Saturday, August 1, 2009

255 Miles of Bike Trails Not Enough

Alarming Trend Puts Tahoe Bikers at Risk
John Demas

Lake Tahoe boasts 255 miles of mountain bike trails. These trails have been built to be fun and challenging, but were also designed to enable emergency vehicle access and protect the environment. When building these trails, the Forest Service considers environmental sustainability and the protection of historical resources. They build strong, sound features that will endure and take rider experience into account.

These trails can be a great way to explore the national forests and get out into nature. Many people who use the trails are weekend bikers, just there for the day. Others are professionals who want to practice and push themselves further. Whoever you are, these trails can be a fulfilling day of adventure. However, one wrong turn onto an illegal trail could land you in the hospital.

Officers with the U.S. Forest Service are growing concerned with the increasing number of illegal trails in the Lake Tahoe area. Officer Heck notes, “These are big trails with lots of jumps.” It would be easy for a rider to get hurt on a trail that is too difficult for them. Earlier this year a mountain biker crashed on one such trail and had to be airlifted to a local hospital with spinal cord and head injuries. These trails are sometimes very difficult to get to for emergency vehicles and riders take the risk that they will not receive medical treatment in a timely manner.

Fines for creating an illegal trail can be up to $5,000 and six months in jail. The builders will also have to pay to repair the damage done to the forest. So far this season only three illegal trails have been decommissioned. Regulation takes money and it is taxpayer dollars that are paying to take down these illegal trails.

With great increases in technology and equipment, mountain bikers yearn to push themselves and their bikes to new limits. Mountain biking has become more popular in recent years and th level of activity this year especially is significant. It makes sense that people would choose to enjoy a relatively free activity in these tough times.

Biking can be a very enjoyable pastime, but it is also dangerous and can turn into a nightmare in no time. Just remember to consider the following:

1) The forest belongs to everybody.

2) The National Forest Service is looking out for your best interest and safety.

3) Illegal trails can get you hurt, cost taxpayers a lot of money, and damage the environment.

4) If you are caught building an illegal trail you can be fined and jailed.

5) Always wear a helmet! Hopefully one that is CSPC or DOT approved.


DrRenn said...

As a avid Mt.Biker from the Tahoe area who recently moved to Marin county, I am shocked at your post.To say that 255 miles of trail is enough and we should be happy with that is an insult to the sport and the people who enjoy it. Yes illegal trail building is wrong, but with so many people who fell so strongly against Mt Bikers it is hard to get a single use trail system built for them. Mostly because other users find it offensive that they are excluded from the new trail. How do we as bicyclist feel when we are denied access, to city streets, birth righted trails and our own national forest?
So we tend to go the easier route and build illegally. I would bet that some of your favorite trails were either built by Horses in the early 1800's or more recently in the early 50 to 60 by motor cycles.
Trying to say that cycling activity is a threat to man and the environment is a cop out.
If you look at other country's you will see they have already adopted the sport. For example New Zealand has several trail systems that are Mt Bike specific with alternate route for hikers and equestrians. They get along there and they have had the sport for less then thirty years. Yet at the birth place of the sport there is less a show of respect for a sport that brings people together to enjoy the outdoors the same as trail runners hikers and equestrians.

We can all get along just give us the right to be there and we will respect the land. Give us space to work with and we will not build trails illegally. It has been done, there is a group in Wilson Wy. called the Teton Freedom Riders. They have built a Freeride specific trail system with the National Forest approval and it works.

Please just look at it from the other side . What if we the cyclist were here first and said that the hikers could not use our trails because they were rude and inconsiderate. All on the basis that they thought they should be allowed to use the trails that were built for the public.

Thank you, I look forward to reading more of your views.

trailkillerz said...

I think a mistake mountain bikers often make in their thinking is that any one "type" of mountain biker speaks for another. The guys building the erosive free ride trails will do that no matter what trails are created or opened for the "typical" rider. Do you have any doubts about that? And 255 miles of trails not enough? Oh come on, give me a colossal break... what trail user group has clamored for so much trail access than the mountain biker? This is a new impact. It is a misnomer for bikers to describe themselves as "a user group" anyway. They are basically people like the rest of us, only they insist on identifying themselves with their "machines" and can't make the separation. The bike is a machine.
That machine travels fast and carves grooves in soft trails and assists erosion and other forms of trail degradation. I have not seen the "respect for the land" from mountain bikers as you claim. I just received 2 years worth of erosive destructive illegal mountain bike trail building reports from Marin Open Space authorities, more are coming from other agencies. This is destruction of wild life habitat, interference with nocturnal wild life patterns (night riding is on the increase) destruction of natural resources and endangerment of other trail users, as speed and technical challenges are often the aim of illegal trail builders.

Mountain biking is out of control. That is something "you" guys have to address within your own group and come up with some solutions that will impress wilderness users like myself.