The controversy surrounding the Sustainable Trails Coalition and their goal of getting mountain bikes into wilderness areas is heating up for round two, with articles and editorials dropping in many publications, including Bike Magazine and Outside Online. I personally think many people initially wrote the STC’s efforts off as a wild shot in the dark, but following the news that their Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2015 is currently being analyzed on Capitol Hill, many people are finally realizing how serious and organized STC actually is.
However, IMBA still isn’t on board, as Mark Eller’s December 1st blog post made clear.
Today, December 7th, Philip Keyes, executive director of NEMBA and MTB hall of fame inductee, published an open letter to IMBA exhorting them to both support the Sustainable Trails Coalition and to reaffirm their 2010 stance that mountain biking is solely a human-powdered sport–that e-bikes are not mountain bikes. It’s worth noting that NEMBA is IMBA member #150, and as such has been affiliated with IMBA essentially since day one.
The letter is extremely well-written, and you should read it in its entirety, here.
But here are a few choice quotations from the letter. On the topic of supporting the STC:
IMBA’s current position to not support the STC will negatively impact IMBA regardless of the success or failure of the STC. Conversely, IMBA will benefit by supporting the STC regardless of the outcome. If the Sustainable Trails Coalition is successful at modifying the Wilderness Act without IMBA’s support, IMBA will appear as irrelevant and out-of-date, basically sidelined in what is arguably one of the most important access initiatives ever undertaken by mountain bikers. On the other hand, if IMBA offers no support to STC and STC fails, many mountain bikers around the country will lay blame on IMBA for not getting involved or providing the assistance necessary for success. Not supporting STC is a lose-lose for IMBA. On the other hand, if IMBA supports the Sustainable Trails Coalition it will benefit regardless of the outcome. If the STC initiative is successful, IMBA can truly and deservedly share in that success. If unsuccessful, at least IMBA will be seen as having the fortitude to stand up for mountain bikers and do what is right. As is said, “It is better to have fought and lost than to never to have fought at all.” The mountain biking community will understand this and will support the organizations that fight the good fight.
On the topic of ebikes:
NEMBA strongly disagrees that e-MTBs should be given their own recreational category on public, natural surface trail systems. We urge IMBA to reaffirm its 2010 position that mountain biking is a human-powered, non-motorized form of recreation and that e-bikes are a form of motorized recreation. Both may be appropriate recreational activities, but it’s important to maintain the category of non-motorized trails.
To summarize, NEMBA believes that these two national issues are critical to the future of mountain biking and we urge IMBA to support our recommendations. If bikes aren’t allowed in Wilderness, mountain bikers will always be second-class citizens on all public lands. If IMBA believes that power-assisted bikes should be allowed on non-motorized trails then our fate will be sealed as being part of the motorized community, regardless of our best attempts to parse the difference.
We urge IMBA to lend its support to the Sustainable Trails Coalition and reaffirm its 2010 position on e-MTBs.