April 30, 2000
Mr. George Stigile
Assistant General Manager
Department of Recreation and Parks
200 North Main Street, Rm. 1330
Los Angeles, CA 90012
RE: Mountain Bike Working Group
Documented Evidence of User Conflict from Regional, State and National Open Space Agencies, including Legal Opinions
Enclosed for your use and that of the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissions are the data which have been assembled over the past two years. Much of this data was submitted during the 1999 citywide community meetings, so I apologize if you are getting duplicate copies. Other material attached is new material that the Commission may not be aware of. I would appreciate your placing the extra copy enclosed into the Park Ordinance file located in the Commission office, for future reference.
This information clearly supports our position that mountain bike use, once introduced onto trails, not only causes serious conflicts and diminishes the experience of others, but also discourages others from continued use of the trails. The information also underscores the added and hidden costs to the agencies once a high impact recreational sport like mountain biking is permitted.
This letter will detail accidents, violations and incidents which have been reported regarding the permitted use of mountain bikes on unpaved trails at various locations throughout the country.
CORBA and IMBA spokesman have repeatedly stated to you, the staff and other decision-makers that without statistics, a survey or a study performed scientifically, assertions regarding use conflict are invalid. They characterize as unsupportable subjective personal anecdotes or recollections. This is nonsense.
Not only did the Untied States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, California, specifically reject these arguments in 1996, the Court based its determination upon precisely the kind of information bike advocates like to argue to exclude from public discussion: letters and testimony related to personal experience.
When the National Park Service was evaluating mountain bike access to unpaved trails in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), the record included "...hundreds of letters from park users recounting stories of collisions or near misses with speeding or reckless bicycles...Hikers and bird watchers repeatedly told how they have been forced off of trails by speeding bicycles and how they had their peace and solitude on the trails interrupted by bicycles that -- because they are quiet and fast -- seemed to appear out of nowhere...Equestrians told how their horses have been startled by speeding or oncoming bicycles and have become restless, on several occasions even throwing and injuring experienced riders."(1)
The Court held that subjective reports by park users of user conflict support a determination that such conflict existed in fact:
Individual comment is a very persuasive indicator of "user conflict," for determining the existence of conflicts between human cannot be numerically calculated or counted; rather the existence of conflict must be evaluated. The Court can envision no better way to determine the existence of actual past or likely future conflict between two user groups than to hear from members of those groups.(2)
Letters and testimony from Los Angeles residents and trail users, here and elsewhere, about conflicts, accidents and displacement must be considered in light of the Circuit Court's opinion: these letters give ample notice to the City of clear and serious problems with respect to mixing wheels and legs.
Exhibit "A" contains a sampling of 35 letters from the hundreds of individually written letters received by the Recreation and Parks staff and the Commission over the past two years. There is now a clear record of serious conflicts not only within our own park systems within the boundaries of the City of Los Angeles, but also in other areas and states.
Exhibit "B" is a survey of accidents recorded within the State Parks system at Point Mugu, Topanga and Malibu within the County of Los Angeles. In 1995, according to this record, 21 accidents were attributed to speed and loss of control of the bike; in 1996, 20 accidents in Point Mugu, 4 in Topanga and 1 in Malibu, for an increased total of 46, were attributed to speed and loss of control. There is obviously a problem here.
Exhibit "C" is a 1994 letter written to Mark Langton of CORBA from representatives from Corral 64 (an equestrian organization, Equestrian Trails Incorporated based in Los Angeles County in the Topanga, Malibu area) and submitted to the California State Parks personnel detailing multiple accidents and incidents between equestrian and mountain bikers, and between hikers and mountain bikers. A total of 46 incidents/accidents occurred over a three year period, 1992-94. Thirty seven incidents were between horses and mountain bikers due to the excessive speed of the mountain biker; one was due to too many mountain bikers riding abreast across a trail. Four incidents between hikers and mountain bikers were due to excessive speed; one was due to too many mountain bikers riding abreast across the width of the trail.
Exhibit "D" is a 1995 study by the Marin County Open Space Task Force which surveyed 12 open space agencies in three western states regarding the extent of compliance by mountain bicyclists with agencies' rules and regulations. The results indicate that 8 of the 12 agencies reported "poor compliance," while 4 reported "good compliance." Regardless of the level of compliance reported, all agencies reported that their staffs spent a disproportionate amount of time 00 in the field and on administration - dedicated to the mountain bike issue.
Exhibit "E" is a 1999 Mid-Peninsula Study which reports that 48% of the total violations over 22 parks in the Mid-Peninsula District are attributed to excessive mountain bike speed and to mountain biking on unauthorized trails.
Exhibit "F" restates the information handed to Parks staff during the 3 community meetings held across the city in 1999. Sixty four incidents/accidents were reported: 32 of these results in injuries; 2 were in litigation; 2 were fatalities. Subsequently, we have documented a third fatality - a horse on a trail in the San Gabriel Mountains which spooked because of a mountain biker's careless ride, the horse broke its leg in the fall and had to be euthanized on-site.
No critic of mountain biking opposes the sport. We support it - in appropriate locations. Mountain bikers already enjoy hundreds of miles of trails. It is an inappropriate high impact recreation in the City's urban parklands, however. It is critical that the City continue to protect shrinking resources, including the preservation of historic and passive uses on urban park footpaths.
I would like to close by thanking you and the Department for the opportunity to attend the Bike Expo Advocacy Summit, April 29thwith two other members of the Working Group. It was very helpful. Advocacy clearly focussed on transportation not mountain biking issues- with which I absolutely agree. The San Francisco Bicycle Plan, for example, only looks at transportation bicycling. I spoke with only one mountain bike advocate (he is principally a street bicyclist) at the Summit, which was also somewhat surprising. Given the amount of time and resources spent on this issue thus far by the Parks Department and Commission, I thought there would be a significant contingent of mountain bike advocates, but they never materialized.
Emily Gabel Luddy
Coalition for Safe Trails.
1. Bicycle Trails Council of Marin; Bicycle Trails Council of East Bay; International Bicycling Association; League of American Wheelmen, Plaintiffs v. Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, et al, Defendants No. 94-16920 D.C. No. CV-93-0009-EFL Sierra Club; Bay Area Trails Preservation Council and the National Parks and Conservation Association filed as friends of Defendants. Published opinion May 6, 1996.