Mountain Biking Degrades Public Parks

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“It’s such an exhilarating rush when you fly down hills at top speed,” he said. (“New Sports Team Takes to the Trails,” Jan. 30 edition).

Just what our parks and wildlife need: high-speed habitat shredding machines! Where is our educational system going wrong, that kids and even some of their teachers think that this is okay?

Mountain biking is the only sport that is actually illegal! Most parks have a speed limit, so racing a mountain bike is against the law. Only places with low environmental standards allow it. What kind of citizens are we producing, when we teach them that the rough treatment of our parks and other wildlife habitat is acceptable?


Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

San Ramon


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  1. Mike-

    Kids like to ride their bikes. But, just like a kid with a new driver’s license, there’s much to learn.

    We don’t encourage racing in our wilderness parks. We have special closed course venues for that. A cross country mountain bike race is typically won by the kid that can climb uphill the fastest, well under 10 mph.

    These kids are learning trail etiquette, fitness, and safety. Our goal is for these kids to understand the issues facing our local parks and then take that knowledge and set a new standard for habitat care and respect.

    Tony Zentil
    Team Director
    Laguna Beach Interscholastic Mountain Bike Team

  2. I applaud anything that gets kids away from video games and outside and engaged with nature. Kids in a cross country mountain bike race, spend most of their time huffing and puffing as they climb hills before they briefly descend at safe speeds and in full control. These young athletes respect other trail users and are not the extreme mountain bikers that you may see on TV.

  3. My tax dollers are used for the parks too. Yes I like to ride my bike in the park. Get off your bottom and go get some fresh air. Stop complaining about everyone and everything. If you don’t want to share too bad. Mountain bikers take care of the parks, I bet you have never lifted a finger to take care of a park. Go eat some donuts and leave us alone.

  4. The author has been on a crusade against mountain biking for many years. He is certain he is right, but he couldn’t be more wrong. Mountain biking is good for kids. Myself and friends are teaching this awesome sport to kids and coaching high school teams where mountain biking is becoming a mainstream part of high school athletic activities. It’s popularity is continually increasing in spite of Mike’s hate and misguided editorials.

  5. Tony Zentil: “The issues facing our local parks” include habitat destruction (even if you think the habitat you destroy isn’t important, you aren’t the best judge of that; the wildlife are), erosion, and driving other trail users (i.e., the MAJORITY of the park-using public) off the trails and out of the parks. On all of those measures, mountain biking (especially mountain bike RACING) fails. You think that the rough treatment of our parks is acceptable, and that is what you teach (by example) your kids. In those circumstances, nothing good can come from it. You need to learn something about conservation biology, and learn a sport that isn’t illegal….

  6. Let the kids have their fun. Would you rather see them breaking into to houses and cars, yours perhaps, which would lead to drug activity and violence. Let them have fun outside, doing something healthy and productive.

    • What’s “healthy” about having a serious accident or dying? What’s “fun” or “productive” about destroying parks and other wildlife habitat? Most kids are able to have fun and lead productive lives without engaging in crime OR mountain biking. In fact, mountain biking usually LEADS to crime: illegal mountain biking and trail-building. Mountain biking is what passes for “fun” among people who have nothing productive or challenging in their lives. Mountain biking and mountain bikers are utterly boring. What’s the benefit or sense of speeding through the woods without looking at any of it???

  7. Because your intentions are that children learn to treat parks with respect does not mean it will happen. You generalize that bikers are good, careful, respectful users of natural areas. There are many accounts indicating the exact opposite from around the world. Please spend less time finding insulting things to say to those whose opinions differ from yours, and spend that time exploring the problems created by mountain bikers in parks. And, there are many. Acknowledge the problems and work with others to diminish distruction of natural park lands. Do not become so entrenched in your views that you cannot see ways to solve the problems that do exist with moountain biking in natural areas.

  8. Mike Vanderman, I honestly cannot believe the argument you are trying to make. I grew up in Laguna Canyon and could not hold a higher respect for our wilderness parks. Growing up in Laguna, I can honestly say that I was one of only a handful of kids who used the local trail system, or even knew about it. To hear about the new bike team, and interest in the sport makes my jealous I didnt have that growing up. That being said, I never once rode on a trail that wasnt already established or caused any damage to any part of the environment. If you think its a better idea for a kid to hop on a rode bike and go play in traffic on PCH,you obviously havent read the paper in the last year.

    • Please read all of the references I gave. They will explain exactly why I said that mountain biking is destructive. Unless you know something about conservation biology, you probably can’t understand the issues. Even when you stayed on the trail, you caused erosion – much more than if you had walked. The solution to the PCH isn’t to ride on the trails, and sacrifice the wildlife, but to get rid of the cars!

  9. Mike Vandeman, I honestly cannot believe the argument you are trying to make. I grew up in Laguna Canyon, and could not hold a higer respect for Lagunas wilderness parks. I can confidently say that growing up in Laguna, I was one of a handful of kids who used the local trail system, or even knew about it. When I heard about the new bike team, I was jealous that was something I didnt have growing up. That being said I never once rode on a trail that was already established, nor have I discovered any new trails built in the last 20 years. If you think its a better idea for a kid to hop on a rode bike and go play in traffic on PCH, you obviously havent read the paper in the last year.

  10. “Our goal is for these kids to understand the issues facing our local parks” … except for the issue of habitat destruction caused by mountain biking and trail-building. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to promote mountain biking without lying, just as it’s IMPOSSIBLE to promote wildlife conservation while allowing mountain biking.

  11. As an avid mountain biker, after listening to Mike I have gotten religion. He is correct, any incursion into the wilderness causes issues. Even walking. Therefore we should not allow any human into the wilderness (except those with PhDs that have the ability to silently hover as they observe). It is a disservice to our children to have them outside and exercising, I am now returning from any outside activity for fear of disrupting the environment and god forbid speeding.

    Thank you Mike for the enlightenment.


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