Hikers and most mountain bikers have a lot of common values and respect for public lands and wilderness areas. Though, it appears we differ in our focus when traveling on the trails. As a hiker I observe my surroundings in a relaxed and laid-back manner. On my bike, I am gripped and totally focused on the trail until I stop.
To the point, there is a bill that just came out of a Congressional committee in Washington D.C. to allow mechanized vehicles, i.e. bicycles, in Wilderness areas. Why? Is it the mountain biking community demanding full access to the last 5 percent of public land that does not allow mountain biking? Is it a fairness question?
I have talked with other mountain bikers, and most do not have these concerns. One pointed out that 80 percent of public land already has mountain biking trail access. I haven’t fact-checked that number but I do know that 95 percent of U.S. lands are within 2 miles of road access.
I can remember my local mountain biker friends who peddled the Sarvis Creek Trail for years, but when it became a wilderness area, they went for their last ride, a little bummed. Yet, they shared a common respect for the meaning of wilderness and understood that the new designation afforded protection for one of the few lower altitude wilderness areas in Colorado.
So, where do we go from here? Do we let ideological goals of limiting regulations put our public lands at risk? Do we open up and develop wilderness areas for other uses that will degrade it with overuse like the Moab area? Will this change the very solitude that even mountain bikers seek on their rides?
And then, there is the slippery slope we all can imagine and predict with some certainty — electric motor-assisted bikes on the trails, then motor-driven bikes, then motorcycles and so on.
Beginners and novice bikers need easy trails to get started. Expert and intermediate trails that challenge a biker can be built and exist throughout much of our public land. Neither level needs Wilderness areas.
In the Steamboat area, biking is an activity that can happen on roads, on existing bike trails around town and on the extensive Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass and the Mad Rabbit proposed bike trail system. Mountain bikers don't need Wilderness too.
Please call your Representatives to protect Wilderness by voting No on HR 1349.
CLICK HERE to see the original opinion piece in the Steamboat Springs newspaper