What’s waiting for your mountain bike just around the next corner? A wire snare, spikes, barbed wire, or maybe a few nasty rocks or logs?
Dangerous booby traps are showing up on mountain trails more frequently as user conflicts take a turn for the worse. The perps are often disgruntled hikers who object to sharing trails with fast moving – and in their view discourteous –mountain bikes.
In British Columbia, a 49-year old mountain biker struck a log around a blind corner and flew off his bike — shaken but not injured. Later trail cameras captured photos of a 64-year-old female hiker placing obstacles. Similarly, a man was photographed placing rocks and logs on trails near Quincy, California. In Colorado bikers found concrete blocks with nails buried on trails.
In Idaho recently a strand of barb wire was found strung four feet off the ground on a downhill section of direct road popular with motorcyclists, OHV users and mountain bikers.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation recently issued a warning because wire cables were found stretching across trails in four state forests – clearly intended to cause harm to bikers.
Do Hikers Have a Point?
While few condone trail sabotage, many hikers say inconsiderate, aggressive mountain bikers are ruining the trail experience. Many trails are open to both uses, but hikers increasingly avoid those heavily used by bikers. Since 8.5 million Americans are now mountain biking, that creates to a problem.
One solution is to designate some trails as exclusively for hiking, and others for biking. That’s already the case in places like the famous Pacific Crest Trail. The argument is that bikers should be able to fly down and around trails without worrying about bumping into hikers, and that hikers are entitled to some guarantee of solitude and a peaceful experience.
But others fear “separate but equal” will mean fuel the conflict. “When you start to say that somebody isn’t allowed in a certain place, you are setting up tensions,” Mark Eller, spokesman for the International Mountain Biking Association, told Outside Magazine.
Other than issuing warnings, law enforcement and government officials are unclear about what action to take.
In Maryland bikers repeatedly complained to officials about finding blocks spiked with razor blades, and encountering fishing line strung across trails.
“Someone is going to get injured,” a police officer told the local newspaper, “and I don’t think anything is going to happen until somebody does get injured.”
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