Bikes in the wilderness

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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zacjust32
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by zacjust32 » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:16 am

"allow bicycles and other forms of human-powered locomotion in wilderness areas at the discretion of local land managers."

I don't think the JMT or any Sierra trails are in any danger of having bikes on it, especially with all y'alls criticisms. But newer wildernesses that contain old fire roads may be better candidates. And there are many wilderness that I wonder how they made the cut. These "2nd rate" wildernesses are more readily considered for bicycle introduction, especially if they contain roads (think national forest turned wilderness).

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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by oldranger » Fri Dec 15, 2017 10:15 am

gdurkee wrote:I'll join all here that this is an absurd proposal. Not only would bikes be an intrusion on the core nature of wilderness, but the practical nature of bikes on most Sierra trails. They're designed for the width of one person and, of course, a huge number have large sets of steps, switchbacks etc. which just make it dangers for hikers, stock users and bikes to be there at the same time. Nor can I imagine a significant percentage of bike users obeying regulations and staying on trails when the open up to meadows. Experience at Pt. Reyes show a lot of these guys have absolutely no respect for parks and regulations to maintain the integrity of trails and surrounding ecosystems.

I must take issue with the respected Sri Oldranger: wilderness is wilderness. We should not endanger the integrity or purpose of preserving anything so designated by introducing the slightest doubt as to its legitimacy. Wilderness is finite and extremely limited. Mountain bikers have huge, huge areas to pursue their sport. Now they want to take over everything else. No. My experience is there's an endless number of people who constantly want to introduce activities that diminish the wilderness experience. Opposition is one of those long twilight struggles we must continue to rise up to.

I'll add that over the years, I've given citations to two guys on bicycles. Both were walking them because the terrain was too difficult. One of them, my supervisor took their seats and said she'd meet them at the end of the trail to give them back. Darned clever supervisor... .

Not sure what stage this is at but we need to write our local Congressional rep and oppose this (mine, alas, is McClintock though we hope to defeat him in '18!).

The rationale behind my position, George, is that many of the newer "designated wilderness" have already endangered the integrity of the concept of Wilderness. For example, Badlands Wilderness east of bend is a wonderful and special area but is laced with roads formally accessible to any high clearance vehicle. There are also the stumps of junipers that were legally cut in years past. Within much of the area the sounds from traffic on U.S. highway 20 are clearly heard. I love this area and hike there often--but it is not wilderness. The creation of that designation has eliminated a great opportunity for mountain biking which given the width of the trails would be fully compatible with the foot and equestrian use that now occurs within the area. I would fully support the use of mountain bikes in this area. There is actually one route in the area that I believe should be open to all motor vehicles (it currently provides motorized access to privaten land owners). From my viewpoint this "wilderness" and others like it create doubt as to the legitimacy of the concept of designating wilderness. And the more areas that are designated wilderness where mountain biking currently occurs will continue to result in pressure to open real wilderness areas to mountain biking.
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by dave54 » Fri Dec 15, 2017 10:58 am

I agree with zac and oldranger.

If designated Wilderness Areas represent the crown jewels of our public lands, we certainly have added a lot of junk plastic trinkets over the last few years and cheapened the entire collection. We need to be more selective in our inclusion of future Wilderness. Not every currently unroaded piece of land is suitable for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System.

I do seem to recall the same argument a few years back about National Parks allowing bikes. The same dire doom-and-gloom predictions were made. After the dust settled and a few old roads were made bike accessible the National Park system did not collapse and wildlife and hikers did not flee in terror. Most people never noticed the difference and accepted seeing a bike on some trails.

If worried about bikers hurling recklessly down the trail, that is likely only close to the trailheads with day users using full suspension bikes. Backcountry bikepackers do not do that and cannot do that. These bikes are hard tails loaded with gear. (Do any trail running in boots with a full backpack? Similar concept.)

As a mountain biker myself I have mixed feelings and I am still evolving my views on this bill. I do not think allowing bikes on some suitable trails would be a tragedy. A blanket opening of all trails is different matter. The sticking point is how to regulate which trails are open and which are not. For that I do not have an answer. To be fair, only a small minority of mountain bikers poach on closed trails. The biking community as a whole does not blatantly ride on closed trails and respect regulations, even those they disagree with. When riders post about a riding a closed trail on any of the biking forums, the post is quickly deleted and the rest of the forum regulars boo and hiss at the OP for riding a closed trail.
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by oldranger » Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:36 am

dave54 wrote:I agree with zac and oldranger.


If worried about bikers hurling recklessly down the trail, that is likely only close to the trailheads with day users using full suspension bikes. Backcountry bikepackers do not do that and cannot do that. These bikes are hard tails loaded with gear. (Do any trail running in boots with a full backpack? Similar concept.)

.
I don't agree with this point, Dave. I believe that the biggest impact from mountain bikers would be day users who could easily cover 50 miles of the pct in oregon in a day. Many of my destinations for overnight or even multi day backpack trips could be easily included in a day ride by many of the mountain bikers I know. Their ability to negotiate technical terrain rapidly is really amazing. Steps, rocks, and switchbacks are merely interesting challenges.
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by Snowtrout » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:07 pm

This subject and now proposal has been in the works for some time. My wife's cousin, who owns a local bike shop, wanted us to sign a petition to allow bikes into wilderness areas awhile ago (since we also mountain bike), which has lead to this legislation. After discussing this with my wife, we both came to the conclusion that hikers and horses move along the trail at about the same speed. A mountain bike going downhill does not, nor can they stop fast enough to prevent a collision. For those simple facts, we told them we would not sign that petition and actually would sign any petition keeping the ban in place (leading to some uncomfortable tension at family gatherings after this). Today they do not bring the issue/idea up with us.

I do not have an problem with a wheel barrel or a wheel chair on the trails, as I doubt that I will ever have to hear "get out of the way" due to them screaming down the mountain at a rapid rate. :eek:
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by CAMERONM » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:11 pm

Let me make this very clear: It in no way interferes with the discretion provided in other regulations and laws that gives land managers the ability to close or restrict the use of trails according to site-specific conditions. These agencies have always had authority for example, to prohibit access if a trail is damaged or is incompatible with other uses, and that authority is undisturbed by this law.
In an era where "managers" are being put in charge of agencies specifically to destroy or undermine their essential mission, like the EPA, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FCC, etc., I don't trust empowering them with a greater range of "discretion".

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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by dave54 » Fri Dec 15, 2017 2:09 pm

CAMERONM wrote:
Let me make this very clear: It in no way interferes with the discretion provided in other regulations and laws that gives land managers the ability to close or restrict the use of trails according to site-specific conditions. These agencies have always had authority for example, to prohibit access if a trail is damaged or is incompatible with other uses, and that authority is undisturbed by this law.
In an era where "managers" are being put in charge of agencies specifically to destroy or undermine their essential mission, like the EPA, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FCC, etc., I don't trust empowering them with a greater range of "discretion".
Managers in this context refers to career professionals with boots on the ground, not political appointees at agency headquarters in DC. There is often a world of difference between laws passed by Congress and how that law is applied on the ground at the local level.
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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by CAMERONM » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:40 pm

Managers in this context refers to career professionals with boots on the ground, not political appointees at agency headquarters in DC. There is often a world of difference between laws passed by Congress and how that law is applied on the ground at the local level.
Yes this has generally been the case until recently, but all of the new attacks about the "deep state" are directly aimed at non-partisan career professionals, who are bailing at an alarming rate across all agencies. This is not an accident.

I join several others however in supporting some kind of mechanism to uncover specific lands that already have roads or are otherwise not so fragile so as to support bikes, or drones, or whatever. I know, its a very slippery slope.

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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by rlown » Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:02 pm

I'd recommend everyone just email their respective state's congress and senate reps, with the subject 'Bill H.R. 1349 please vote no.', and explain why. Sometimes they do mine or read the data. I don't like the idea of giving them an inch, because that usually leads to more. From some of the searching and reading, the bike coalition seems organized. Couldn't find a petition anywhere against it, so my original point stands.

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Re: Bikes in the wilderness

Post by Harlen » Sat Dec 16, 2017 2:18 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with the first page of posts, especially what gdurkee points out about the slow erosion of wilderness, and the need to fight against it.

Having worked closely with land managers in California State Parks, I have seen first hand the incredible amount of environmental damage done by mountain bikers. Much of the ecologic damage is due to increased erosion, and the resulting sedimentation of the creeks. Sadly, most of the problem comes from the abusers of the mountain biking privilege- those &%$#@!s knotheads that choose to barrel down every slope in the parks! And they are not lost- they do this on principle. Mountain bikers call these incursions "first descents," and they are a big deal to many cyclists, who are all keen to have a first descent to their name. The same sort of damage could occur were it the equestrian crowd that was cowboying around, barreling down slopes- but in general- they don't do it. Nor would most equestrians risk injuring their animals, where many mountain bikers would risk damage to their bikes... easier to carry your broken bike back out of the mountains.

This sort of errant biking behavior is very predictable, and would surely occur in the Sierra. As you can imagine, there would be a lot of desire to stay on the bike even on (soon to be??) legal descents down Sierra passes. "Staying on the bike," that is, not getting off to carry or push, is also a big part of the deal (I know this from personal experience) when trying to ride any trail. It shows technical expertise, and is much discussed at the end of the day: "You rode Devil's Trail? ... how many times did you get off?" So what do you suppose will happen when mountain bikers are coming back down a pass with un-rideable switch-backs, or any other unrideable section? I submit that many of the competitive riders will opt to jump out of the track and ride down the open slope in order to stay on the bike, and improve their "time"- because yes, many competitive riders constantly "time" their rides, and are in de-facto "races" with their buddies who will also do the same ride. You would be amazed at what sort of slopes expert riders can ride, so there will be a lot of illegal mountain bike trails showing up.

It is such a damn shame that it is the knotheads (who may be very nice people) who ruin things. Wandering Daisy makes a similar point with regard to some of the dog owners, Hobbes will tell us it's the same in the surfing world... There are just a certain percentage of knotheads in the world- plain and simple, but we've got to take account of their presence when it comes to land management.

My main desire in trying to defeat this Bill goes back to the other kind of erosion- the point about the tragic erosion of the state of our Wilderness. Write your congress reps!

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