Want to mountain bike in Rocky Mountain National Park? A new bill opens the possibility

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Mountain bikes have been banned since the 1980s from federal wilderness areas, leaving riders to salivate over places like Great Sand Dunes National Park or the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness.

This could be you. (Pdemille/Wikimedia)

This could be you. (Pdemille/Wikimedia)

Two Republican senators from Utah want to change that, the New York Times reports. If they succeed, managers of wilderness areas would have to write up reports on whether or not bikes should be allowed.

That would open the door for bikes to be allowed into a lot more areas. Right now, wilderness areas generally only allow people and their animals, including horses.

Bikers have wanted access to these places for a long time.

In the Times, one advocate argues that the best way to preserve land is to keep people interested in it. If they’re biking it, they’ll care about it. (Hunters make a similar argument.)

This piece in Outside Magazine argues that bikes cause only about as much damage to trails as hikers, and far less than horses.

The Wildlife News has the counterpoint, contending that bikes contribute to a “growing mechanization” that ultimately detracts from the goal of preserving wild places. In other words, the power of a bike gives people too much power to zip through nature.

And then there’s the legal question.

The Times asks whether this bill wouldn’t chip away at wilderness protections.

A representative of the Wilderness Group describes it as an “attack on one of our bedrock conservation laws … championed by two of the most anti-environmental members of the Senate … designed to drive a wedge between the recreation community and conservationists.”

Nothing’s simple, man.