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Know the West

There are plenty of places for bicycling

  Dear HCN,
Jim Hasenauer makes the basis for a reasoned argument in his piece “Let bikers in, and we’ll stand behind wilderness” (HCN, 3/3/03: Let bikers in, and we’ll stand behind wilderness), but loses his focus as he perpetuates a number of fallacies in his argument to repeal the wilderness bicycle ban.

Hasenauer cites that bicycling’s “impacts on the trails and plants and animals have been shown to be similar to those of hikers.” While this may be true under certain conditions, this assertion ignores the reality of impact on the ground. Crowds of hikers are no more environmentally friendly than crowds of bikers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the increase in impact with numbers is more exponential with bicycle use. Even if it weren’t, what Hasenauer is suggesting is not simply trading out one equal user for another. He is suggesting the addition of countless numbers of individuals and their mountain bikes into the wilderness.

Hasenauer comforts his readers, “Rest assured: Trails would never swarm with bikes.” In what fantasy world does he live? Just as hikers need regulations to keep them from swarming wilderness areas being loved to death, bikers will swarm just about anywhere they choose. With so-called “traditional” forms of recreation already exerting increased pressure on the ecological integrity of our designated wilderness, there’s a reason that the Congress outlawed bicycles from wilderness in 1977. Those reasons are every bit, if not more, relevant today. Considering that such protected land comprises less than 2 percent of the total landmass of the lower 48 states, aren’t there already enough places to ride a bicycle?

Evan Cantor
Boulder, Colorad