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Notice I used the term "Cyclists"...

The next county over from me is in the planning stages of a big recreational trail project. To make it politically viable, there's something for everyone in it- hikers, bicyclists, ATVers, snowmobilers, cross country skiers, etc.. The plan is ambitious- Over a hundred miles of trails in a county of around five thousand folks. And they're starting from almost ground zero, with but a couple miles of unconnected trails, some of which cry out for maintenance. So they need to be resourceful, and search out routes that give the maximum trail for their limited funding. One potential route they're real enthusiastic about is the abandoned roadbed of a U.S. Highway, 7 miles long through a scenic area and in good enough shape that the County Engineer thinks they can clear the weeds and grade it for zero $$$ in their slack time between other jobs.

Before the snow arrived and stuck I motorcycled about the county, checking out the proposed routes from public roads. The abandoned highway route is a gem, and as it appeared to be a legal road and receiving some use I entered it and rode a couple cautious miles, mindful of the occasional potholes and ruts. Get to an intersection, park and look around, and here's a battered sign from the Nature Conservancy warning that the road I'd just ridden was closed to motor vehicles. So stopped at the library on the way home and researched the matter and found that yes indeed, the Nature Conservancy does own some land there, though it's hard to tell for sure if they own the abandoned highway. And the Conservancy don't even allow bicycling on their turf, never mind motorcycles. Not that anyone was there to enforce the Conservancy's rules or even care- I've never seen anyone from the Conservancy there nor does anyone seem to hike their turf. From all appearances, the Conservancy bought the land and forgot about it.

For experienced motorcyclists, being treated like Lepers by the environmental movement is nothing new. Like many motorcyclists, I've been an REI member for decades. And despite all the money we'd spent at REI, seems we never saw a motorcycle in REI catalogs, but plenty of SUVs. Turns out that REI management is allied with the Sierra Club, and the Sierra club was in some legal battle with off-road motorcyclists a few decades ago over whether they should be allowed to ride in the desert, and the Sierra Club/REI had stereotyped all motorcyclists as mad destroyers of the wilderness. Heck, I never realized my 24 cubic inch Yamaha RD400 street bike was capable of such things! There was some nasty stereotyping in the motorcyclists camp too- Bought an aftermarket motorcycle shock and in the package was a hateful anti-environmentalist and anti-gay screed. Haven't done any business with that supplier since, and I haven't joined the Sierra Club either.

In recent months I've written a few blogs critical of the sloppiness of the oil biz and sleazy frac sand mining in particular. Some of those blogs have been picked up by environmental activists and posted to their various blogs, forums, etc.. I've got no problem with that, and if the oil industry sees something in my blogging that helps their argument, they're welcome to it also.

But I'm not rushing over and joining the Sierra Club, Conservancy, NRDC, etc. for good reason- they don't like motorcycling, and if you read their websites a bit you quickly figure out that they think we should stay home in a tiny urban condo and limit our explorations to the service area of the local transit system. Except for their club outings, which often seem to involve the use of an SUV to get to the distant trailhead. Meanwhile we motorcyclists use little fuel nor parking space nor raw materials, use little energy as we spend the evening around the campfire and then retire to our tents... And the greens think we're the environmental evildoers?

Now sand trucks endangering our safety with their spilled loads in corners and ruining the beauty and tranquility of motorcycle meccas like the Great River Road is a legitimate motorcyclist's issue. That alone is enough to oppose the current frac sand follies playing out on our beautiful river valley roads. And I have no doubt that the environmental movement will try to co-opt motorcyclists just as they have farmers, ranchers, and river town residents to use as pawns in their plan to plug the oil supply in the name of maybe slowing global warming and force us into their their proscribed rather geographically limited lifestyle. Sorry, we're not going to park our bikes.

There is a model for cooperation between the environmental organizations and motorcyclists though, the Blue Green Coalition, made up of several major labor unions and environmental organizations. It hasn't been all sweetness and light between the greens and labor, what with the greens delaying pipeline projects that will put union members back to work. But the cooperation has increasingly been a two way street, with environmental groups joining labor in fighting for the rights of workers to unionize.

Imagine a press conference at a scenic park near Sturgis, the parking lot full of motorcycles, and representatives of every major environmental group and  motorcycle group and manufacturer in attendance. The hatchets are buried for good, the riders promise to ride on designated trails and roads, the manufacturers commit to reduce emissions and energy consumption, and the environmentalists agree to promote motorcycling as a minimal impact method of exploring the outdoors. It could happen...

And Nature Conservancy, lets talk about that chunk of abandoned U.S. 59 on your Hole in the Mountain property. It's been abandoned for a half century now and it's not disappearing... Can we maybe ride our bicycles on it and give the preserve some activity for a change?

(crossposted from my Gearhead Grrrl blog )

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Comment Preferences

  •  I blame it on you bikers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, OrdinaryIowan

    they hate mountain bikes because they look too much like dirt bikes. (Especially now, with downhill bikes with a lotta supension and riders in Imperial Storm Trooper armor)

    I remember being told by enviros back in the '70's when I was into competition enduro riding on dirt bikes: "They're just so NOISY...and they wreck the place...why cantcha just ride bicycles?" (delivered in whiny, condescending tone)

    Years later, after they invent mountain bikes: "They're just so QUIET, ya can't hear 'em coming...and they wreck the place....why cantcha just stay on the pavement where you belong" (delivered in the same, whiny, condescending tone)

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:02:50 PM PST

    •  If we really intended to tear up the wilderness... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftykook, elkhunter

      We'd use a bulldozer, not a bicycle!

      •  Some of them are so "out there" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...that they want to ban traditional vibram lug sole hiking boots...

        Some want to bar all entry into Wilderness, except, of course, for academic professionals engaged in "sanctioned research"...

        "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

        by leftykook on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:14:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You guys are peddling in a lot of stereotypes (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, native, nicolemm, crose

          You want cooperation I'd start by knocking that off. Yes, organizations like NRDC care a lot about sustainable development but stop with the stupid and ignorant stereotypes (the last outing I went on was done large by Prius and Volt, since SUVs are a serious faux pas unless they're hybrids.  and lets also not pretend labor is any friend to the environment. They've lined up with Big Oil and Big Coal to kill several solar initiatives and projects here in California. Frankly, more than a few environmentalists have come to realize that unions are not very good allies since they'll destroy the environment for a buck without blinking.   It's great that people are still trying but there's a lot more support for unions among greens than the other way around)

          Yes off roaders and environs have some bad blood, not least because there are a ton of people out there who are completely irresponsible and your organizations are often opposed to wilderness protections.  So there's a place to start.  Go to those organizations and get them to change their anti nature positions

          I would also join the Sierra club.  It is a volunteer organization and so you can create a change in orientation by participating.  You represent a responsible minority, so be loud and lead.  Want to work with people, then let it be known.  You might make progress.   I wish you luck

          (And the nature conservancy is in the business of preserving nature, so the fact that an area is unused and off limits may simply reflect a judgment that sometimes that is necessary to preserve nature

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:35:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sorry, we won't be co-opted... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            If the environmental groups want our support, they'll have to support cyclists.

            •  Well then (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, nicolemm

              I guess that was a short lived cooperation.  I'm thinking maybe you weren't so serious to begin with, then  I wouldn't expect groups that want to hurt the environment should be expecting to get a warm welcome from environmental groups really.  

              Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

              by Mindful Nature on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 02:21:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  So, screw the environment (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              if people aren't nice to you?

              That seems incredibly short sighted and counter productive for all parties involved.

              The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

              by AoT on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 02:35:29 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I remember VERY SPECIFICALLY (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...people purporting to be protectors of the desert driving inside the the boundaries of the Desert Tortoise Preserve area near California City in Chevy Blazers and Suburbans, who made a HUGE screaming deal over motorcyclists cutting a two-foot corner across the 90-degree corner on the edge of the Preserve, but driving inside the preserve was okay for THEM, since they weren't dirty ORV-ers, like us.

            These people play right into the divide and conquer crowd's agenda.

            It got worse in the 1980's, when they went into full screeching panic mode over mountain bikes, and as a result, many mountain bikers are now people who work against Wilderness expansions they ought to embrace, since the anti crowd seeks to run them out of places for no other good reason than "just because"

            And which moron was it who decided that we can't hump a folded hang glider into a wilderness to fly off a peak, when it's perfectly okay for some asshole with a string of pack horses to set up camp alongside the Pacific Crest Trail with teevees, easy chairs and  cases of beer if they want? (Okay, it's hyperbolic, I admit, but they DO have professional packers who enter wildernesses with huge amounts of stuff and paying clients to use it...)

            We need to protect our wild places from developers and resource extractors, and dividing up the outdoor-folk among themselves doesn't help.

            "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

            by leftykook on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:58:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes well (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, shenderson

              Lets not pretend that mountain bikers don't have their fair share of assholes who have done a lot to earn hostility from locals and enviros.  And the ORV groups are uniformly hostile to wildlife and do a ton of damage and have a bad track record of being totally obnoxious to other users.  The amount of damage done to deserts that persists decades after thrashing is remarkable.  Horse packers at least stick to the trails mostly, though they are pretty damaging.  

              Yes, there needs to be more cooperation, but pulling the holier than thou routine without acknowledging the roots of the problems isnt going to help

              Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

              by Mindful Nature on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 02:27:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That fair share of assholes... (0+ / 0-)

                ...also irritate the shit out of their fellow mountain bikers, especially those of us who try our darnedest to avoid giving others offense, who try to be mindful of place, and of other visitors to it.

                I don't understand the obnoxious behavior of some folks, I dunno why they think it's okay to ride in places they aren't allowed, or too close to people out for a walk, or why Racer Boy has to leave power goo envelopes or dead inner tubes lying in the trail, why they have to act like every ride is a stage in one of the Grand Tours, why they need to play obnoxious music at high volume at trailheads...

                I generally grump about how I'm waiting for these assholes to go on to Rocket-Powered Roller Skates or whatever the Next Big Thing is, and leave the trails for the rest of us to enjoy and care for....

                "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

                by leftykook on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 08:18:06 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  So find groups that aren't shitty (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and work with them.  As an environmentalist there are plenty of groups I'd never work with.  I bet that we would might choose different groups to support, but if you blame all environmentalist for the actions of some then there's not much to be done.

              The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

              by AoT on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 02:37:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Actually, I agree... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ...and Mountain Biker access folks have worked hard at finding compromises with preservation groups when maps are being drawn, things like corridors through areas that preserve access without allowing unfettered free ranging access, and devising land classifications that allow some activities not allowed in wilderness areas while protecting the places from G W Bush's henchmen...

                It is very disheartening, however, to read about access advocates being bluntly stabbed in the back after cooperating with representatives of wilderness advocacy during negotiations with the Forest Service or BLM, only to have new maps with different lines drawn on them after the negotiations were supposedly settled, and after the closing dates of the discussion period.

                "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

                by leftykook on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 07:59:24 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  It happens with a motorcycle (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        much more than with a bicycle.  I've seen the results of people riding motorcycles off road, it tears up trails and scares the crap out of the wild life.  What those riders intended to do is fairly pointless when compared to what they actually do.

        And just to be clear, I'm not blaming all dirt bikers for this sort of thing, but dirt bikes are going to have much more of an impact than a MTB.

        I work in the bicycle industry and I have to say that I've seen attitudes change greatly about the environment, and vice versa, by taking action to improve the environment and not complaining about how people hate MTB riders.  Just yelling at the people trying to protect the environment isn't going to do anything.

        The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

        by AoT on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:35:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's all user groups. We need to learn to get (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, KenBee

    along. It's just these sorts of conflicts that have prevented Wilderness areas from getting made over the last congress.

    Oil too has it's place, we all ride something to get to where the public land is, and I've seen plenty of instances where they disturb very little and when they are done drilling there is very little activity to show they were there.

    Some counties in Utah wish to make hard surface roads to reduce the wear and tear on the roads and to provide a way for local people to actually get out to lands so that they can enjoy them.

    What we do need to do is work together. If an area is no mechanized traffic then we should respect that, no bikes no cycles no wheel barrows.

    I've found the Nature Conservancy to be better than the Sierra Club or the NRDC, but nowhere near as good as our government. The worst are the ones wishing us back into an age that never was, rewilders and depopulators.

    What state just out of curiosity?

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:13:14 PM PST

  •  You've got a point (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, ban nock, native, KenBee

    Part of the problem is the "holier than thou" issue. Like you, I see many cyclists and bikers riding to trailheads in SUVs. That's fine but then don't whine about the environment.

    I've also discovered that many cyclists are very conservative Republicans who are only concerned about what impacts their world.

    OTOH there are places that should remain tranquil and off-limits to vehicles that tear up the fragile ecosystems. One bad actor can do a lot of damage.

    There are lakes which should be off limits to power boats and SeaDoo type watercraft too. It s nice to e able to get away from the noise.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:21:34 PM PST

  •  What is the mileage on your motorcycle? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I thought that in general they are not particularly efficient, given the drag and high power ratio.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:52:10 PM PST

  •  As long as motorcyclists stay on the pavement... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I would think so.

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