Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bikers & Hikers vs. the ATVs

Per an article over at Isthmus Daily Page, there's some controversy a-brewin' over how and by whom the Badger State Trail should be used. The trail, just opened in July of this year, currently runs from Paoli to the Illinois border (with plans to connect it to the Capitol City Trail in Madison). While cyclists, hikers, and casual strollers are all allowed on the trail year-round, ATV riders are restricted to only using a small portion of the trail and only during the few months when the ground is frozen but snow-free during the winter. This apparently has the ATV folks all in a tizzy because, let's face it, people should be allowed to do whatever they damn well please and wherever they damn well please, consequences be damned.

I'm being sarcastic, of course, which I admit is a poor way to make a good argument. I'll switch tactics, then, and say what everyone who's ever studied this sort of thing has already said: ATVs and other motorized recreational vehicles cause extreme damage to trails and their surrounding environments, generate a great deal of noise and air pollution and can make conditions very unsafe for those people sharing the trail on bike or on foot.

ATVs should have (and do have) their own separate places to ride, locations removed from residential areas and well-maintained so as to avoid too much negative impact on the soil, etc. ATVs should not be allowed on trails built for and frequented by pedestrians and cyclists. This keeps the majority of people happier and safer.

As is often the case, however, a few ATV activists have taken it upon themselves to try to push through changes to the rules governing trail usage. These vocal few don't appear to speak for the many, though: "A study by Bob Smail, a graduate student in the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources, found that fewer than 175,000 ATV owners — less than 6% of the state's population — take their machines on public land. And, of those who do, most were satisfied with the quantity and quality of available trails." (TDP)

So why the need to gain access to the Badger State Trail? Why can't it be left alone for the enjoyment of people whose hobbies are less taxing on the land, air and neighbors? What's with this selfish "I should be free to do anything I want even if it impedes on the freedoms of others and destroys the world in which I live" attitude?


Speaking of less heavy things relating to the trail, I'm adding this to my list of things to do next spring: biking the Badger State Trail and staying at Earth Rider Cycling Boutique and Hotel. I'll also be waiting for the city of Madison to finally get around to connecting the BST to the Capitol City Trail here in town.

(photo credit: State DNR)


Mauricio Babilonia said...

Yeah, the cyclistas are aware that there's a push from the ATVers and we're in the early stages of formulating a response. I'm a little disappointed that the Bicycle Federation has not shown more leadership on this issue.

Meanwhile, here's a ride report.

Emily said...

Good to know, and thanks for the heads up.

By the by, your blog is great and I'm linkin' it, if you don't mind.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

You're very kind. I think I'll return the favor. Always good to meet a fellow Surly Madisonian!

The Lost Albatross