Facts, Not Fiction.
40 years ago, forward-thinking men and women invented mountain biking right here in Marin on the flanks of Mt. Tam and Pine Mountain. These nature loving innovators, makers and free spirited artists are now internationally renowned for their contributions to society that go well beyond sport or engineering. Mountain biking has become a cultural touchstone in many communities around the world.
For a brief moment in time, mountain bikers peaceably shared all the trails of Marin with other users. In 2019 though, mountain bike access to narrow trails in Marin is disproportionately low compared to other user groups locally as well as compared to mountain bike access in other parts of the Bay Area, California, the United States and worldwide.
Unfortunately, mountain biking in Marin is sometimes portrayed as out of place on public lands, tolerated rather than celebrated. Mountain bike access is largely relegated to over-grade, rutted fire roads, many of which were built decades ago when recreation and environmental protection were scarcely considered. Such fire roads are not only less enjoyable, but they are less safe than narrow trails, which inherently keep speeds down while also drastically reducing environmental impacts.
It is not easy to point to a single event or decision to explain why mountain bike access in Marin has historically been so contentious and restricted. Sadly, the public dialogue and legislative process have long been informed by a culture of misinformation and myths. On the bright side, Marin land managers are beginning to acknowledge and address the public’s desire for greater access. The process is slow, but positive.
the fact is, there is no substantiated, reasonable cause to prohibit increased mountain bike access to narrow trails on public lands in Marin.
There is nothing inherent nor unique about Marin — not topography, demographics, flora or fauna — that necessitates an overly prohibitive stance. Numerous peer-reviewed studies show both safety and environmental impacts from mountain biking are comparable to that of hiking and lower than that of equestrian use. Multi-use trails in Marin do not generate higher incident rates than bike-restricted trails. In fact, conflict and negative experiences on trails are extremely rare with the vast majority of all trail users reporting good to great experiences on trail.
The statistics below are drawn from, among other sources, visitor use surveys conducted by Marin Open Space and Marin Municipal Water District, a trail conflict study contracted by California State Parks and several peer-reviewed research articles including work by Jeff Marion, co-founder of Leave No Trace and preeminent scholar on recreation ecology.