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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