Who would have thought that you can’t ride mountain bikes in the mountains? The rift continues to grow between trail hikers and mountain bikers on some of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Hikers claim that somehow the bike riders are messing up the trails more than they are, and bike riders are blaming antiquated Bureau of Land Management regulations for part of the dust up.
After the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, federal land managers began enforcing a ban on “mechanized travel” throughout large areas of public lands. We’re not sure what was meant by “mechanized travel” back then, but we are pretty certain it wasn’t bicycles. Of course, mountain bikes were not popular back then – they probably had not even been invented.
We find it ironic that these two sides seem to be at odds over the appropriate use of trails in the mountains, as we are certain that these folks would almost certainly be teaming up for more green paint on the streets of Denver, converting valuable car lanes into bicycle-only routes throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, both sides are preparing for an arms race. The hikers are dreaming up ways that rogue bike riders could go off trail and destroy fragile tundra, although there is absolutely no evidence that it has ever happened. Bike riders seem to be more organized, the Sustainable Trails Coalition, is looking to make an end run around decades-old BLM regulations to give local managers the ability to grant bikers privileges, and the group has already raised $50,000.
Hopefully, this mess can be sorted out quickly and without lawsuits, so that all Coloradans – both hikers and mountain bikers – who choose to summit our Fourteeners can do so and take their mountain-top selfies in peace.