Professional mountain biker Mike West was caught riding in an area around Flagstaff Mountain back in March that’s closed to protect golden eagles. After pleading guilty to “driving a vehicle in violation of the regulations,” he was sentenced to 60 hours of community service, three days in jail, and slapped with a $500 fine. His three day prison sentence and the fine have been suspended – as long as he doesn’t get in trouble over the next year. The article I read also notes this isn’t West’s first offense – he was given 12 hours of community service in 2006 for a similar offense – so that may have played into the sentencing decision.
Boulder is clearly sending a message with the prosecution and harsh punishment. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t great: the city council was set to consider allowing mountain bike acesss in the West Trail Study Area just days after the news broke. Not surprisingly the council “voted to uphold a current ban on mountain bikes in the vast majority of the study area.” (though we’re guessing they would have done this anyway)
West says he didn’t know the trail was off limits and he regrets his actions. He’s scheduled to speak to students in Boulder about the negative consequences of riding illegal trails and the environmental impact that often follows. During his trial West was suspended from the Yeti team, though he’s since been reinstated by team leaders.
The video below shows a short interview with Mike and I really found myself identifying with what he’s talking about: the desire to explore new trails, experiencing natural beauty from the seat of a bike, and also the need to get involved in advocacy groups like IMBA. Very few of us can say we’ve never ridden an unofficial mountain bike trail; this incident should just solidify our resolve to get more great trails open to bikes and to promote the low impact nature of mountain biking to non-riders.