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Can Hikers, Bikers Achieve Trail Detente?


While hikers and bikers may share a love for the outdoors, not all have been feeling a love for each other recently as the two groups began to fight over using mountain trails in state parks.

Some trails have been opened up for use by mountain bikes to the dismay of equestrians and hikers who complain that bikes are not safe for the trails.

The debate focuses on accident figures, suitability of trails and whether the groups can coexist peacefully.

Should bikes be allowed on mountain trails?

Jim Hasenauer of Woodland Hills, president of the International Mountain Biking Assn.:

"Cyclists seek the same kinds of experiences as hikers and equestrians and can safely share most trails. National and local research shows that perceptions of trail-user conflict are exaggerated. All back-country recreation involves certain risks and demands personal responsibility . . . University research on environmental impacts indicates that bike impacts are not significantly different than hikers' and are less than equestrians'. These are our public trails; there's a place for responsible cycling."

Daphne Elliott, Agoura, Santa Monica Mountain Trails Council:

"If it is wide enough and safe enough and if the bicyclists mind their manners, there's no reason they shouldn't be. . . . One of the issues that keeps getting buried is that the people who are getting hurt in the mountains now are the bicycle people and the speed of the machine is at the root of it. They have every right to be there, but they have no right to interfere with the enjoyment of other people."

Peter Heumann of Calabasas, on the steering committee of the Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Assn:

"The whole issue of user conflict is a metaphor for what is going on in our society at large. That is a lack of tolerance for others in the community. Some trail users feel their activity is more legitimate than other activities. First, they feel threatened, then they take action to exclude the other user group. This is not in the best interest of anyone."

Dan Preece, Angeles District superintendent for the state parks system:

"Where it is safe and appropriate to do so, my answer is yes. I would say that the route should not have hazardous portions and it should not be so narrow as to make it impossible for different groups to share it . . . To me the most important thing on the trails is for all of the users to recognize that we're all going to be here and we have to get along."

Ralph Waycott of Malibu, who uses the trails as an equestrian, a hiker and a mountain biker:

"Yes. Bikes should be on the trails but . . . I don't believe that they can peacefully coexist. . . . A bicycle going down the right slope with the right rider can be going as fast as you would on a highway. . . It's that critical edge that's so much fun, that also puts anybody and anything around you in danger and it ruins the experience for other people."

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