Guest editorial: Debate about e-bikes on Park City’s trails must be driven by facts
Mountain Trails Foundation
In response to the recent guest editorial from Andre Shoumatoff, we are compelled to answer on behalf of the Mountain Trails Foundation (MTF) and hopefully prevent the dialogue from journeying further down the rabbit hole of dysfunctional discourse.
The e-mountain-bike (e-MTB) discussion needs to be driven by the facts and not by the misinformed opinions of individuals who have something to gain financially. Here are 10 irrefutable facts:
Fact one: As Park City’s trail advocacy group, MTF’s approach to the e-MTB issue is, as it has been for nearly 30 years on a wide range of trail-related issues, to facilitate meaningful, civil discussion that leads to solutions that the Park City community can embrace.
Fact two: E-bikes are regulated under Title 10 of the city’s municipal code. Pursuant to this code, riders 65 years and older, and “persons with mobility disabilities,” are permitted to use Class 1 e-MTBs on trails.
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Fact three: Currently, there is no sanctioned permitting process or “sticker program” to identify age or mobility disability on e-MTBs. However, Mountain Trails does support the development of such.
Fact four: Disseminating false information does not generate donations. MTF enjoys a long history of credibility and staff would be tarred and feathered for discrediting it. We wholeheartedly believe our donors are smart enough to discern between fact and “mumbo jumbo” as Mr. Shoumatoff says. MTF’s reputation for consistently delivering accurate information to engage the public is indisputable.
Fact five: In the last 28 years of service to the Park City community, we have received one cash donation from the bike industry (poor effort on their part) and, unlike Mr. Shoumatoff, MTF has no vested interest or financial benefit tied to e-MTB use on Park City trails.
Fact six: Mr. Shoumatoff’s admitted lack of foresight on the emerging popularity of e-MTBs, and his confusion as to what the word “motorized” means, speaks to a shortness of vision and minimal time spent in the outdoor industry. As Joe Vadeboncoeur, who worked with Trek for 28 years, stated in a letter to the bike industry, “stop denying that e-MTBs are motorized, they are.” Several years ago, MTF recognized the trend and acknowledged that in order to move forward, the bike industry, government and general public needed to concur with the fact that e-bikes have motors and therefore are motorized. What we do with that fact thereafter is central to the discussion.
Fact seven: Mr. Shoumatoff’s purported inability to go uphill faster on an e-MTB is simply a function of physics and effort. MTF’s executive director, a runt of 170 pounds, found he could nearly double his speed uphill. MTF’s executive director was, of course, riding an e-MTB legally.
Fact eight: Most trail systems in Utah are on federal or state lands that have different obligations for accommodating user groups. The Park City trail system, on the other hand, exists primarily on private lands, with public easements that are customized, to meet wildlife, environmental, trail design and landowner concerns. Given these factors, combined with Park City’s unique topography and trail diversity, this trail system is very different from any other trail system in Utah. Thus, deeper examination of the impacts of e-MTBs on this unique trail system is warranted.
Fact nine: Comparing our first-world, e-MTB problem with the grave seriousness of racial profiling, political corruption and fearmongering is totally off the rails. The issue is not about inclusivity or “systematic discrimination.” The issue is about designing regulations for a specific recreational activity, in public spaces, to ensure safe, wonderful, environmentally sustainable outdoor experiences for all. This precept is consistent across the outdoor recreation landscape. For example: we are not allowed to bait-fish on fly-fish-only streams, nor can we duck a ski resort rope because there is better powder on the other side. Regulations are protective mechanisms adopted by society for the greater good.
The Mountain Trails Foundation — a nonprofit, trail advocacy group with nearly three decades of investment in Park City’s trail system — strives to ensure that the decisions and policy formulated for the management of e-MTBs are in the best interest of our entire community. This means that vetted data and Park City trail users — not the bike industry, not the state and certainly not those with monetary interests — guide these decisions. Money should not be a driving factor in this conversation.
The introduction of e-MTBs on Park City trails is a far more complex issue than meets the uninformed eye. At this point, without a full understanding of all impacts, both positive and negative, MTF acknowledges that it is not in a position to advocate, one way or another, for a public policy that will forever impact our local trails.
At this time, MTF and a host of other organizations are in the process of researching the implications of e-MTB use on Park City trails. We hope the public will join the conversation by taking the survey that can be found at http://www.MountainTrails.org. Results of this survey will help direct the e-MTB conversation and guide future public policy in Park City.
In closing we would like to say that leadership is, in part, recognizing when there is a need for deeper understanding. It is time for the e-MTB issue to stand and face fair examination. In the meantime, may patience and level-headedness prevail.
Charlie Sturgis is the executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, Lora Smith is the development director and Rick Fournier is the field director.
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