Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bikes in the wilderness: "A terrible idea"

This New York Times article notes that a bill (S. 3205) is pending in Congress to allow mountain bikes in federally-designated wilderness areas. In short, the bill is a terrible idea.

First, on the merits, allowing mountain bikes into wilderness areas has the potential for significant impacts both on other humans using wilderness, and on the species and ecosystems in wilderness areas. Many users of wilderness areas enjoy those areas precisely because they are refuges from the speed and noise of modern transportation technologies---including mountain bikes. (I say this as someone who enjoys both hiking and mountain biking.) And while it is true that all human users of wilderness have impacts on the species and ecosystems in wilderness areas---even hikers cause erosion and disturb animals---mountain bikes allow people to move faster and farther into wilderness areas, and mountain bikes produce significant erosion problems (especially if trail maintenance is not increased to keep up with the increased use).

Second, the changes proposed would apply by default to all trails in all wilderness areas, unless land managers explicitly decide to exclude bicycles. The bill would make it a presumption that the use of mountain bikes in wilderness areas is consistent with wilderness character, and requires the accommodation of mountain bikes on all trails “to the maximum extent practicable.” This is a thumb on the scale in favor of human use in wilderness areas that is inconsistent with the Wilderness Act as a whole---an Act that tends to weigh against human development and the use of technology in wilderness areas...

Rob's comment:
Considering how mountain bikers have trashed open space in Marin County, allowing these vandals in wilderness areas is a shockingly dumb idea.

See No Bikes in Wilderness. Period.

See also this.

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At 2:05 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Who is going to pay for the remote medical rescues when cyclists hurt themselves deep into woods? Yup, taxpayers, so associated funding is necessary with the bill. So many bad bills get approved because they lack needed but politically distasteful funding components. Bills lacking such funding need to be voted down, including this one.

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Mark, same with hikers - why are we going out there rescuing them? Let them die.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Cyclists are far more likely to hurt themselves on tree-lined rugged terrain than hikers at walking speed. Mountain biking is very dangerous with many injuries. Here is a recent example from my side of the country - a triathlete who died cycling in the White Mountains National forest:

Hikers, like pedestrians, greatly outnumber cyclists, so the total number of those accidents isn't reflective of the rate of accidents and relative danger. Google mountain bike injury statistics and you will learn the facts.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cyclists are far more likely to hurt themselves on tree-lined rugged terrain than hikers at walking speed.

Statistics show otherwise, mostly because you don't see cyclists on Half-Dome, near Bridal Veil falls, climbing Mt Whitney, Longs Peak, etc... The vast majority of off-road cyclists are on simple fire roads. And cyclists are generally trained better or less likely than to go beyond their abilities than hikers, reference the number of hikers I see on the top of Mt Whitney with no water left and no tolerance for altitude.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What "statistics" are you referring to? Sounds like anecdotal evidence to me.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For anyone who might like to look beyond the mostly bogus issues of injuries, ecological impacts or the true goals of the Wilderness Act, you might enjoy some more in-depth history and analysis:{%22page%22:40,%22issue_id%22:307770}


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