Booby-Trapped Trails? March 16, 2007
The Marin IJ has once again showed its true colors in writing a story sympathetic towards illegal bikers that doesn’t tell the whole story about illegal biking.
Folks, this story is about ‘illegal’ mountain biking. The side of the story that the Marin IJ consistently fails to tell, are the documented stories of assault by illegal bikers on hikers, the destruction of existing trails and the destruction of endangered species habitat by illegal trail builders, and the ongoing violation of Marin’s narrow hiking trails by illegal and now downhill racing bikers. Mark Prado, the story’s author, is a mountain biker. ( I have been informed today, March 19th, by the IJ Opinion editor, Doug Bunnell, that Mark isn't a mountain biker ) If there’s one component that can not be de-linked from this story it is that the mountain biking craze is intimately tied to a billion dollar a year industry. Selling bikes and the mystique of risky biking is what it is now about. If you pick up any of the bike magazines out there, invariably you will see a glorification of risky, extreme riding that extols elements of law breaking. The celebrated president of Marin’s Wilderness Trail Bikes, Mr. Patrick Seidler underwrote a wild mountain biker film produced in 2000 called “Super Heros” that glorifies illegal trail riding in Marin, trespassing on State property and public urination.
The woman who supposedly tipped off the press about what she called ‘booby-traps’ is herself a professional downhill racer who competes in bike races affectionately referred to as “No Brakes” on the NORBA circuit. Google her and see for yourselves. She admitted in the article that she was trying to find the “split rock trail”, which is an illegal trail. These people are not your typical mountain biker. They are professionals or semi-professionals out for extreme workouts. Marin’s off limits trails are what they’re after. The environmental impacts of what they leave behind are an ongoing headache for hikers and open space personnel. I know one of the rangers who erected the barricade. Yes it was a barricade and not a trap. This guy is a family man, a former soldier, and in fact, an advocate for creating more trails for bike riders. He would never erect a device to hurt or injure anyone. In Tom Stienstra’s SF Chronicle article on the same incident, mention was made that it was a biker who in fact bent the metal fence posts down in an effort to dislodge them, leaving them in a position that could potentially harm someone. In the almost 10 years I have been fighting illegal bike riding and trail building I have never seen or read any reports about bikers being injured by barriers, fences, or trail blockage devices of any kind. The truth is that most mountain bike injuries result from risky riding habits. According to sports medicine expert, Dr. Robert Kronisch
“A number of factors contribute to acute injuries. A retrospective survey (4) of recreational mountain bikers found that off-road crashes were commonly associated with excessive speed, unfamiliar terrain, inattentiveness, and riding beyond one's ability. A similar survey (7) of recreational and competitive off-road cyclists identified loss of control, high-speed descent, and competition as factors related to acute injuries; competitors were four times more likely than noncompetitors to be acutely injured.”
In other words, the dangers of mountain biking are inherent in the sport itself.
Ms. Beckstoffer also states in the article that “We don’t mind paying a ticket”…what is that all about? Not minding paying a ticket? The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has consistently opposed increasing the fines for illegal trail riding. Why? Beckstoffer’s statement seems to indicate that the current fee structure is too lenient. This needs to change. Marin’s fragile narrow trails (inappropriately referred to as ‘single track’-a mountain biker term) are under constant assault. The problem is getting worse and the often heard complaint within the mountain bike community is that “we don’t have enough of trails to ride on”. This is pure nonsense. In Mountain Biking Marin by Martin and Simon, there are 458.2 miles of legal mountain biking trails in Marin alone.
I have personally risked my health and well being fighting illegal bikers. I have received numerous death threats and even participated in a citizen’s arrest over a year ago, of an illegal biker who broke into my car and stole my car keys as I was reporting on an illegal night ride by about 14 riders in Marin County Open Space near China Camp. I wrote about and reported this story to the IJ. It was never published. Please check out the following link to view the congratulatory blogging by bikers regarding the IJ and Chron stories from March 16. See for yourselves the impudence and delight taken in illegal riding activity.