Trail Conflict

Incompatibility Fracas
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The facts of the matter are that mountain bikes can and, sometimes, do cause trail damage, especially when the ground is wet and soft. Plus, having a fast-moving bike suddenly charging at you, almost silently, like a stealth attack from hell, can be unnerving for the moment and maybe the rest of the day. Been there.

I'm also aware that some riders are adrenaline addicts who live to pedal on the razor edge of "the void," especially going downhill. By age, by choice, and by personal experience with broken, contused body parts, I'm not a member of that sect, but all the eloquent denial in the world wouldn't have made the passing hikers reconsider their initial and lasting opinions of me and my murderous ways.

So, following the immutable law of nature to kill or be killed, the anti-velocipede-on-the-path fraternity is packing up like wolves to sheep to have trails everywhere posted with pictures of bicycles featuring the ominous and universally understood red circle with line across the foreground, just as I would have done for all-terrain vehicles and jet skis, which, we all know, do far more environmental damage and easily beat bikes to the top of the intergalactic lethal weapon scale.

Go Nude or Go Home
One approach to solving the incompatibility fracas would be to legislate everyone off the trails except for those who would go afield totally naked and unequipped to cause personal or environmental damage of any kind. Aside from generating qualitative judgment, perfection scores, and lascivious comment, nude hikers would obviously get the lowest ratings on the dangerous trail offender meter.

The other end of the argument would open trails everywhere to anything from Teva sandals to the Caterpillar D-9 Off-Road Bulldozer Cruising Club Of America (D9ORBCCOA) and let natural (or mechanical) selection reign supreme. In short order there wouldn't be any wilderness left, let alone trails, but some would gleefully claim they had the time of their lives just surviving the destruction derby.

The good ground lies somewhere in the misty reaches between those extremes.

Will hikers ever be able to tolerate mountain bikers? Bikers—equestrians? Hikers, bikers, equestrians—ATVs? Nordic skiers—snowmobilers? Canoeists—jet skis? Anybody—SUVs?

If we don't find a way to mix our trail passions amicably (and safely), we can logically expect the worst arbiters in the history of civilization—governments of all sizes, shapes, and colors—to take illogical action after which the only remaining trail signs may read, "Go Nude or Go Home."

Amicable Mix
I'm insufficiently naive to believe I'll get hugs and kisses the next time I voluntarily give trail way to hikers, but a passing word of thanks for pulling over might melt my soul enough so I can at least try to make myself believe that paddling through a jet-ski-induced tsunami is challenging fun or that equine fallout benefits the environment in addition to being a superior, magically fragrant lubricant for bicycle chains.

But, short of a miracle or divine intervention, I'll save my olive branch for whipping those pesky ATVs into some bottomless muskeg swamp, thank you very much.

In the meantime, for we who pray to have our trails and use them too, leave us all go softly, carrying big sticks, but saving a little room in our hearts for a glimmer of tolerance toward those who would share our passion, no matter how misguided they may be.

It's your life. Live it better outdoors!

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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