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National Park Service Responding To Complaints Of Mountain Bike Collisions, Speed


Concerns by some that mixing mountain bikers and hikers on national park trails would lead to problems reportedly are being realized at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where there have been increased complaints about speeding bikers and collisions on trails.

In response to those complaints, the Park Service has teamed with the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclist Association to promote safe and courteous riding in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"We're thrilled that there is great demand for the public to enjoy the beauty and public health benefits of our extensive trail system," said Melanie Turner, law enforcement ranger and mountain bike unit coordinator with the NRA. "For the benefit and safety of all users, we ask people to follow proper trail etiquette and observe the 15 mph speed limit."

According to a park release, rangers have reported "an uptick in visitor complaints regarding cyclists who are riding too fast or in restricted areas. Particularly on busy weekends, the effects can be dangerous. In the past year, accidents at Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon resulted in several helicopter extractions, though the problem is not limited to that site."

Ranger Turner, who is an avid mountain biker herself, said she wonders if a new website that allows riders to publicly post their times on specific trails has led to an increase in violations. That website, Strava, shows speeds of up to 35 mph, with average speeds of 25 mph, on some trails within the recreation area, the ranger pointed out.

Made aware of the problem, Strava is working with the park to prohibit users from posting times on certain trails, along with a message about trail regulations, the park said in a release.

As part of its mission to promote safe riding, CORBA is working closely with SMMNRA, a unit of the National Park Service, to inform its members about these concerns and remind them about responsible riding tips.

"If you just slow down around other users (including other cyclists), you create a win-win for everyone," said Mark Langton, president of CORBA. "Speed is subjective; what one person might think is slow might still be too fast. Even at 10 mph you can startle someone and disrupt their enjoyment of our open space. If you slow down, you literally solve the problem most people have with bicycles on the trail - that they go too fast and scare other users."

Ranger Turner recently attended a CORBA meeting and is visiting bike shops near the NRA to let the community know that rangers will be stepping up patrols and issuing citations. Both organizations hope the efforts will result in a safe and enjoyable trail experience for all users.


not hard to imagine what the comments to this story are going to look like...

Hikers and horseback riders go slow. There's time to savor the beauty, the details, the sounds of birds, the smell of juniper, let it sink in. Same with trail runners.

People who ride a bike helter skelter, kicking up dirt and rocks, sailing over washes, what do they see, smell, hear? Same goes for drivers who think Trail Ridge Road or Going To The Sun are road-race courses to see who can take curves the fastest.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't get it!

Two weeks ago a was nearly rammed by a mountain biker racing down a very narrow, steep, and chaparral covered ridge trail. I was hiking up the trail and the lead biker, followed by six others, were howling, screaming, and whopping with glee as flew past me. My heart was pumping.

Does CORBA urge cyclists to yield to pedestrians on the trails? I often walk in a state park on narrow trails that are posted for cyclists to yield to pedestrians. Yet, out of many times I've encountered cyclists going in the opposite direction, only once has a cyclist stopped to let me continue. Out of concern for my own safety, I usually step off the trail to let the bikers go by.

The story boils down to a ranger, herself a mountain biker, wondering if some cyclists are riding too fast. An IMBA-affiliated group is offering to help with outreach and education efforts, and the park continues to be "thrilled that there is great demand for the public to enjoy the beauty and public health benefits of our extensive trail system."

Given those facts, it seems hyperbolic to then use this for the lead: "Concerns by some that mixing mountain bikers and hikers on national park trails would lead to problems reportedly are being realized ..."

No user group is without impacts and management challenges. Mountain bikers, like hikers, equestrians, paddlers, trail runners and the rest, need to work with NPS staff to find positive solutions. Sounds like that's exactly what's happening here.

Personally, I think the speed limit on walking trails should be walking speed. I would like to see a 5 MPH speed limit. If bikers are out to enjoy nature, 5 MPH is not unreasonable. If they're out for thrill-seeking, it's much safer for everyone if they are on trails restricted to higher speed users.

I think that we should put a ranger on every trail. Every time a cyclist rides over 8.25 mph, he/she gets tazed. Also, we should have volunteer citizens on patrol placed strategically on trails to force cyclists to stop and smell the flowers. We may up the ante and quizz cyclists on their knowledge of the flora, as it is a requirement to enjoy the parks properly.


Mark, not sure I'd call collisions on trails and mountain bikers speeding along at 35 mph, with average speeds of 25 mph, hyperbole...Apparently there were enough incidents to prompt the Park Service to respond and issue a press release to let the people know it was aware of the problem.

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