Friday, December 5, 2008

Can't we all get along?

A little while back I griped about the animosity directed from some bike activists towards the general driving public. Today I have a similar gripe, this time about the conflicts between mountain bikers and hikers over access to parks.

This gripe was kicked-off by this article from BRAIN (Bike Retailers And Industry News) on proposed changes to national park rules. Currently, there are few national parks that MTB riders can access, and the new rules would essentially reclassify MTBs (all cyclists actually) like other non-motorized trail users, like horse-back riders. The International Mountain Biking Association has been advocating for this rule change since 1992. The proposal drew a rapid response from the American Hiking Society, which sent an alert citing specific concerns about the rule change: namely that it would go into effect without appropriate environmental impact and public comment, and that the new rules would negatively impact Wilderness designations.

I'm not going to debate one side or the other. Frankly, I haven't studied the issue well enough to form an opinion on it. Instead, my issue is with the fact that there is an issue. What I mean is that these are two groups that advocate for expanded outdoor/wilderness activities and instead of combining efforts to make sure that their respective constituencies are getting the most out of membership they're butting heads. I fall into both camps, although not a member of either group, by being a hiker/backpacker and avid cyclist (and aspiring MTBer). I would love to know that I could take my bike to national parks that lend themselves to trail riding (my one visit to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park left me dreaming of trail riding through it) and I doubt I'm alone.

I hope that a reasonable compromise can be worked out and that the two advocates can somehow find the common ground in the middle, the place where they are both working for increased access to appropriate backcountry areas rather than fighting over who should be banned from where.

1 comment:

  1. Another well-put "can't we all just get along" type post. I understand where some of the animosity comes from. I do think under certain circumstances having a bunch of guys on bikes ride by in a blur could ruin your hike. And I understand why mountain bikes aren't allowed on all trails. However, banning mountain bikes from national parks altogether is not fair. There needs to be a balance struck.

    Maybe that means keep mountain bikes out of the backcountry but allow them on other trails. Maybe it means designating certain trails only as allowing bikes. I don't know exactly, but you're right: these two groups largely have the same interests at heart. I wish they'd work together, too.