National Park Service Responding To Complaints Of Mountain Bike Collisions, Speed

Concerns by some that mixing mountain bikers and hikers on national park trails would lead to problems reportedly are being realized at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where there have been increased complaints about speeding bikers and collisions on trails.

In response to those complaints, the Park Service has teamed with the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclist Association to promote safe and courteous riding in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"We're thrilled that there is great demand for the public to enjoy the beauty and public health benefits of our extensive trail system," said Melanie Turner, law enforcement ranger and mountain bike unit coordinator with the NRA. "For the benefit and safety of all users, we ask people to follow proper trail etiquette and observe the 15 mph speed limit."

According to a park release, rangers have reported "an uptick in visitor complaints regarding cyclists who are riding too fast or in restricted areas. Particularly on busy weekends, the effects can be dangerous. In the past year, accidents at Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon resulted in several helicopter extractions, though the problem is not limited to that site."

Ranger Turner, who is an avid mountain biker herself, said she wonders if a new website that allows riders to publicly post their times on specific trails has led to an increase in violations. That website, Strava, shows speeds of up to 35 mph, with average speeds of 25 mph, on some trails within the recreation area, the ranger pointed out.

Made aware of the problem, Strava is working with the park to prohibit users from posting times on certain trails, along with a message about trail regulations, the park said in a release.

As part of its mission to promote safe riding, CORBA is working closely with SMMNRA, a unit of the National Park Service, to inform its members about these concerns and remind them about responsible riding tips.

"If you just slow down around other users (including other cyclists), you create a win-win for everyone," said Mark Langton, president of CORBA. "Speed is subjective; what one person might think is slow might still be too fast. Even at 10 mph you can startle someone and disrupt their enjoyment of our open space. If you slow down, you literally solve the problem most people have with bicycles on the trail - that they go too fast and scare other users."

Ranger Turner recently attended a CORBA meeting and is visiting bike shops near the NRA to let the community know that rangers will be stepping up patrols and issuing citations. Both organizations hope the efforts will result in a safe and enjoyable trail experience for all users.

Comments

not hard to imagine what the comments to this story are going to look like...

Hikers and horseback riders go slow. There's time to savor the beauty, the details, the sounds of birds, the smell of juniper, let it sink in. Same with trail runners.

People who ride a bike helter skelter, kicking up dirt and rocks, sailing over washes, what do they see, smell, hear? Same goes for drivers who think Trail Ridge Road or Going To The Sun are road-race courses to see who can take curves the fastest.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't get it!

Two weeks ago a was nearly rammed by a mountain biker racing down a very narrow, steep, and chaparral covered ridge trail. I was hiking up the trail and the lead biker, followed by six others, were howling, screaming, and whopping with glee as flew past me. My heart was pumping.

Does CORBA urge cyclists to yield to pedestrians on the trails? I often walk in a state park on narrow trails that are posted for cyclists to yield to pedestrians. Yet, out of many times I've encountered cyclists going in the opposite direction, only once has a cyclist stopped to let me continue. Out of concern for my own safety, I usually step off the trail to let the bikers go by.

The story boils down to a ranger, herself a mountain biker, wondering if some cyclists are riding too fast. An IMBA-affiliated group is offering to help with outreach and education efforts, and the park continues to be "thrilled that there is great demand for the public to enjoy the beauty and public health benefits of our extensive trail system."

Given those facts, it seems hyperbolic to then use this for the lead: "Concerns by some that mixing mountain bikers and hikers on national park trails would lead to problems reportedly are being realized ..."

No user group is without impacts and management challenges. Mountain bikers, like hikers, equestrians, paddlers, trail runners and the rest, need to work with NPS staff to find positive solutions. Sounds like that's exactly what's happening here.

Personally, I think the speed limit on walking trails should be walking speed. I would like to see a 5 MPH speed limit. If bikers are out to enjoy nature, 5 MPH is not unreasonable. If they're out for thrill-seeking, it's much safer for everyone if they are on trails restricted to higher speed users.

I think that we should put a ranger on every trail. Every time a cyclist rides over 8.25 mph, he/she gets tazed. Also, we should have volunteer citizens on patrol placed strategically on trails to force cyclists to stop and smell the flowers. We may up the ante and quizz cyclists on their knowledge of the flora, as it is a requirement to enjoy the parks properly.

:)

Mark, not sure I'd call collisions on trails and mountain bikers speeding along at 35 mph, with average speeds of 25 mph, hyperbole...Apparently there were enough incidents to prompt the Park Service to respond and issue a press release to let the people know it was aware of the problem.

"No user group is without impacts..., but it's the bike at 35mph vs body impacts that are a concern.

Kurt, I'd say that the NPS statements in this story are positive in tone and solutions-oriented.

Like this: "We're thrilled that there is great demand for the public to enjoy the beauty and public health benefits of our extensive trail system," said Melanie Turner, law enforcement ranger and mountain bike unit coordinator with the NRA. "For the benefit and safety of all users, we ask people to follow proper trail etiquette and observe the 15 mph speed limit."

Or this:

As part of its mission to promote safe riding, CORBA is working closely with SMMNRA, a unit of the National Park Service, to inform its members about these concerns and remind them about responsible riding tips. "If you just slow down around other users (including other cyclists), you create a win-win for everyone," said Mark Langton, president of CORBA. "Speed is subjective; what one person might think is slow might still be too fast. Even at 10 mph you can startle someone and disrupt their enjoyment of our open space. If you slow down, you literally solve the problem most people have with bicycles on the trail - that they go too fast and scare other users."

The title and open statement of story strike me as incongruous with those statements.

But I must say thanks for including the bike advocates and bike-friendly statments from NPS staff in your reporting! Much appreciated.

It's unfortunate whenever anyone's visitor experience is jarred by someone else's overly exuberant behavior. It's my guess that, as Mark E. implies, the NPS and local mountain bikers will get this under control and the controversy will disappear. About 10 years ago we had a spate of similar complaints at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, a unit of the East Bay Regional Park District near Pleasanton, Calif. The parks agency and the local bike organization, the Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay, took the same steps that NPS is doing here, and all became quiet, with no recurrence of the problem since.

Although the article's lead paragraph refers to "collisions," implying that mountain bikers are running into people, it later refers to "accidents" requiring helicopter extraction. I'd guess that there haven't been any collisions between people — such a sensational occurrence would spark enormous controversy and wide press coverage — but only between mountain bikers and the ground or a tree.

The truth is that as long as people are riding bicycles on rough terrain, emergency responses will continue, even if the cyclists are going at walking speed. It's a challenging sport, one that most people don't quickly or easily master. NPS has vast familiarity with extracting climbers and hikers from its lands — witness the annual routine at Mount Rainier and Mount McKinley — and yet wisely continues to allow exhilarating adventures at those locations.

I noted the article's reference to speeds of 25 and 35 mph. Those are attainable on holdover wide-open dirt service roads with long sight lines, but unimaginable on well-designed modern narrow trails. It may be that NPS will, at some point, want to modify any such roads, even if it inconveniences staff who are driving around in trucks. They tend to be legacy ranch or farm roads that follow the slope of the hillside. Here in the Bay Area, they are notoriously bad for the environment, requiring maintenance by bulldozer, running soil into nearby streams, and sometimes digging deeper scars into the landscape, all the while providing an unpleasantly sun-baked and dusty visitor experience, bikes or no bikes.

Average speed of 25mph is misleading. Nobody (even pros on PEDs) can sustain a 25mph average speed for a whole ride. The 25mph average can only be for a downhill segment.

Frankly, to ride at 35 mph, one needs a steep slope (12-15% min) perfectly straight with a perfect line of sight (having done it, I would know). On a narrow winding trails, such speeds just don't exist.

A couple of quick replies to other posts . . .

1. There is no excuse whatsoever for any mountain biker to be "racing down a very narrow, steep, and chaparral covered ridge trail" and scaring an approaching hiker. Try to get a description and notify law enforcement and land-management agency staff. Where did this happen?

2. George, all mountain biking organizations, from IMBA on down, drum into mountain bikers' heads that we are to yield to both hikers and horses. The 99% of us who ride responsibly are always ready and willing to do this. What inevitably happens, though, is that we see a hiker on the trail and before we can utter a word or make any move to stop, the hiker steps off the trail. Try asking the next mountain biker you see to yield to you at first sight. She or he should do so as a matter of course. The only time it would be unreasonable to do this is if the cyclist is struggling to climb a steep grade and it would be hard for her or him to start again, and it would be easy for you to step aside and let her or him pass.

With horses, it's a different situation. Horses don't pause to contemplate yielding; they lack the mental capacity to engage in such a decision-making process. Therefore, it's incumbent on us to stop and ask for directions from the equestrian on seeing a horse. I do that routinely and so would everyone I know, meaning dozens of mountain bikers.

I hope this answers your questions.