Why? Good Question!

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By Mark Langton

It was recently brought to our attention that newly elected president of Equestrian Trails, Inc. (ETI) Robert Foster, a retired law enforcement officer, donates his time as an emergency medical technician at So Cal High School Mountain Bike Racing League races. Mr. Foster is a staunch supporter of the league, and in his president’s message in ETI’s most recent newsletter he stated that it’s a new era in our public open space trail systems, and mountain bikers are part of the trail user community so we all should try to figure out ways to get along.

Now I’ve been doing this advocacy thing for over 25 years, and I’ve experienced a lot of encouraging progress in the areas of shared use, especially when it comes to opening more trails to bicycle use. To hear the president of an organization that has historically had some of its members rally against mountain bikes say that we need to get along is truly groundbreaking. But things like this come fewer and more far between than I’d like, and during these 25 years I have often asked myself “why am I doing this?” The answer is always “because it’s the right thing to do.” This might sound insane (insanity once being defined by Albert Einstein as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results), and in many ways this might be true. But then something like Robert Foster’s reasonable position comes along and I think to myself, maybe we have been doing the right thing after all.

Over the years we have heard many reasons people feel mountain bikes don’t mix on shared use trails, but only one is valid; people riding their bikes too fast at the wrong time and place (around other trail users) is just not a pleasant experience for the people being passed at an inappropriate speed. As I’ve said many times before, we all have within our power the ability to solve this issue: slow down. In other words, use caution when around others. Let me put it another way; your actions represent the entire mountain bike community. The smile you create through a pleasant trail encounter goes a long way.

6 Responses to “Why? Good Question!”

  1. Ms. Krywicki says:

    re: Your remark: “As I’ve said many times before, we all have within our power the ability to solve this issue: slow down.” Here’s how your average everyday “just out for a ride” bike riders feel about slow (taken from only 2 websites):

    Note the word “zooming”, how does zooming work with slow down: When I surprise a lizard, squirrel or rabbit on the trail, and they take off running along the trail away from me, I think they feel like they’re being chased. After a few seconds, they zip sideways off the trail and I go zooming by. I always wonder if they think “whew, glad I lost him” or if they think “oh, guess he wasn’t chasing me after all.”

    Crashes and “doing a header” by riding slowly?: Did a header which was pretty scary but actually may have realigned something from that one time that I crashed before.

    Note the word “suddenly”, how can something be suddenly if one is going slowly?: Very few out today, mainly the leaping lizards, a couple leaping hikers I suddenly came upon…

    Note the words “spill today” so most days there are spills? How can that be if one goes slowly: the trail is in great shape and no spills today

    Note the word “bombed”:met up with some friends at Bluejay and bombed down the trail not too many riders and hikers to slow the descent.I realy like this trail!!!

    Bikers can’t even stop for their fellow bikers: had a head-on about a third of the way up to Cocktail. A guy came around a corner, skidded to a stop on the uphill side of the trail, so I went left just as the second rider came around the corner, hit his brakes, went OTB and head-butted me onto my butt.

    Note the word “fast”: Trail was fast and smooth

    Note the words “hauling butt”: then as I descended from ctr just after those water bars I was hauling butt, who would have thunk a guy coming up. I grabbed as much brake as I could with out otbing even though I visualized myself eating crap I didn’t and stopped tire to tire with the guy after sliding for what felt like forever

    Note the words “personal best”: Trails were tacky and new XO Truvativ 2×10 drive train and shifters, and brakes = pinpoint control of brakes (index finger only) and shifting all led to new Personal Best downhill. (Now is the time to set your new record–tacky, smooth, fast and flowy.) Was a tropical humidity/sweaty climb up and a breeze down.

    Note the word “bomb”: Too many hikers and dogs on A-Line. Could only bomb the last portion.

    Note the words “my time”: felt great. my time showed that.

    Note the word “fastest”: felt great, dirt was great, knocked 10min off my fastest time.

    If they feel this way on a current multi-use trails, how are they going to feel when they have to deal with over multitude of equestrians in Griffith Park?: All was great until we ran into a ton of horses./But it was a bad day at the trail there was 80 horses that left at 9:00 am we got going at 9:30 Neil took a fall and so did Herb./too many DAMN horses everywhere

  2. Lisa McD says:

    I have a mountain bike and a horse. Under no circumstances should they share a trail. Mixed use trails are an accident waiting to happen – oh wait – there have already been accidents with life altering injuries resulting. Segregate the bikes and the horses on separate trails and let the hikers use both. Or dedicate 30% of the trails to cyclists and 70% to hikers and equestrians. Cyclists can easily load their bikes onto their cars and drive to different trails. Although they can be hauled via trailers, it’s much more difficult, expensive and time consuming to transport the horses to different trails.

    Let’s find a solution that makes it possible for everyone to enjoy their recreation safely!

    • Steve Clark says:

      I think if we are to contemplate segregating trails according to user type, we should do it based on the proportion of participants in each sport. Since equestrians make up less than 5% of the users in the Santa Monica Mountains, I think it would be fair if we allocate 5% of the trails to them and hikers, and 95% to mountain bikers and hikers. Horses are currently allowed on much more than 5% of the trails, and mountain bikers on much less. So which trails do we close to horses in favor of mountain bikers?

  3. Christopher Eaton says:

    Greetings,
    As a current hiker, former equestrian, former road racer, (Red Zinger now Coors classic.) avid outdoor enthusiast, camper and native southern Californian, I resent what Steve says about limiting hikers and horses to 5% of the trails!!! Absolutely unacceptable! Steve doesn’t even consider the rights of the hikers whom use 100% of the trails, as do the equestrians. Griffith Jenkins Griffith donated that land to the people of Los Angeles so that they may get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the peaceful outdoors. It is my “pressure relief valve” when the burdens of daily life here in L.A. get to be too much. I like to take a nice long hike and just get away from the noise and confusion, it rejuvenates me so that I can go back to the city and deal with what I need to. Horses and people walk at about the same pace and have successfully shared those trails for generations. Adding fast moving cycles to that mix is a deadly proposition not to mention the impact on trail quality and wildlife. If I am struck by a cyclist on a path I guarantee I will go after them legally, with great zeal and energy. The liability would also open the door to sue the parks department for allowing such a reckless use of a precious resource. There are species that make Griffith park their home that either have become endangered or just can’t live among human habitation. I don’t know when the last sighting of a cougar was but I can imagine that a fast moving cycle would trigger their predator/prey instinct rather rapidly not to mention the negative impact on their environment. I understand that mountain bikers have just as many rights and need places to ride but this latest militant attitude of cyclists here in L.A. is baffling. Yes, a cyclist is entitled to the full use of a traffic lane yet common sense dictates a one ton metal vehicle will always win versus a 10 to 30 pound cycle, just as a fast moving cycle versus a slow moving hiker will always win, and just because you can use the full lane doesn’t mean that you always need to. An encounter between a horse and a cyclist could be deadly for the cyclist or an inexperienced equestrian. Having to look out for fast moving cycles, as common sense would dictate, would add a layer of stress to my otherwise enjoyable hikes that I find unacceptable. Do not do this! I will use all of my miniscule influence to stop this at all costs. Our parks department budget has already been slashed to the bone and conservation efforts have been severely hampered, to add more stress to those efforts by having to more strenuously maintain trails due to cycle damage could possibly force the closure of the park altogether thus taking Angelenos last refuge away from all of us. As a former racer I enjoy a good bike ride just as much as the next guy and have ridden through Griffith park on the paved roads where they are allowed. The black top is not well maintained but there is a considerable amount of mileage up there, more than ample to share with cyclists, as we already do. The rugged nature of these roads should be appealing to mountain bikers, more so than a road racer such as myself. Griffith park is the largest municipal park in the United States and is a source of pride to many. The park needs our protection, the addition of mountain bikes, in my opinion, would be destructive to its peaceful nature, wildlife and its trails. Come on people, think with your head not your wallet or your selfish desire.
    Sincerely, Christopher

    • Steve Clark says:

      I’m sorry that this correspondant can’t read a 4-sentence paragraph and understand what it says. If he would read it again, he would see that my suggestion would have 100% of the trails open to hikers, not 5%. As to the rest of his diatribe, all I can say is “Chill, Chris, chill.”

      • Christopher Eaton says:

        Steve,
        Yes, I mis-read that sentence, sue me. As for “chilling” that is what I go to Griffith park to do and having to look out for fast moving cycles is not conducive to that. Care to address any more of the concerns I bring up and not just one tiny error? Also, the horses do use 100% of the trails, just look at the “road apples” on every single trail. Griffith park is a sensitive habitat and cycles would be destructive. I ran into a cyclist on a trail just yesterday and when I politely told him that they are not allowed on trails he slung an epithet at me. So, bottom line, I feel they don’t have the respect for the habitat required to utilize it.
        Thank you, Christopher

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