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International Mountain Bicycling Association Wants Access To National Scenic Trails


The International Mountain Bicycling Association is running a campaign to gain access to National Scenic Trails, such as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, and is being opposed by the American Hiking Society and watched by other groups.

While IMBA touts the campaign as a way to allow mountain bikers to "continue to enjoy our nation's best trails and open bike access on more," the American Hiking Society counters by stating that it "believes that trails that allow hikers to explore the outdoors without competing with bicyclists are in some instances entirely appropriate."

Across the country there are a number of national scenic trails -- the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, just to name a few. While many of the trails are managed by the National Park Service, others are managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. As might be expected, these different entities have different regulations when it comes to mountain bikes on national scenic trails.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which is managed by the Forest Service, permits mountain bike use "along those segments that are outside of designated and recommended wilderness areas, and have been approved by the federal land managers. However, these activities may only occur as long as they do not 'substantially interfere' with the nature and purposes for which the trail was created- namely foot and stock use."

The Park Service, meanwhile, prohibits mountain bikes on the Appalachian Trail. Bikes also are prohibited on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is managed by the Forest Service.

IMBA Communications Director Mark Eller did not respond to a Traveler inquiry as to which national scenic trails his group wants access to. However, in a blog post on IMBA's site in August he wrote that there obviously are some trails too rugged for bikers.

"The Appalachian Trail is specifically designated as a foot-travel route, and as someone who spent many years leading backpacking trips on the AT in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania I can tell you that it ... would not make an appealing venue for mountain biking. Other trails traverse wilderness parcels where biking isn't an option," he wrote.

"IMBA is not being absolutist in our approach. We are more than willing to discuss how to advance more opportunities for long-distance trails, and where bikes will, and will not, be a welcome addition," he added. "It's a discussion we hope to have with many groups, and land managers, in upcoming weeks. Ideally, we could all talk while enjoying a nice hike, or bike ride, together."

IMBA's efforts to expand biking access onto national scenic trails is being watched by a number of groups, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

"The National Scenic Trails community, as well as the American Hiking Society, is aware of IMBA's push for biking access on some portions of National Scenic Trails. ATC has seen recent rhetoric and we are working collectively with the Partnership for the National Scenic Trails and the AHS to address concerns with IMBA's initiative," Laura Belleville, director of conservation for the Conservancy, said in an email.

"The A.T. is designated 'footpath only' by Congress, and we have not had any specific proposals for bike access on the A.T. Thus far we have not made any organizational statements about IMBA's 'campaign,' but we fully support PNTS and AHS," she added. "We are carefully watching the campaign and will offer a statement at the appropriate time if necessary."


Quote from isawtman:

"I believe that Imtnbike and the other founders of 'bikes on the PCT' movement are morally corrupt."

I think it's even worse than that—we're gravely morally disordered. Catholic scholars have said the same of contraception:

"It is clear then, merely on the basis of these few points, that for the Magisterium contraception is such a morally disordered form of behaviour that it constitutes gravely sinful matter."

I now see the error of my ways. Let us avoid both behaviors and pray for forgiveness.

(Quotation source: Fr Lino Ciccone, C.M., Professor of Moral Theology, Lugano, Switzerland.)

I would like to dispel some of the misinformation that Imtnbike has stated here earlier in this thread. First of all Imtnbiker stated “The 1988 typewritten closure order plainly violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act.” It is very unclear whether that’s even the case. According to “The APA’s exceptions for “interpretative rules” and “general statements of policy,” however, exclude the vast majority of agency statements from the requirement for notice and comment.” It’s obvious that the permanent ban order for bikes on the PCT is an interpretive rule which is interpreting this law: (sec 212.21) “The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as defined by the National Trails Systems Act, 82 Stat. 919, shall be administered primarily as a footpath and horseback riding trail by the Forest Service in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior. The use of motorized vehicles may be authorized by the Federal Agency administering the segment of trail involved when use of such vehicles is necessary to meet emergencies or to enable landowners or land users to have reasonable access to their lands or timber rights.” It’s obvious that the PCT could cease to be “primarily as a footpath and horseback riding trail” if hordes of Mountain Bikers take over the trail.

Secondly, Imtnbiker wrote “Second, anyone who's ever walked any part of the AT will soon see that it's unsuitable for riding a bike.” That’s absolutely ridiculous. The AT is suitable for mountain biking, but it’s boring, so they don’t want to pursue it. Further more, Mountain Bikers in Virginia have created a continuous mountain biking trail system of 500 miles using some of the same trailheads as the AT. But seemingly, that can’t be done out west, even though there are more public lands in the west.

Imtmbike wrote “Major parts of its are overgrown from underuse.” Yeah, they were discussing an overgrown section of the PCT on their facebook page when another biker said he biked it frequently. That doesn’t sound so overgrown to me. Plus, Mountain Bikers need longer sight lines because they go faster. So what a mountain biker says is overgrown might be perfectly all right with hikers. The Forest Service has reported that 3 out of 4 trails are not maintained up to standards. So, there are over 80,000 miles of trails not up to standards that allow mountain biking. Maybe they should worry about those trails being overgrown instead of worrying about the PCT being overgrown.

Mountain Bikers like Imtnbike and other are continually slamming the Forest Service, Hikers and Horseback Riders. I believe that Imtnbike and the other founders of “bikes on the PCT” movement are morally corrupt. I personally have caught them several times misrepresenting the truth and creatively editing material. In fact I’ve done it so many times that they have banned me from their facebook page. Plus it appears that Imtnbike’s post here is one big giant advertisement for his facebook page and website. Imtnbike and others like him are doing nothing but hurting the relationships with the groups of people that mountain bikers should be working together with. It’s an absolute shame.

Sarah, there are several mountain biking only trails around the country that hikers could get ticketed, especially if there is a crash involved. But I also feel that it is very dangerous for Mountain Bikers to bike on a hiking only or hiking and horseback riding only trail. Bikers go a a much higher rate of speed than hikers, sometimes upwards of 500% faster. Are you saying that mountain bikers shouldn't get ticketed for riding on a hiking only trail?

Here is an example of a Mountain Biking Only Trail. So if a hiker is hiking on the trail and has a crash with a mountain bike, it's the hiker's fault and they can be ticketed.

that is incorrect isawtman - there is no law/rule in place that allows for the isuue of a citation to a hiker on any public trail in the United States for hiking.

There are of course laws/rules in place for hikers who start fires, litter, etc.

Please get your facts straight.

Yes! My mentor and idol, isawtman has arrived to save the National Scenic Trails from the wheeled locusts! His facts are infallible (so don't even attempt to question any of them!), and mjvande should bow down to His Holiness... a new Sheriff is in town! Praise McMahon!!!

Here is how Mark Eller of IMBA is wrong on several points.
He writes
"Some NSTs, like the Continental Divide Trail and the North Country Trail,
already offer significant opportunities for shared use, including
mountain biking. IMBA would like to see even
more of these opportunities." Yes, the CDT does allow mountain biking
on a great deal of the trail, but the CDT is mostly two track forest
road and not a singletrack type of trail. The only places where biking
is allowed on the NCT is where the NCT shares a "hard surface" trail
like a rail trail, etc, or where mountain biking has been grandfathered
in on a section of trail. All the new trail that the NCT and NCTA is
building is hiking only. It's the NCT and NCTA's dream to become "The
Nation's Premier Footpath" and IMBA is trying to ruin their dream

He writes
"The complete ban on mountain biking on the Pacific Crest Trail should, in
IMBA's view, be reconsidered. We do not envision that mountain biking
would be workable on the entire PCT, but there are segments where it
could be a welcome addition." The PCT was established, designed and
built as a hiking and horseback riding only trail. It continues to be
maintained by hikers and horseback riders. Is it fair now to turn it
over to Mountain Bikers. Plus the law regarding the PCT says that the
trail should be "primarily a hiking and horseback riding trail." It's
obvious that if bikes are allowed on any section of the trail that
section possibly could be taken over by mountain bikes, thereby not be
primarily a hiking and horseback riding trail

Mark Writes
"IMBA agrees that not all trails are suitable for shared use among hikers and
bikers. Some trails are not well suited to biking and should be managed
for hiking only, or shared use amongst hikers and equestrians." Great,
then why is IMBA pissing off hikers and horseback riders by advocating
biking on the PCT?

Mark writes
"Some groups, including the American Hiking Society, have declared that
presence of mountain bikers detracts from the hiking experience -- but
many hikers who are members of those same organizations have voiced
their willingness to share trails with mountain bikers." Well, if some
groups have declared that the presence of mountain biking detracts from
the hiking experience, why are you intentionally trying to ruin their
experience? Plus there are many Mountain Bikers that think trails like
the PCT should be left to hikers and horseback riders. Don't you even
listen to some of your own members?

Mark Writes
"Sometrails should be optimized for bike travel. Currently, there are many
more miles of trail in the world where bikes are not allowed than ones
where biking is the preffered mode of travel."
I agree that some trails should be optimized for bike travel. But some
trails like the PCT are optimized for hiking and horseback riding, that
should be okay, too. I'm not buying that there are no places for
Mountain Bikers to ride, and they need to intrude on the PCT. lists 473 trails that mountain biking is allow on in
California, 128 in Oregon, and 110 in Washington. Meanwhile, California
and Oregon have only 1 National Scenic Trail, and Washington has 2

Mark Writes
"IMBA believes that trails can be shared among different user groups, and
that separate trails for different users is often too costly and
unnecessary -- especially on long-distance trails." This is not some
rinky dink little trail we are talking about. These are National Scenic
Trails where everything possible should be done to preserve them for
their intended users. If that means building a new mountain biking
trail to connect two existing mountain biking trails, then so be it.
IMBA is fully aware that in Virginia Mountain bikers have patched
together a 500 mile mountain biking trail. And they did that using some
of the same trailheads as the Appalachain Trail. I don't know why on
god's green earth that something like that can't be done out west where
there are more public lands.

Mark Writes
"There's not much value in conflating bike access to trails in national parks
with the NST issue. IMBA and the NPS have held a partnership agreement
for many years, and more than 40 national parks already allow mountain
biking on dirt roads and trails." What the heck do you mean? National
Scenic Trails ARE part of the National Park System.

I'll end it right there with responding to Mark. But Maybe Mark should respond to some of these questions.

According to the Forest Service 3 out of 4 trails are not maintained up to
standards. That means over 80,000 miles of trail that allow Mountain
Biking are not maintained up to standards. Shouldn't you be taking care
of trails that already allow Mountain Biking instead of trying to take
over a hiking and/or horseback riding trail?

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the premier resource for Outdoor
Industry information, Mountain Biking participation has dropped by over
30% in the youth 6 to 17 age range. Shouldn't you be spending some more
time creating and maintaining beginner trails instead of trying to take
over National Scenic Trails?

And to Sarah Wilson, there are trails that are "Mountain Biking Only Trails" so if a hiker causes a crash by hiking on those trails, yes, the hiker could get a ticket.

Wow Cynthia!! That was quite the answer. I take it that you don't like middle age men in spandex. :) And that hollering, that is truly intolerable. I mean, how can one dare to have so much fun in nature?

I don't get your whole race/gu gel argument. Nobody's talking about racing on the PCT, and the trash argument is just ridiculous.

Washington PCT hiker here -

Personally, I see enough middle aged, agressive men in their Spandex costumes around Washington trails. Speeding dangerously, hollering, attitude of owning the trail, no respect for other users or the wilderness they are plowing through.

Then, would come their races with all their empty Goo packs and other litter they don't want to carry with them and toss to the side of the trail

Don't think the mountain bicyclists have ever heard of Leave No Trace around here.

No thanks.

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