Bicycles are machines

  Dear HCN,
I read, with bemused interest, the vaunted “face-off’ between Michael Carroll and Jim Hasenauer over allowing mountain bikes in wilderness areas (HCN, 3/3/03: The Wild Card). My puzzlement was engendered by the comments of Hasenauer. He explains that his pleasure is derived from “pedaling through wild places, experiencing the views, the changing colors and textures of plant life, the occasional animal sightings.” I wonder at what level he appreciates the delicate colors and textures of plants as he pedals “sedately” along on the downhill. I hope that he would be concentrating on the trail ahead so as not to collide with hikers or to turn a peaceful equestrian trip into an unplanned rodeo.

Further, he states that, “Most wilderness advocates are astonished to learn that the Wilderness Act did not ban bicycles.” To the contrary, most of us understood the act to be very explicit in its language. When Section 4(c) stipulated, “There shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport ... ,” those of us with the most rudimentary grasp of the English language understood the act’s intent. The various editions of Webster seem to concur that “mechanical” means “of or pertaining to machinery or tools.” The dictionaries also seem to agree that a machine is “an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.” Nowhere is there mention of a requisite power source in the various definitions a machine. It is clear that a bicycle is a machine, and it is equally obvious that a bicycle is used for transport.

Mr. Hasenauer assures us wilderness advocate yahoos (you know, the ones who can’t tell the difference between a motorcycle and a mountain bike) that if we would only exert our influence to grease the skids for mountain bike entry into the wilderness, all would be well with the world. And if we don’t ... we take our chances. Sounds like he speaks for a bunch of people you would really like to place your bets on.

Charles Clough
Libby, Montana
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