Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

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IntoTheWoodsWeGo
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by IntoTheWoodsWeGo » October 4th, 2016, 8:34 pm

texasbb wrote:All that to say: the issue of others' ability to experience "wilderness" is at least as important as the safety and environmental questions.
Thanks for focusing on this issue. I didn't mean to exclude this important point while I was responding more narrowly to a previous post. In fact, it's my view that most people who go to the trouble to inform themselves about the bicycle issue fairly quickly recognize - or knew already - that the safety and environmental issues are mostly red herrings. I think that's one reason that there is often so much fixation on the intent or the letter of the Wilderness Act and it's subsequent implementation over the years.

But as you seem to suggest, the ultimate issue is a subjective one that revolves around individual expectations. As you say, the "wilderness experience" is at least as important - in a political sense - as safety and environment, but it's safe to say that if there were any evidence of significant safety or environmental problems associated with bicycles, that would probably stop the discussion in its tracks and we'd never need to bother to talk about anyone's desired "experience" vis a vis bicycles.

But that leaves us in a subjective pickle. Someone's Wilderness experience is ruined by the sight, or even the mere thought, of my bicycle. My experience is ruined (just for the sake of argument) by someone else's stockpile of allowed technology or behavior ranging from GPS to luxury pack train travel. In reality, I'm willing to put up with life's rich pageant of personal backcountry preferences just as long as nobody's numbers are too great and their impact on the land or ecology is fleeting or insignificant. As a sometimes cyclist, I'm asking for similar treatment. Instead, I have a 100% exclusion. Bicycles or not, none of us get to have our own private Wilderness, at least not on the public land. 110 million acres is quite large and highly varied. It's my belief that we could accommodate bicycles on at least some parts of it and still preserve enough personal Wilderness preference for everyone in a more or less balanced fashion.

Webfoot
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Webfoot » October 5th, 2016, 7:36 am

Koda, thank you for engaging me in dialog.
Koda wrote:XC bike travel is not more destructive than foot travel and I might even argue less damaging. What I meant is the addition of bikes gives more increase to human traffic, it doesn't matter how they get there it matters how many and how often. Increased human traffic displaces wildlife and can affect migration patterns.
So your objection is not the bicycles but increased use. I can understand that perspective, but I cannot understand prohibiting a particular not-more-destructive mode of travel as a fair means to limit use. I mean no offense either but you are not qualified to judge what mode of travel is best for everyone else. (See below.)
Koda wrote:not selfish at all, its natural and nature in effect. Not everyone has the ability to see wilderness. We do actually have an accommodation for wheelchair bound persons, but that doesn't mean its actually viable for them to go, realistically its virtually not possible for now. How fair is that? I'll also say, and I mean no offense by this but just for discussion, if you don't have the strength to hike several days to camp, you don't have the strength to bike there in a day. And to clarify, I don't cringe at the sight of mt bikes or that gear its the idea that their means can upset the expected solitude that is quite commonly sought out in wilderness areas.
I contend that each of us should be allowed use whatever equally-non-destructive mode of travel we choose to the limit of our individual ability. You unavoidably make false assumptions in judging other people's abilities and limitations. The law should allow more freedom than that. Let's take the example of wheelchair bound persons who the law presently make allowance for. Allowing wheelchairs in Wilderness Areas does not allow everyone in a wheelchair to see any part of the WA they desire, but it *does* allow a determined individual to push into the WA limited only by his own abilities. I would like to see similar provision for bicycles.

Since it is a point of discussion let us consider my own limitations. I have a spinal disorder that makes it difficult to be on my feet for more than about three hours a day. Carrying even a light pack increases the rate of fatigue and hastens the onset of pain. On a bike my back would be partially supported by my arms leaning on the handlebars, and pack weight could be carried entirely on the frame of the bicycle. With an overnight load I can only pack in about three miles on foot. With a bike on suitable terrain I could probably ride in twenty miles, and likely I wouldn't be in as much pain so I might not feel the necessity to pack right back out again the next day. That would be a huge difference in my experience! Will it magically let me visit anything I want? Of course not. But it would let me try, in a manner that you stated is "not more destructive than foot travel" limited only by my own ability.

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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 5th, 2016, 8:00 am

Koda wrote:I also don't understand the pro-bike wilderness movement, bikes have virtually unlimited public lands spaces open to ride to develop new trails or use existing trails in very remote places even (non-designated wilderness). Why aren't they working in that direction?
Great question! It's a relatively new debate because IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) has had a long-time handshake agreement with the Sierra Club that, as long as mountain bike advocates don't try to gain access to Wilderness, the Sierra Club won't make all-out war on cyclists. A newer generation of advocates disagrees with that stance, however, and have been pushing the issue to the fore.

Here are some reasons we're working for this.

1. To regain access to trails that were previously open to bikes. Almost every time a new Wilderness is designated, cyclists lose access to trails that they have been enjoying, in some cases, for decades. I'd ask you to imagine if the MHNF suddenly decreed that the slopes above the Palmer are now closed to AT ski traffic, or that the forests around Dufur would be closed to hunting. It's a slap in the face to those who love those mountains and love riding there. Here's a prominent example:
https://www.imba.com/pli/bwc%20natl%20mon-ciedra
Some local examples can be found below.

2. To remove the perverse dis-incentive for designation of new Wilderness Areas. Because of the above-mentioned loss of access, many advocates work against new Wilderness designations. Cyclists don't like riding through clearcuts, mines, or new fracking developments, but the strongest protection against those environmental disasters is a Wilderness designation. This blanket ban splits the environmental constituency, diluting support for strong protection of wild areas. That's why I always think that an unwelcoming attitude by hikers is a boon to the miners and loggers.

3. You're not quite right about the amount of trails and lands we do have access to. Wilderness areas comprise 311,448 acres of Mt Hood National Forest's 1,067,043 acres, which is 29% of the total area. The area to which we have access is neither virtually unlimited nor unlimited in the actual, practical world. Let's get a little more specific.

A.Most hikers here in Portland spend a lot of time in the MHNF's land in the Gorge. How about local mountain bike riders? There's only one MHNF trail open to bikes in Gorge: it's Trail 400, from Wyeth to Trail 447 (a dead-end at a trail on which bikes are not allowed) and from Tooth Rock to Eagle Creek, another dead-end. That's something like 3 to 5 miles of trail, and discontiguous, compared to the many-hundred mile network of hiking-only trails in the Gorge. If the tables were turned, how would hikers feel about it?

B.What about the US 26 corridor over Mt Hood? We lost access to the Barlow Butte Trail after the 2009 Wilderness bill. The McIntyre Ridge area would make for good riding: it's Wilderness. The ZigZag area might work for riding: it's Wilderness. The Salmon River Trail would make for a good long ride: it's Wilderness. We have a nice network around Government Camp (Crosstown) that is snow-free only for a small part of the year. Would that satisfy hikers?

C. What about around Estacada? People rode the trails around Shining Lake for decades: it's now Wilderness and access is denied. We do still have access to the Riverside Trail. If you stretch that out and ride it back and forth two times (like a hamster) it's a nice ride. That's the ONLY one open down there. Would that satisfy hikers?

I don't want to overstate this. It is a first world problem, but it is really disappointing, frustrating, and truly unfair. If the same thing was done to hunters, skiers, horse riders, or any other human-powered group, I think most PH'ers would find the situation unfair. We've lost legal access to so many trails, and so many of the trail networks near Portland are now Wilderness, that the only way we'll ever have access is by lifting the blanket ban. We'd like to help advocate for new Wildernesses, without saying goodbye, forever, to our favorite places to recreate. Wilderness should be a shared goal, not a Keep Out sign.
Last edited by Charley on October 7th, 2016, 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Webfoot
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Webfoot » October 5th, 2016, 8:14 am

Those are compelling arguments Charley. I have not advocated bikes in Wilderness Areas, despite the potential personal benefit outlined above, but I might come to do so. I am concerned with implementation details however. Since you are apparently active in this effort what care is being taken to prevent negative impacts should this prohibition be repealed?

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Charley
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Charley » October 5th, 2016, 8:38 am

Webfoot wrote:Those are compelling arguments Charley. I have not advocated bikes in Wilderness Areas, despite the potential personal benefit outlined above, but I might come to do so. I am concerned with implementation details however. Since you are apparently active in this effort what care is being taken to prevent negative impacts should this prohibition be repealed?
Care to prevent negative impacts is baked into the legislation. The fact that the Forest Service's local managers are in charge of which trails would be open means that local advocates (both pro and con) can have their say on an individual trail basis. Local professional wildlife managers, recreation managers, biologists, and other trail maintainers can have their input. To me, that's why this is so good: all I ask is that, instead of a national, blanket ban on the entire sport, local professionals can make informed decisions based on all the factors that normally inform their decisions in other areas of land management.

I trust the discretion of land management professionals. I don't always agree with their decisions, but I'd rather the process was open to public discourse and subject to scientific analysis. Right now, none of that can happen, because every single trail is closed.

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retired jerry
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by retired jerry » October 5th, 2016, 9:58 am

"I trust the discretion of land management professionals."

Yeah, same here

Although there are lots of cases where I disagree, but I can always talk to my Representative and Senators

The finally put a trail in crossing Eliot which I think is really nicely done

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aiwetir
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by aiwetir » October 5th, 2016, 12:33 pm

retired jerry wrote:"I trust the discretion of land management professionals."

Yeah, same here

Although there are lots of cases where I disagree, but I can always talk to my Representative and Senators

The finally put a trail in crossing Eliot which I think is really nicely done
In a lot of cases we need to trust administrators to do the right thing. For instance we might have no bike infrastructure in town if left to the voters. They (administrators) generally shouldn't be trusted, but sometimes it's great the the masses don't always get to make big decisions.
- Michael

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BigBear
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by BigBear » October 6th, 2016, 1:47 pm

I have had time to read the article submitted earlier regarding the Larkspur Canyon Gang, and I find the information in this article supports my two contentions I have made on this blog:

1) Mountain bikes did not exist in 1964, and thus were not needed to be mentioned in the original Wilderness Act. The mountain biking sport got started in the mid-80s and has only taken off recently.

2) Bikes in the 1960s (available to the public) were not sufficiently strong enough to take the rigors of trail riding.

The Larkspur Canyon Gang got their start in December 1971 (7 years after the Wilderness Act) and are credited for being the "roots" of the mountain biking sport. Wikipedia confirms that the roots started in California at this time period.

LCG went to the landfills, found broken down bikes, and Frankensteined them. This is my memory of the 60s as well - the half-dozen frames on the rebar peg at the top of the garage from bikes my brother had gone thru, which we used to make rideable bikes. Why did LCG go to the landfill? So many bikes at the time broke from jumping curbs and hitting rocks in the fields. I talked with other Boomers on this issue this week, just to confirm my memory was accurate. They also wanted me to mention that the thin tired bikes could not be rode off paved roadways and that when the brakes got wet, you had no brakes. Oh yes, the memories of childhood are flooding back.

So, how far are those "roots" from riding down trails in the Wilderness?

LCG rode their re-built bikes down, what was that now? "Poised nine abreast at the gate of the fireroad just down from the parking lot." Gravel road, not wilderness trail.

How steep did you say? "accelerating rapidly down the old serpentine railroad grade." That's a 2% incline.

Anything more? "At that time the idea of riding bicycles on dirt fire roads was outlandish. Normal people just didn't go off paved roads with their bikes - it would wreck them."

I and my fellow Boomers agree completely. It only took me one time down a dirt roadway descending down the side of Meadowland hill to confirm that it was pure suicide. I felt like I was on a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere and I had no brakes. It was not a unique experience at the time, but it always earned you another trip to the garage to fix the wreckage and get band-aided up.

The old one-gear bikes at the time could not make it up that road by being pedaled, only be pushing it. I remember the gentle incline on 162nd between Division & Main St. I couldn't get up that little mound until I had a three speed. If you want a comparison, rent a bike at Yosemite (no gears & no brakes).

I have no doubt the LCG group felt they were going out of control on the RR incline. I know that was how I felt at the time. We stuck to dirt trails through meadows after that.

Also, the so-called Huffy mountain bike (late 70s) never made it past the first month before breaking by jumping off curbs. It was a worthless, no one had a workable bike after the first month.

Wikipedia confirms that the stronger bikes were manufactured in the 80s. These bikes could take the bouncing off a rooty, rocky trail, unlike their predecessors.

Thanks for the memories. It's always nice to remember back 40 years. :)

Tman
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by Tman » October 6th, 2016, 9:24 pm

^ Thank you for explaining why bicycling was not banned by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Bicycles simply weren't on ANY radar back then. But mechanical transport like ski lifts, gondolas, trams, etc. were not going to be permitted, since they required motors to operate them. Any contrivance which traveled over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and was propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device was not an issue, nor something to be prohibited.

12XU
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Re: Bikes in Wilderness area ban could be lifted...

Post by 12XU » October 21st, 2016, 8:40 am

I've gotta say, I'm delighted with how civil and open everyone has kept this conversation. I feel like the split between mountain bikers and hikers/backpackers is often framed as two diametrically opposed groups pushing against each other.
I count myself in both camps, I love hiking and backpacking and wilderness, and I'm also a big mountain bike advocate and volunteer on the Northwest Trail Alliance board.

I think Charley makes the best point for the change, if land managers are given the freedom to select trails in wilderness that can be suitable for mountain biking, then you have a new, very large advocacy group lined up to support mountain biking.

This issue came to a head in Idaho with the recent creation of the Boulder White Clouds wilderness in Idaho. Some of the trails in the wilderness area had previously been used by mountain bikers for both long all-day rides up to multi-week backcountry touring. When it became clear that a new land designation was necessary to protect the area from commercial interests, IMBA and other groups were forced to support a monument status. Although both the wilderness advocates and the mountain bike community wanted the same thing, land protection for a rugged, unspoiled area, the current wilderness ban on bikes has split what should be a community into two opposing camps.
https://www.imba.com/pli/bwc%20natl%20mon-ciedra

99% of rational mountain bikers don't believe that mountain bikes should be given free reign over all wilderness trails. I personally always think about what the Timberline trail might be like if mountain bikes were permitted, and I don't think anyone would be happy with the outcome. That said, there are many, many instances where mountain bikes do make sense in wilderness, and I hope that the compromise that allows land managers to make usage decisions moves forward.

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