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IN “OUTLAW BIKERS” (THE District Line, 12/2), John Briley downplays the problems caused by mountain bikers on local trails. I’ve been running on the trails in Rock Creek Park, Glover-Archbold Park, and other areas for about seven years, and I’ve seen firsthand the damage mountain bikers do to the environment. In many areas, the trails are much wider than they used to be, because bikers have cut corners and gone around obstacles such as rocks, tree roots, and stairs. In doing this, bikers have killed the plants that grow alongside the trail, sometimes even knocking over very young trees. Spots that used to dry out between rains are permanently muddy, because of bikers riding through the puddles.
Bikers also make the trails more dangerous. I’ve had a few close calls with bikers who were speeding down hills and around blind corners, clearly unable to control themselves and expecting everyone else to get out of their way. Too often, bikers demonstrate a lack of respect for both the environment and the people for whom the trails were created—horseback riders and people on foot.
The Park Police should do more to discourage bicycle riding in prohibited areas. First, the fine should be dramatically increased—$250 ought to be more of a deterrent. Second, the fine should be posted, along with “no bikes” signs, at all trail entrances. Third and most important, the rule should be enforced; I’d like to see officers out there more often, issuing tickets to violators. In addition, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club can do its part to discourage bicycling by putting in more barriers. For example, placing railroad ties across the trails would make bike riding much more difficult (and less enjoyable), but wouldn’t hinder horses, hikers, or runners at all. That’s an effort for which I would gladly volunteer.