch!

At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Dave Jowlles said...

I'm a jerk? You're the one costing tens of thousands of tax payer dollars amigo! You're the one being self righteous!

Hell, I use my car more than I bike anyway, but that doesn't mean I can't smell a rat! Your insolent, childish lawsuit will fade away in time.

The judges agreed because what you did was technically legal. That's it! Can you show one person other than you who public ally supports this idiotic lawsuit? Even an op-ed?

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city's taxpayers would have saved a lot of money if the city had done an EIR in the first place as the law requires. Still waiting for you to explain why SF doesn't have to obey the same laws as everyone else does. Because we're so hip and so special? Complying with CEQA is no mere technicality. It's the most important environmental law in the state. If you had been a regular reader of my blog, you would have seen a number of postings and comments from people in the city who agree with me---and even thanking me for taking on the issue. Anyhow, you don't decide important legal issues based on a case's popularity. Still don't see anything in your comments showing that you know anything about either the Bicycle Plan or the litigation. But you already have the answers, don't you? You don't have to actually read anything to inform yourself. You really should at least read Judge Busch's decision; he busted the city for its outright deception in the way it pushed the Bicycle Plan through the process. "Op-eds"? No, I'm the only media entity in the city who's dissenting on this issue, which reflects poorly on the local media, not me. You bike jerks have gottten a free ride, so to speak, until now, but you won't any more.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Kutchy Kutchy said...

You're gonna suffer Rob, just get ready!

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Since this is clearly a threat, I probably should report it to the police. Your sense of timing is dumb, considering the Matier&Ross story in this morning's Chronicle on "Critical Smash."

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Kutchy Kutchy said...

Relax Rob, it's not a threat, just a statement of karmic fact. When you spread hate it eventually comes back to you. Belive me I'm as disgusted by the critical mass issue as you are. I never ride in it.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Please cite a single example of my "spreading hate." You seem to think that any criticism of the BikeThink mindset and the consequent goonish behavior is "spreading hate." You have the Critical Mass thuggery, the trashing of Marin's watershed by mountain bikers, and the SF/SFBC attempt with the Bicycle Plan to redesign city streets for this small minority without any environmental review. I'm not allowed to make these connections without being accused of "spreading hate"? The thing is the cycling community has been getting a free pass from the media until now, but it looks like that is over, isn't it?

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like that all you do is put down bikers, but let me ask you one thing, who does all the trail maintence. Not hikers, that's for sure. It is true bikes may hurt trails more than hikers but at least bikers work on the trail to make them like new. You kick bikes off the rails and the trails will turn into crap. There are allready too many examples of this.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I write about a lot of issues besides the bike issue, which even a cursory look at my archives shows. You blur an important distinction: cyclists are permitted on the Marin watershed's fire trails, which are large enough for emergency vehicles and have a hard enough surface to support bikes without suffering any damage. But the narrower hiking trails are much softer and more vulnerable to damage from cycling. Nor are cyclists allowed to "work on the trails" to maintain them. Only watershed employees are permitted to do that. Your comment is yet another example of the arrogance typical of some cyclists in both the city and in Marin.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Rob, I like how you call bikers self-righteous and arrogent but it is ok that hikers and equestrians want the trails to themselves.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Let's go over this again: Bikers are already allowed on the watershed's extensive network of fire trails/roads, which are big enough to support fire trucks. Then there's the extensive network of "single-file" trails in the area. That's the problem, since their use by cyclists not only produces conflicts with hikers and horseback riders but also tends to degrade these trails. many of which are in environmentally sensitive areas near streams. Heavy use by cyclists of these trails can lead to erosion into streams. The point is this: cyclists already have---have always had---access to the heavy-duty fire trails but not, reasonably enough, to the narrow hiking trails. But mountain bikers insist on a bogus equality with hikers on the single-file trails, because that's where they can experience the speed-thrills their hobby apparently requires. Understand, too, that mountain bikers are often obnoxious on the fire trails, too. As an occasional hiker in the Marin watershed, I've had some close calls walking on the fire trails, as bikers like to speed down the hills, much like bike boors do in SF. Often hikers have to skip quickly out of their way to avoid being hit by speeding mountain bikers.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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