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.