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Environmentalists Disagree On Bikes in the Wild

Environmental groups are split over legislation that would remove the nationwide ban on bicycles in the wild.
April 13, 2016, 8am PDT | Elana Eden
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A proposal, from national nonprofit Sustainable Trails Coalition, would allow other federal agencies to decide whether to apply language in the U.S. Wilderness Act banning "mechanical transport" to bikes on a case-by-case basis.

Since bikes are currently banned on 106 million acres of federal wilderness land in the United States, that flexibility could make a big dent.

Local conservation groups in Oregon have opposed the proposal—some for reasons more philosophical than ecological. In an article by Jamie Hale for The Oregonian, activists say they're protecting a perceived ethos of nature; one spokesperson cites values of "humility" and "restraint," claiming that bikes don't "belong" in nature.

A more pragmatic approach comes up in the comments, where locals argue that the velocity and volume of mountain bikes amplifies their impact on trails.

But if a philosophy of the wilderness remains at issue, it’s worth noting that an attitude that sees only organic access to nature as legitimate can also impact people who use strollers, wheelchairs, and other tools that, while allowed on trails, still face barriers to accommodation there.

Congress has not yet acted on the proposal. If it were to pass, agencies would determine how to approach the issue, and could impose their own restrictions on bikes.

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Published on Thursday, April 7, 2016 in The Oregonian
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