Mountain Biker Scofflaws
"John B." wrote in message ...
On Thu, 9 Jun 2016 23:51:43 -0500, "EdwardDolan"
Just one of many reports I could be posting to this newsgroup on the behavior of mountain bikers, a criminal class of trash humans if ever there was one.
“Yesterday I met a mountain biker pushing his bike up a hiking trail closed to bikes. I said "Bikes aren't allowed here". He said "I'm just pushing my bike up the hill". I said "It doesn't matter whether you are pushing it or eating it; bikes aren't allowed on this trail". Of course, the trail is marked with one of those internationally recognizable signs with a bike covered by a red circle and a "bar sinister" so that anyone in the world can understand it - except a mountain biker. I reported him to the park police, emphasizing the fact that I told him he was breaking the law, and he continued doing it anyway. This is typical mountain biker behavior. How is "education" going to stop this? It isn't. The only thing they understand is force. And having their bike confiscated....”
Finish your story. After you reported the cyclist to the police and
emphasized that YOU, Dolan the Great, had spoken harshly to the guy,
did they leap to their feet and rush madly out into the Great Outdoors
and track down the miscreant? Did they arrest him and bring him back
in chains? Beaten and bleeding?
Only a report – and not mine. There is also much illegal trail building by mountain bikers. Read the following report and get a clue that not all is well when it comes to multiple use of the trails.
“Mountain bikers go off trail after asking the equestrians if it is OK to ride through on a trail in O'Neill Regional Park. Communication is key to sharing trails.
By DAVID WHITING / STAFF COLUMNIST
More people than ever are flocking to Orange County’s trails, with disputes and body contact rising among equestrians, mountain bikers, trail runners, birders and hikers.
Battles have become so bad, at least three organizations recently formed in an effort to bring peace to the outback.
Saturday mornings are the worst period. Groups of hikers step aside or stand their ground while mountain bikers zoom by on narrow trails in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.
Above the land side of Crystal Cove State Park, known as “El Moro,” hundreds of people descend spacious fire roads, yet often leave little or no room for mountain bikers.
In Chino Hills State Park, bewildered families with young children try to sort out what it means when a cyclist shouts, “On your left.”
In 2008, county parks had 10.7 million visitors. Last year’s record saw 13.8 million people.
Outdoor enthusiasts go so far as to cut illegal trails. Some paths wind through protected habitat or private land. But it’s complicated. These trails often connect official trails to one another, allowing longer excursions that avoid dangerous road traffic.
If this sounds like mountain bikers are the only ones to blame, they aren’t. Every group has a few bad apples.
Several weeks ago, a mountain biker on Borrego Trail in Whiting Ranch slowed to pass a hiker. The man on foot could have made room, but didn’t. The cyclist pedaled in brush, lost his balance and tipped into the hiker.
Both went down.
Making matters trickier is that the illegal yet long-used trails are being closed by developers and government agencies.
With OC Parks reporting a total 682 miles of trails – 167 miles devoted to riding and hiking – trail wars seem to make no sense.
But large chunks of Orange County’s natural world are nestled in urban areas and have become increasingly popular. As county Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who oversees canyon areas, points out, “People are much more aware of the need to exercise, and they take getting outdoors more seriously.”
In the 1990s, it was rare to see groups of mountain bikers and hikers on local trails. That remains true in remote wilderness areas, miles from trailheads. But on shorter trails with easy access, there are traffic jams.
Trail runners thread their way between hikers. Mountain bikers frequently grumble about other mountain bikers who stop and block paths.
Terry Hanly helps with the Anaheim Hills Hiking Club. She and her husband, Tim, usually hike in Santiago Oaks Regional Park and say there has been a marked increase in the past year in the number of visitors, especially mountain bikers.
Many mountain bikers slow down, ring a bell and offer a “thank you” when the Hanlys step aside to create more room. But there have been times when Hanly had to leap off the trail to avoid a mountain biker out of control.
“They have the attitude,” Tim Hanly says, “that they own the road and that hikers are a nuisance.”
With support ranging from Audubon of California to the Sierra Club, Safe Trails Coalition was born in Newport Beach four years ago. One of its goals is “to address and change unauthorized and unsafe trail activities that threaten public safety and damages our parklands.”
The coalition, as part of its mission, hopes to curb “trail misuse and abuse such as use of the parks at night, illegal trail cutting, creation of paintball courses.”
“Hikers, bikers and equestrians, runners, birders, students, families, dog walkers, have potentially conflicting needs,” says Melanie Schlotterbeck, coalition coordinator. Of the coalition’s work, she says, “Education is the most important piece, like how to pass safely by somebody’s horse.”
The rules are clear: Everybody yields to equestrians; mountain bikers yield to everyone else.
On a recent backpacking trip through Chino Hills State Park, Schlotterbeck reports, she discovered seven illegal trails.
“There’s a huge amount of biodiversity in Orange County,” Schlotterbeck says. “When people create their own trails, there’s a lack of knowledge, respect and understanding. It’s not good placement; there are erosion issues.”
A month ago, I unknowingly tried to mountain bike one of those illegal trails. I rode from the Ladera Ranch fire station off Antonio Parkway up the Ladera Ridge Trail. I started to turn left at the top but ran into a locked steel gate.
Several mountain bikers joked that the route had been closed so developers could save the wilderness by building homes. But just as the reasons for building trails are complicated, so is balancing recreation, development and protecting the environment.
An OC Parks news release explains that OC Parks and the Rancho Mission Viejo Co. agreed to close the route because of environmental damage. The closure turned into a cause célebre.
Chris Messina lives in Ladera Ranch, is a mountain biker and decided to try to unlock the gate not with force but diplomacy. His work signals possible compromises for dozens of illegal trails.
More than 70 mountain bikers and hikers gathered last month for the first meeting of Messina’s South OC Trail Coalition. “Recently we’ve seen several areas of trail closed in and around the Ladera Ranch,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook site, “Las Flores, Rancho Santa Margarita, Wagon Wheel and Coto de Caza.
“In an effort to understand why the trails have been closed,” Messina wrote, “the community needs to learn the history.”
A few days ago, Messina said his coalition is making progress, and he is hopeful the gate will be unlocked in the months to come. “The tone of the conversation with the county is positive and if I had to summarize, I’d say they are looking for ways to help.”
“When people cut new trails,” OC Parks Public Information Officer Marisa O’Neil told me, “it makes it more difficult for us to keep existing trails open, or to add trails. It sets the whole process two steps back.”
O’Neil added, “Increased trail use means a healthier population but it also means that as land managers, we have to take a close look at how the trails are being used and by whom.”
To help resolve these issues, OC Parks two months ago created a Trails Subcommittee. July 8 is the deadline to step up.”
Mountain bikes have wheels. Wheels are for roads.
Trails are for walking. What’s the matter? Can’t walk?
Ed Dolan the Great – Minnesota