One of the more common criticisms of bikes on trails is erosion. Here are the facts as Access4Bikes sees them:
- Any poorly designed trail will be an erosion problem, even hiking only trails. Erosion is not a problem specific to mountain biking. Please note the photos below of trails that do not allow bikes yet have erosion issues.
- Access4Bikes is not seeking to open steep high speed downhill trails, which do have erosion issues, just as any steep hiking or equestrian trail will have.
- The International Mountain Biking Association has a great summary of all the scientific studies and to quote their conclusion:
A body of empirical, scientific evidence now indicates that mountain biking is no more damaging than other forms of recreation, including hiking. Thus, managers who prohibit bicycle use (while allowing hiking or equestrian use) based on impacts to trails, soils, wildlife, or vegetation are acting without sound, scientific backing.
- The Sierra Club’s own policy’s state :The Sierra Club recognizes that bicyclists can be legitimate users of many non-Wilderness backcountry trails and supports responsible off-road bicycling.
- A 2001 study published in the Environmental Management Journal comparing the impact of hiking and biking found “there were no signiﬁcant differences between hiking and mountain biking“.
- A 2006 study by the United States Department of the Interior concluded in numerous sections that there was ‘no significant differences between the vegetation and soil impacts from hiking and mountain biking’ and ‘Trampling and erosional impacts caused by horses have been found to be significantly higher than hikers, llamas, mountain bikes and even off-road motorcycles.’
- Mountain bikers don’t like heavily eroded trails. They are a blight to the mountain, cause environmental damage and are not as fun to ride.
- Wilson and Seney published “Erosional Impact of Hikers, Horses, Motorcycles, and Off-Road Bicycles on Mountain Trails in Montana” in 1994 and evaluated tread erosion from horses, hikers, mountain bikes, and motorcycles on two trails in the Gallatin National Forest, Montana. They applied one hundred passes of each use-type on four sets of 12 trail segments, followed by simulated rainfalls and collection of water runoff to assess sediment yield at the base of each segment. Control sites that received no passes were also assessed for comparison. Results indicated that horses made significantly more sediment available for erosion than the other uses, which did not significantly vary from the control sites.
So any statement that bikes are worse than hikers and equestrians is simply incorrect. The research also universally concurs that equestrians cause more damage than hikers or bikers. For those of us who have hiked the trails near the various stables in Marin, which get a lot of equestrian use, it’s obvious that horses cause more erosion than bikes.
So if erosion is a reason to ban bicycles, then why are we not banning equestrians which are known to be more detrimental to the soil than bikers and hikers? Access4Bikes would also like to note that we do not want to ban equestrians from our trails.
- National Trails Training Partnership – Comparing relative impacts of various trail user groups
- University of Guelph – Impacts of Experimentally Applied Mountain Biking and Hiking on Vegetation and Soil of a Deciduous Forest