By Mark Langton
I agree with hikers. I agree that when a mountain biker goes by me too close and too fast, it’s scary and unsettling. And they don’t have to be going fast, just too fast for the conditions. If a mountain biker goes by me at 15 mph on a fire road, no problem. If a mountain biker goes by me at 15 mph on a singletrack trail less than six inches from me, then I have a bit of a problem.
I agree with hikers right up to the point when they say all mountain bikers should be banned from trails because some of them go too fast around other users. You can’t tell me I’m banned from the trails because of someone else’s irresponsible behavior.
I believe there’s nothing wrong with going fast, as long as it’s being done safely (and within reason). If mountain bikers go so fast as to create a danger to themselves–such as crashing and having to utilize tax payer money to get medical treatment and evacuation from the backcountry–then people could point at the mountain bike community as creating an undue burden on the resource management agency. But as we’ve seen, crashes of this nature are relatively few. But the agency still takes notice when there’s an increase.
I know there are those out there, myself included, who are angry at the people who disregard common sense and speed past others with no regard for common courtesy. They’ve replied many times to our blog posts. They are angry because they know that the people who are acting irresponsibly know they are doing it, but continue to do it anyway in spite of the fact they are giving the mountain biking community a bad name; when all they have to do is very simple. Be The Solution. Just slow down around others.
As an experiment today I stopped in the middle of a singletrack trail as a rider approached me coming downhill. Although he had plenty of room to see me, he ran into me, and nearly flew over the handlebar. He was apologetic, and the conversation we had was enlightening; because he was used to others getting out of his way, he just assumed I would, too. I recounted an instance when I was riding along a trail and I came upon a hiker with her head down, and as I slowed to a stop she looked up, startled, and nearly fell over backward. Had I assumed she heard me and was going to get out of my way, I probably would have run into her.
It’s never going to be completely safe on the trails. There are always going to be accidents, but by slowing down around others (and maybe even slowing down for blind corners), we might be able to avoid a lot of very avoidable ones.