Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Take An Inch, Lose A Mile




Just recently, the city of Los Altos Hills ended mountain bike access in Byrne Preserve, a local park.

As TGR reported on it, the unopposed bike ban on the multi-user trails was suggested based on Strava data showing MTB speeds in excess of 20mph in an area with blind turns, frequent tree coverage and horseback and pedestrian traffic. 

While most online bike commenters emphasize the importance of directional bike traffic in situations like this, I personally am wondering why the fuck riders are Strava-ing in a (presumably high traffic) public park with multi-use trails. What on earth has happened to MTB? Where are the respectful trail advocates, the humble stewards of the forest, the nod-and-smile recreational  participants who help remind everyone why we love these trails? 

What is this Frankenstein transformation?

Why are so many MTBers fanatically obsessed with internet fame based around arbitrary measurements on websites and apps that falsely inflate their egos? Why is it always 'gotta film this insta vid' instead of 'I'm so glad I left my phone in the truck'? Why must it be 'I'm Strava-ing, guys!' rather than 'Dude! Look at this view!' *high five*? 



A cultural obsession with the reality-TV Kardashians has clearly bled into a sport built around getting away from it all. More and more, the politics of Internet beef and the holy grail of bike industry social media fame has left us at risk of losing more ground and worse, completely disconnected from reality. 

Instead of arguing about one-way DH trails in publicly-funded wild parks and combatting with each other over who has the right of way, we should be discussing the current, rapidly encroaching threats from land developers and oil and gas companies. With Moab's recent expansion of mining and fracking rights, we should conversing about the future ramifications of destabilizing an entire area's shale, yet we're bickering back and forth about 'real' pedal bikes versus e-MTBs. We're so worried about turning fun into a quantifiable dick-swinging competition that we're all but eliminating the chances of getting more directional, MTB-specific trails... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? 

We're so goddamn territorial that we're too focused on who owns the trail instead of the very real fact that we're losing trail at an unprecedented rate. Our forests, deserts and all of the the wild, open alpine lands between them are being threatened and auctioned off by the very powers we've kept in office. But we're so worried about how many likes or kudos or followers we've gotten that it's fogging the goggles of our collective vision and we're unable to come across a fellow trail user without seeing them as a rail flaw in our entitled little fun train. The trails are not property owned exclusively by riders. That dirt is the single common thread that runs through an entire community, uniting all of us in one thing: our mutual love for the outdoors. The last thing any of us mountain bikers should be doing is running down our neighbors in an effort to impress random Strava users and Instagram followers. Why? 

Because nobody cares. 

Nobody cares how fast you are, how much cooler you think Strava makes you or about the entirely disrespectful behavior you had to display to get that really sweet social media edit. Nobody gives a good goddamn about the reason you're harping on people to get out of your way, or why you shouted at that parent with their kids who might've accidentally crossed in front of you. Nobody cares. 

What we do care about is the guy picking up after himself, the person who slows and then stops for the horseback rider or the uphill runner. We care about the access we all share with other user groups, and the positive relationships we have to create. We care about making every interaction being a good one, even when it seems like it can't be. We care about treating every rider, every walker, every hiker, runner, parent, friend, buddy and non-Strava user in a way that improves their outdoor experience, and one that reflects positively on our sport as a whole. So it took you give seconds to slow down, wave and smile. 

... And? You wanna be a racer? Go race. Do it between the tape, Strava your time and have a wonderful experience. But don't put the future of trail access for everyone at risk because you're looking to make a point about the size of your balls. 

We can't just demand more directional trails, either -- nobody powerful in the history of ever has looked at social degenerates and said "Yeah! Let's give these pirates more freedom and land and stuff!" That has never happened, especially when enlightened members of city councils and government agencies like USFS and the BLM are so few and far between. Looking at the history of skateparks in the US, it's very clear -- we won't get what we want if we keep acting like spoiled kids. Cities didn't look at the damaged property and think 'well, it's time to build a skatepark'. What they did was ban skateboards, rollerblades and BMX bikes, then enact heavy fines and trespassing charges to anyone who disobeyed. The only thing that led to the widespread public funding of skateparks were passionate, dedicated advocates who showed up, changed the conversation and convinced cities to take a chance and invest in a rapidly growing sport that nobody cared about. 

The same exact thing will happen with mountain bikes and trails -- we're not going to gain any ground by being pricks. We will, however, benefit from making friends and being the responsible, fun folks that everyone sees on the trails. It's not going to kill us to slow down and smile, and hey! It won't hurt to have a few equestrian and hiking advocates in our corner during those city and county meetings, now will it? 

Just think about it.