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Thursday, March 24,2011

Bikes and 'boarders

By Stewart Sallo

Editor’s note: This letter was e-mailed to each individual member of Boulder City Council.

To our esteemed Boulder City Council members: Suzy Ageton, Matt Appelbaum, KC Becker, Macon Cowles, Crystal Gray, George Karakehian, Lisa Morzel, Deputy Mayor Ken Wilson and Mayor Susan Osborne:

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an avid mountain biker. I enjoy riding several times a week, weather permitting, and for me that includes temperatures as low as 40 degrees, so long as the trails are clear and rideable with no residual damage. I have been known to get up at the crack of dawn, sneak away from the office in the middle of the day or hit the trails after work, rushing home for dinner after dark to the disapproving but understanding eyes of my mountain biking addiction-enabling family.

When I hike, I am constantly assessing the suitability of every trail for riding. When the trails are covered in snow and I am relegated to my road bike or (gasp) stationary bike, I often close my eyes and dream of the day in the not-too-distant future when I will be enjoying the unparalleled fun and beauty of being out there on my mountain bike in the gorgeous Colorado wilderness.

Like thousands of other Boulderites, I am passionate about mountain biking. But as the founder/owner/publisher of Boulder Weekly, I am even more passionate about truth and justice than I am about mountain biking. For almost 18 years now, Boulder Weekly has fought hard to distinguish truth from lies and has stood up against injustice when wrongs were committed — or were about to be committed.

As a Boulder resident and mountain biker, but mostly as a seeker of truth and justice, I have followed the West TSA controversy with great interest. And now that we have arrived at the moment of a final City Council decision about mountain bike access in this pivotal area, I am deeply concerned that much of the truth of this controversy has been obfuscated by vitriol, deceit and the same manner of partisan politics that we in Boulder condemn on a national level. Consequently, I am writing in an effort to illuminate the truth of this situation.

There are numerous facets to this issue that merit attention. But rather than break them down and reiterate the many good points that have been made during this passionate debate, I believe it will be most helpful to shift gears for a moment and create a useful context for this subject with history and an ideal metaphor as our guides.

Although modern snowboarding has been around since 1965, when a Muskegon, Mich., engineer named Sherman Poppen invented the “Snurfer” for his daughter by banding two skis together and attaching a rope, snowboarding was not recognized as an official sport until 1985 when the first World Cup was held in Zrs, Austria. Despite the widespread official acceptance of snowboarding by the winter sports community at that time and the explosive popularity of the sport, during the mid-1980s snowboarders were banned at 93 percent of U.S. ski areas. In their desire to continue to cater to their wealthy, elitist clientele, ski resorts were afraid to permit what was (mis)perceived as a new, dangerous trend on their exclusive mountains. Simply put, despite the exploding popularity of snowboarding, NIMBY (not in my back yard) resort executives and their skiing customers sought to prevent the young and growing snowboard crowd from infiltrating their slopes.

Thus began a war of propaganda that was waged by the elitist skiing community in which snowboarders were demonized as rude, dangerous and disrespectful hoodlums who threatened the safety, quality and sanctity of the slopes that skiers felt they had a right to call their own.

Despite the vitriol that was being discharged by the skiing establishment, the snowboarding revolution continued. Once relegated to backcountry terrain, there are now some 6 million snowboarders shredding at virtually every ski resort in the world, and some 80 percent of the younger generation who engage in winter sports choose snowboarding over skiing.

Most relevantly, over the past two decades the feud between skiers and snowboarders has done a fade to black. Despite their differences — expressed in terms of demographics, speed, style and attitude — both groups share an enjoyment of the beauty of nature and their own version of the exhilaration of outdoor winter sports. Skiers and snowboarders peacefully co-exist in the mountains and have learned to share the trails they love, while respecting and even admiring each other.

During recent decades, the sport of mountain biking has boomed in the same way snowboarding has, and over that same period the Boulder mountain biking community has grown to numbers almost equal to the hiking community. And due to the timing of the West TSA segment of the very admirable work being done by the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) division, a pivotal moment has arrived with respect to the use of the open space areas our community supports for the benefit of all.

But here in our peaceful little village we are fomenting a feud between hikers and mountain bikers almost identical to that in which skiers and snowboarders once engaged. During recent weeks, mountain bikers have been characterized as “a narrow-minded band of selfish vigilantes,” “a small, inconsiderate bunch of arrogant kids,” “20-something, Lycra-clad adrenaline junkies who are ready to mow people down,” “adrenaline-fueled, meat-headed, irresponsible young people,” and “a greedy subset of people who see nature as something to use and conquer.”

These comments are deceitful, untruthful and shameful, and they should be seen for what they are: a desperate and ill-conceived concerted effort on the part of the NIMBY component of our community to demonize mountain bikers and hoard trails for their own private use, at the exclusion of their fellow citizens. This unseemly tactic didn’t work with snowboarders, and we must prevent its success with mountain bikers.

The fact is that mountain biking is here to stay, just as was the case with snowboarding when the NIMBY ski community embarked on its similarly propagandized and ill-fated campaign. As Boulder City Council members, you have the duty and the opportunity to put an end to this manner of partisan politics and demonstrate outstanding leadership by refraining from relegating Boulder citizens who wish to enjoy our open space areas by mountain bike to the very limited terrain that currently exists.

Just as skiers and snowboarders now peacefully co-exist the world over, hikers and mountain bikers can share our mountain trails harmoniously for the benefit of us all. Our community is an ever-changing place, and the needs of Boulder citizens have changed as more of us have discovered the extraordinary sport of mountain biking. As the good servants of the community that elected you, we trust you to set aside the reactionary pleas of those who desperately cling to a world that no longer exists, so that the current needs of the Boulder community of the present, and the future, can best be met.

Respectfully yours,

Stewart Sallo

Boulder Weekly publisher and Boulder citizen

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Great article! As someone who started snowboarding in 1986 and mountain biking in 1988 I have felt discriminated against most of my adult life. How can they mountain bikers are selfish? We want to share the people rallying against mountain bikers are the selfish ones.




Good article. As a hiker, I don't really care about this whole controversy and think mountain bikers should have access. But I have encountered mountain bikers who were rude and insulting, accusing me of kicking rocks into the trail, when I did nothing more than say hello to them. As a community, you hold the key to your image. Do not let your sense of persecution turn you against anyone not on two wheels.



Stewart, you're off-base on this one. Your analogy doesn't track. Skiing and boarding have a lot in common, including speed and sportiness. Hiking and biking have nothing in common beyond that they occur outdoors.

Wanna know why I project street experience to trails? Just *yesterday* my daughter and I were shopping on 29th Street. We happened to obtain an angled parking space across 29th from Sunglass Hut. We walked across the street and were angling through the bike lane about to make contact with our vehicle. A lycra clad biker approached. Yield to pedestrians? No way, brother. Instead this dude snidely remarked, as he blasted by, " it's a bike lane, stud." So I replied "we're at our car, stud."

Another example of bikers wanting it all. Pissed when cars don't see or yield to them and pissy if peds don't. Unwilling to yield to pedestrians like they ought.

No, I'm not characterizing all bikers all the time. But this is my predominant experience of bikers on routes around town, be I walking or driving, when our paths cross. By "paths cross" I mean in too-close proximity. Jeez Louise, I can't win no matter on foot or 4 wheels. The biker always jeers.

This is the experience hikers fear. And we do fear it, because we stand, so to speak, to be injured.


I see your point, but how do you suppose this is for car and bikes? Who do you think stands to be injured there? I am sorry to hear of your negative cyclist encounter. To be honest there are bad apples everywhere. I once was cut off driving on hwy 36, although I am not going to plead with the cc to stop all traffic, because there are a few rude drivers. It just happens, every day and everywhere. Were you in a crosswalk? Did you look both ways for traffic? I know in Colorado\Boulder all traffic is supposed to stop but I would never trust that to happen, especially if I was walking with my kids. Also the law is for crosswalks not just for anyone crossing the street. None the less I would agree the cyclist was rude, BUT what if he had to swerve out of your way, out of the bike lane, into traffic and was hit by a car, then who is at fault? You, the driver, or the cyclist for not staying in his lane. As a pedestrian, you should be following the laws just as much as anyone else! YOU can cause accidents that can injury or even kill people. As for the “pissed” cyclist it’s quite hard to say that they “want it all.” I hate to see anyone get pissed and it does convey a negative attitude, but sounds to me cars and peds have it all and want even more.


Hi Jason, In the instance I cited we were angling through the bike lane traversing the back end of the vehicle parked next to ours. Due to this approach I recall looking afield and seeing the rider some parking slips away. And he saw me. Prudent riding would have had him do what he would want larger vehicles then his to do: defensively, casually and safely yield without comment. But he *had* to comment, as if he now owns bike lanes because automobile drivers "own" the roads. And again, this rider was not dressed for work, he was dressed for racing, yet riding in shopping mall's main arterial. This brings to mind the notion that we don't ride bikes, we *drive* them. I wonder if that term would help make a difference for bike drivers? Is that a term that bicycle organizations have considered or would consider introducing?



And, Stuart, upon reflection, OSMP is not at core a playground and cannot be compared to commercial ski areas. Methinks you're biased on this one.


Hey bart, thanks for the clarification. If we are going to allow 2 ton 200 horsepower vehicles into the "mall's main arterial" why not allow a 170lb one humanpower vehicle? Or maybe we say no “sport cars” allowed in the mall? He could have been going home after a group ride or even a race (hence the getup), maybe this was a shortcut. Maybe he lost the race and was in a bad mood. If it was me I probably would have went around (yielded) and said nothing. He was rude, but not all cyclists are rude. I can guarantee that! In fact I believe this area has some of the most friendly cyclists, motorists, and peds I know of!



Nice article -- the analogy isn't exact but it certainly conveys the overall point that accommodating another user group is feasible, and reasonable. Hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers have plenty in common and most of us are willing to share. Not only that, but the mountain bikers aren't asking for anything like equal access in the West TSA (despite have equal impacts) but only want a few miles of trail opened for bicycling.