The LA Times has been publishing a number of interesting articles on bicycle-specific topics of late. It’s nice to see the tone of the articles dealing with bicycles and cyclists as real, adult issues rather than the all-too-common ranty article describing a caricature/stereotype “lycra-clad Lance/Lemond wanna-be…”.
which generated some online comments here.
Read ‘em and if you have the interest, comment favorably to the editors. Let them know that you are a cyclist and appreciate higher quality writing on these issues. One of the bylines to keep an eye on is Jerry Hirsch, who, in addition to having bicycle #100 in the Current Classics Gallery, is also a fine writer. When I read his stuff (and most of what gets published in the LA Times), I am reminded again about the dearth of quality newspaper writing in the SF Bay Area.
However, the papers here do manage to occasionally surround a story. The Marin IJ recently ran an article on an issue which has been a little out of public awareness - broader trail access in Marin County. For those of you who haven’t studied mountain bike catechism, the mountain bike was invented in Marin County* and then uniformally banned from all trails but the widest vehicle access roads (called “fire roads”). There were significant public battles played out, and folks with the strongest opinions dug in across from one another reminiscent of World War One trench warefare in the Somme. As the profoundly anti-bicycle-access-in-any-form folks created noise and cited disproven studies, two curious anomolies popped up - China Camp State Park allowed bicycles on singletrack trails (indeed, created a network of singletrack trails) and Tamarancho Boy Scout Camp created a pay-for-access system of even more singletrack goodness.
In the ensuing time period, most people realized that bikes weren’t the issue as much as continued development and proper trail design (combined with regular trail maintenence efforts, which the cyclists seem much more predisposed to engage in). Bicycle riders learned how not to spook horses or hikers, and everyone seemed to get a helluva lot more reasonable.
In short, it’s come down to behavior. If you blow past trail users of any type (or run into them like a doofus), your behavior is inappropriate for the conditions. (And if ride trails and have never seen the IMBA Rules of the Trail, take a moment and read/refresh your memory.)
The interesting thing is that in the comments section of this article -
Supervisors tackle Marin trail conflicts
there are a whole host of very familiar names to anyone who has followed Marin County trail politics. Same old folks peering over the edge of the trench.
The encouraging thing is that the poll on the page was running roughly 70% - 30% in favor of more trail access for bicycles. It certainly is time to have a reasonable conversation about these things, address real issues like behavior of the trail users - everyone from littering hikers to folks who let their dogs chase wildlife to brain-dead cyclists and insensitive equestrians needs to realize the effect of their actions.
My personal belief is that a competent rider on a ~30 pound bicycle with working brakes has a lot more control over their momentum than a rider on a 900 - 1100 animal which has a separate and differently responding brain. (And yes, I do ride horses now and again also.)
One of the scariest moments I ever had on a trail was nearly being trampled by two riders galloping their horses where they shouldn’t have been doing so. But, the conclusion I drew from that was the riders were exhibiting antisocial and dangerous behavior. Maybe they didn’t have a nickel’s worth of brains between them. Maybe they were playing out some equestrian fantasy. Maybe they just didn’t think I had as much right to hike the trail as they did to ride it. Whatever.
I don’t draw any further conclusion from that interaction than most - some people are self-centered jerks oblivous to what effects their actions are having. That type of behavior wasn’t appropriate, but it doesn’t mean that most of the trail users aren’t respectful and safe. It’s the simple and easy interactions which get forgotten.