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Bicycling and wilderness: It's not a simple matter

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Dear HCN,

I wanted to correct what I perceived to be the inaccuracy of your Wayward West blurb about the International Mountain Bicycling Association's decision not to join the Utah Wilderness Coalition (HCN, 7/6/98). First, you got the group's name wrong, calling it the International Mountain Biking Association. While that may seem like a small difference, "bicycle," "bicycling" and "bicyclist" help differentiate the machine, activity and practitioner from "motorcycle," "motorcycling" and "motorcyclist."

Second, the decision in no way "allied" IMBA with "drivers of motorized vehicles." I have been covering this issue in the bicycling press and have interviewed both IMBA staff and board of directors. They have all indicated to me in no uncertain terms that IMBA is an environmental organization concerned with land preservation.

The bicycling board has committed to work with the wilderness coalition to protect all the lands in their proposal - but not necessarily as wilderness. That the bicycling group was invited to join the coalition attests to the group's standing in the environmental community. Furthermore, during our interviews several of the staff and board vehemently denied any possibility of IMBA joining the "Blue Ribbon Coalition or any other Wise Use (sic) group."

As much of the New West shifts to a recreation-based economy, motorized and nonmotorized recreationists are likely to square off more and more often over land access. As a mechanized - but not motorized - activity, mountain bicycling tends to fall somewhere in the middle. Because of this, bicyclists are in a unique position to help build consensus between the two groups.

Delaine Fragnoli

Altadena, California

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