Why Are Mountain Bikers Discriminated Against?

I’m sick of being discriminated against! Why Are Mountain Bikers Discriminated Against? There have to be 1,000 times more mountain bike owners than horse owners so why are there way more miles of trail open to horse users? In addition, a few bad apples among those .5 percenters who own horses manage to do 10 times the damage to trails as mountain bikers? Why isn’t there an organization that fights against this discrimination?! I’m not one for frivolous lawsuits but this is a case where someone/group needs to take this to court! Why does such a small minority of trail users have more rights to our public land than we do?

“Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed and stable a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life”. ~Frances Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle

Don’t get me wrong, I love horses, they are beautiful creatures. I simply want equal rights with their owners.

Has anyone heard of a group that legally fights for mountain bikers? I used to give over $3,000 a year to a group that I thought did this but it turns out they have never filed a lawsuit. I’m sick of compromises where we give up existing, fun trails for the “right” to build new trails where we already had the right to build new trails. Anyone else fed up with this? Anyone want to file a lawsuit? I’m not a lawyer but I have $3,000 a year I will personally donate to this cause.

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15 replies
  1. Ken Hoekema says:

    Gene,

    Here in the inland northwest, we are blessed with amazing multi-use trail systems. Where I ride from my back door, we routinely share the trails with horses, runners, hikers, etc. It works just fine and most all are happy to share. I really don’t understand horse only trails or the need for them, so I agree we need to raise our voices like the highly organized horsemen. The group I support is the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, http://evergreenmtb.org/home/index.php . The are an organization from the Seattle area, but also have an eastern Washington chapter. They support trail access, trail building and general mountain biking advocacy. Check them out!

    Thanks for your newsletters!

    Ken

    Reply
    • Bob says:

      I have been supporting Evergreen for several years. They are the best organized that I have come across. They don’t fight legal battles, but they use their membership numbers, cash, and talent to gain access to trails, build trails, reclaim urban areas for skills parks, and communicate well within and outside of their community.

      Reply
  2. Geoffrey says:

    On the other side, I was riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the restrictions make sense. I saw one sign that said “Private Property. No Hunting. No Shooting.” That seems fair. At the border of a National Forest, the sign said, “Do not cut down Bearing Trees.” I can live with that.

    I am amazed at the strength of various lobbies. I was in a meeting, where a member of the Board, who represented the Horse Ranch, stood up and said, “No one in this room likes this plan. How can I support it?” (The room was packed with mountain bikers.) So, not all horse people are grouches.

    You point out there are only a few bad apples, both in the mountain biking ranks and the horse riding ranks. We need to gather sane horse owners and sane mountain bikers, and determine how to best manage the trails.

    In the meantime, I will continue to stop and speak kindly to all hikers and horses.

    I’m guessing you are referring to something specific in Arizona or Colorado?

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Geoffrey,

      Thanks for your input. Yes, I was mostly referring to Colorado and other South West states. Arizona is actually more accepting of mtbrs than Colorado and we have pretty good access, could be better though!

      I’m very kind to all trail users and always stop and ask how their day/hike/run is going. As I said in my article, I love horses and have only met one negative horse rider on the trail (out of 100′s of friendly ones). This article is about equal access not an attack on any user group.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
      • Tom Loonan says:

        Here in Iowa we have been graced with acceptances from public land owners; read parks & rec. Large tracts of land are allowed to be used for our riding purposes, but we also have folks that advocate road cycling and turn directly AT off-road riders. It is BS. Tax dollars support the building of paved trails, that does bring commerce to the area through bicycle advocacy. However, it does little to aid in usages of more – choice riding areas because of the influences involved in public politics. We got kicked out of an area about 10 years ago, an area that had been ridden by BMXers for literal decades, and is now restricted to “non-mechanized” usage. All because of people trying to do the right thing and build sustainable trails. We took the fight to the city meeting, with thought that the dozens of local riders would attend; only to be lambasted by lack of show by riders and opposed by an angry hoard.
        Not really much different than making money; it takes it to make it. Everyone needs to band together, in every respect of public rights, and ban peer usages of unapproved trails. This should be expected to include damaging trails whilst riding; read rear tire skidding and riding when trails are wet and delicate. Our day will come, but only through our strict, personal advocacy.

        Reply
  3. craig roy says:

    It all starts with involvement be a steward of the land, have courtesy to other trail users, dont ride through deep mud causing erosion, dont litter, stick tonthe trails,follow The rules and signs, and help conserve what is there for future generations, the second part is to get involved in town government, specifically nature conservancy for instance my town was just donated a large parcel designated open space and there is planning going on to determine parking access and trail construction and use…this is the best time to rally your troops and resources and take an active role in expanding your riding network. Contact the conservancy chair for that parcel and offer assistance advice, this will help improve community perception of mountain bikers. Show that we are there to make things better and maintain what has Been laid out…offer to improve stream and mud crossings with bridges or to cut new paths…this is how you get more trails …coincidentally its also how you will save mountain biking to future riders.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks for your input. I agree with you and I do all of that in SPADES (and wish more trail users would be courteous and involved). I don’t even want new trails. I simply want the same rights as horse owner, I would like to be able to ride any trail they are allowed to ride on or be told why I can’t ride it.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  4. Dave says:

    Gene, I love reading your opinions, even on these rare cases when I disagree. This is much more an issue of people communicating and building credibility with their local land agency. In SW Montana, the USFS is stepping up communication and collaboration. It’s not perfect but they are listening, responding, and acting based on community involvement and input. We’re in a unique position to help drive policy and access more than ever before because of the USFS’s dependency on volunteer trail groups. We all need to work hard at the local level, be good stewards and good trail using partners to the other user groups (slow the eff down on blind corners, and yield to other user groups fellow riders!), donate, and volunteer. If you’re talking about capital W Wilderness, then that’s a whole ‘nother deal, my friend. It’s going to take a national movement to change the Congressional order against mechanized travel. There are those of us who feel like there are places to leave bike behind, but if you want to fight that fight, go for it. In the meantime, I’m furiously working toward building and maintaining as much single track as possible outside of the big W. And be careful with that word ‘discrimination’. Racial minorities, women and children are discriminated against. We’re a bunch of mostly white, mostly empowered, mostly educated and employed dudes riding around on $5000 bikes in the woods on our free time.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hey Dave,

      I agree, there are certainly different levels of discrimination (still discrimination and not fair, just not as hateful and life affecting). My life is not being threatened, I’m not living in a war zone, I understand and appreciate that I have good life. Having a good life doesn’t mean you don’t want or have the right to try and change something that you feel is wrong. It saddens me greatly that there are so many people being discriminated against for the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, their sex and their sexual orientation. We have the largest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the world, kids are starving, we are fighting wars and racism still exists yet some selfish people are worried about who uses a 12″ wide piece of dirt on land we stole from the native Americans! Give me a break, the whole concept of trails being closed to bike riders shouldn’t exist, we have much bigger problems to tackle. When I was in kindergarten I was taught to share and that is all I want to share the trails. I simply want the same rights as horse owner. I am not louder, not more dangerous and I do considerably less trail damage than someone on a horse.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  5. Bob says:

    I recently became aware of some crowdsourcing efforts that impressed me. Maybe raising money for a large scale law suit would work. I would donate 100 dollars if I thought we were trying to reach a goal of hundreds of thousands to hire a really good law firm to challenge mountain bike access restrictions as discriminatory, to challenge the bogus claims of safety and environmental concerns, and to sue for equal access. The most obviously attainable goal is for temporal access (open on certain days/times). I think if a high profile park restriction were successfully challenged, it might set a precedent.

    Reply
  6. Ben says:

    I recently rode the AF Academy Falcon loop. We ran into a group equestrian rides, I believe hosted by Pikes Peak Range RIders, forgive me if that is wrong. We ran into a group of 80 riders, no joke 80. They rode the 13 mile loop and stopped all bikers forcing them to go back the way they came. While I understand and agree a person on a horse is 5-6′ in the air and a spooked horse is dangerous, however the group clean up rider (last guy) was incredibly rude. He was representing his group and his actions spoke for all the rest. He acted as if I did not have the same rights as anyone else. I spent 20 years in the AF and feel that I should have at least the same rights, given we were on a military installation. This has soured me greatly, up until now I went out of my way to make sure equestrian riders have the right away, safety etc. And lets not even get in to the issue of the crap they leave behind. The argument I have heard is we tear up the trails, my response to any equestrian riders, “i will let you (the horse person) get in my bike and ride over my foot, if I can get on your horse and have it step on yours”. Tell me which one has more force? They also say they were here way before bicycles were and it is tradition. Well I can think of a few traditions that are now considered inhumane……

    Reply
    • Fred says:

      Yes Ben. For some reason they are allowed to leave horse apples wherever they fall. Dog owners are required to remove their animal’s excrement, but equestrians don’t even bat an eyelash at leaving piles and piles on the trail. It smells, attracts flies, is toxic, hikers hike around it and bikers bike around it. Nobody likes it, but the few well connected equestrians who spend even more on their animals than we do on our bikes don’t care. How about a little consideration? I’ve heard it said that it only lasts three days. No…three months and it just flattens out, but you can see it long after that.

      I’ve also had equestrians be rude to me and tell their kids that “I’ve seen the damage that mountain bikers can do.” If you take a horse that weighs about a thousand pounds, throw on a saddle and a fat ass in riding britches on top of that, you’re looking at 1,300 pounds coming down on about 3 square inches of horseshoe per step. Compare that to 200 pounds on two tires with 12 square inches of contact. I’ll take the bike rolling over my chest instead of the horse. You? And if they can’t control their horses, they shouldn’t be where people are!

      Reply
  7. Chris says:

    warning – this is a long drawn out (kinda venting) post. sorry in advance, but i do ask for advice at the end of this…so skip to the end if you want –
    we dont have a lot of mountain bike trails in Tulsa, OK (we are a road bike kind of place, just go in a LBS and look around), in fact, thats an understatement. we.just have a nice place on the west side of town (Turkey Mountain – 36°03’54.7″N 95°59’34.4″W). after a rather large grant from a local family, the place has been cleaned up over this last decade (no people “backed in to a parking spot” waiting on a friend, if you follow my drift, no more hobos living there, no more broken glass, drug paraphernalia and trash everywhere, and and incredible amount of work put into the place in general, making it a truly nice & safe family oriented place to ride/hike) ive been frequenting the place a lot more these last few years. one of the the last times i rode there, i was shocked by the number of horse trailers that, imo, just all of a sudden started showing up. im no horse person but to me, these would be terrible trails to take horses on. steep decents, rocks everywhere, some loose, tree roots protruding everywhere, and along with mountain bikers (who most of the trails were built by as far as i understand it, ive volunteered on many occasions), there are ALWAYS a couple dozen boy scouts hiking with their packs on, nature lovers and their dogs, couples romantically hiking along, etc, etc. but now there are horses and far be it from me to say they shouldnt be there. again, it is a public place and there are no restrictions singling out equestrian usage. but these people have no problems taking up what few spots there are to park (resulting with people frequently parking on the grass for lack of spots). mr. horse has a right to be there, just like everyone, but they dont have the right to park however they want. despite our red neck reputation, we paint lines in our parking lots in Tulsa just like them thar big cities do and we do it for the same reason. its not walmart, its a very small public park. take your $100k custom hot rod to buy underwear, eggs and a tv at wally-world and park all crooked way out away from everyone. i dont care. but dont do this kind of thing in an obviously busy park with an obviously small parking area. but i digress…suffice to say that they had taken up waaay more space than they needed just from being stupid (not ignorant, just stupid). i watched as one guy walked his horse into his trailer and was amazed to see him drive off. i say amazed because his trailer was designed for 6 horses. he brought one his friends had 2 horses in a similarly huge trailer. all in all, i counted 7 horse trailers, all 30+ feet long, with giant double cab dually trucks towing them, and they took up one third of the parking lot (the whole South side and protruding out into the “drive/drive way” area, so to speak). to reiterate, 7 trucks & trailers took up enough space for around 30 or more cars, and all so they could bring 10 horses total. its kinda like you and 6 friends each driving a greyhound bus to the local quickie mart and blocking all the gas pumps and parking spots…for no good reason. but this is only an accurate comparison if you also brought along 1 metric ton of horse manure and scattered it all over the place. and that brings me to my next rant: besides the selfishness these people demonstrated by taking up as much of a crowded parking lot as they did, and the way the did it, there is another huge issue i ran into. literally. manure, and lots of it! it may just be the trail i was on, but there was piles of the stuff about every 30 feet or so. seriously. over the entire trail. the horses also seemed to know where to drop it to make it the most inconvenient for mountain bikers. yes, there was also dog doo and people are required to pick up after them and they dont all do it…but dogs, even large breeds, dont even begin to produce the amount of feces that a horse produces. the bottom line is i wrecked because of horse sh*t. twice. once my tires slipped on a cleverly dropped pile on a high speed rocky section. the other was avoiding a pile. there were at least 2 other times that i almost wiped (pun intended) out. the guy i brought to ride with had never been there. a little too technical for him as it was, he really didnt need the extra challenge of all the mandatory excrement avoidance maneuvers, nor did he need all the flies that accompanied the “apples”. i will jam on the brakes to pick up someones trash, almost to a fault. if the trails werent maintained at 6 am on a saturday morning, id even help out/volunteer even more with their maintenance. i justify my trail use with an occasional picked up bottle, paper, wrapper left behind by some self-absorbed idiot. i have to admit that, lately anyway, thats about the extent of my involvement. family and work and all. but i refuse to stop every 30 feet to knock a 3 pound pile of cr@p to the side. ill add to the rambling by saying that the one “group” of (2) riders i actually came across that day demanded, loudly and very rudely, for me to wait and let them pass. i was spooking their precious horses. i still regret that, even more loudly, i shot from the hip and replied that i wasnt deaf, i had already come to a stop, that they should also learn how to interact with humans, not just horses, and that if they have a horse they cant control they shouldnt be out here to begin with…too many families out here. they cussed me out. oh well. didnt loose to much sleep over it but as i stated, i do regret representing our community the way i did. im too old for that and have since checked my thoughts before i go yelling at people. but they started it : ). also, sorry for using the emoticon, im kind of ashamed at that, too. as i stated in teh beginning, this is mainly just a rant…i dont have a solution. you should be able to take a horse somewhere and ride, i guess…not my thing. ive emailed all i know of who might listen and who might have the power to help regulate the area, somehow. only getting polite replies expressing thanks for my concern and willingness to get “involved” but offering no course of action. anyone have any suggestions that might help? a tough question to answer, i know, but there are a lot brains out there that may have a suggestion or two that could help. all i know is that my friend and i brought one truck to the park, with 2 bikes in the back and we parked legally, in one spot. we also didnt poop all over the place while we were there, nor did we even begin to do the damage the horses did, and will continue to do, to the trails (they walk right around mud puddles widening/damaging the trail, they leave hoof prints all over everything that isnt rock or root, etc, etc)…

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Right on Chris! Horses do a lot of trail damage and poop everywhere! While there are many great horse owners out on the trail there are also many irresponsible ones that have no respect for the environment or anyone besides themselves. The best thing you can do is attend land management meetings and voice your concerns. Sounds like horses should not be allowed on those trails!

      Good luck,

      Gene

      Reply

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