Exploring the Environmental Impacts of Mountainbiking

Exploring the Environmental Impacts of Mountainbiking

The environmental impacts of mountain biking are a topic of frequent, and sometimes heated, discussion by advocates, tourism promoters, environmentalists, and land managers. Unfortunately, misunderstandings and stereotypes exist, and in the worst cases, poor information is used to make decisions about trail access. While there are many anecdotal and emotional responses to mountain biking, what are the actual impacts?

While not extensive, scientific research into the impacts of recreation trails is mostly focused on erosion and damage to vegetation. All trail users have some level of environmental impact, but in most cases, we accept that the impact is minor and outweighed by the benefits to trail users, such as exercise and a connection with nature. In many cases, the impacts of trails are acceptable because they occur in an area with other development (such as roads) or because they focus use within a defined, manageable corridor.

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A comprehensive review of existing studies indicates that mountain bicycling has a similar level of impact as hikingand less than that of equestrian or motorized use. This is in part due to the fact that mountain bikers tend to stick to designated trails, while equestrian and motorized users may have a greater tendency to travel off-trail. Additionally, mountain biking tends to have a higher user density than equestrian or motorized use, which can help to distribute impacts over a larger area.

Of note is that mountain bikers and hikers affect trails differently. Where hikers are more likely to travel off-trail to cut switchbacks or avoid muddy areas, mountain bikers are more likely to displace soil through skidding. Fortunately, this potential damage can be mitigated with proper trail design, construction, and maintenance techniques such as those developed by the Professional Trail Builders Association (PTBA). These techniques include the use of berms, drainage structures, and erosion control measures to help minimize the impacts of mountain biking on trails.

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Impacts to wildlife are another concern. Each animal species is unique, so no overarching statements can be made about the effects by mountain bikers specifically versus trail users generally. Obvious factors such as the number of users, noise, speed, canine companions, or the propensity to stop and view wildlife could affect a given species. Generalizations, however, are inadequate given the variety of reactions by different animals and each case must be studied independently.

There is no scientific data to indicate that mountain bikers have a greater negative impact on wildlife compared to other trail users. The best way to minimize impacts on wildlife is to avoid areas with sensitive habitats, such as nesting or breeding grounds, and to use trails during non-sensitive times of the year. Additionally, education and outreach programs can help to inform mountain bikers about how to minimize their impact on wildlife.

In conclusion, it is clear that mountain biking does not negatively impact natural resources more than other uses. With this knowledge, we should strive to minimize the particular impacts of trail riding by applying proper development and management techniques thus providing the benefits of mountain biking while being good stewards of our lands. By working together, mountain bikers, land managers, and environmentalists can find ways to balance the needs of the sport with the protection of natural resources.

/ Landschaftsschutz und Mountainbike, 2015, David Müller & Karina Liechti, Switzerland


/ Mountain Biking: A Review of the Ecological Effects, 2010, Michael Quinn & Greg Chernoff, Canada


/ Environmental Impacts of Mountain Biking: Science Review and Best Practices, 2007, Jeff Marion & Jeremy Wimpey, USA

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developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan

developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan

developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan

developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan

developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan

developing trail-based tourism

finland

austria

switzerland

japan