On April 6th, 2018 Bicycling Magazine took a break from telling its readers they needed the latest $10,000 super bike to post an article by Ayesha McGowan. The article is about diversity, or more correctly, the lack of diversity within the cycling community.
Before going any further take a few moments to read Ms. McGowan’s article.
Ms. McGowan’s article is so powerful not only because she points to a real problem in the bicycling world, but includes relatively simple fixes to these problems. While the article is aimed at the corporate/industrial side of bicycling, the fact of the matter is that bicycling is more than Specialized’s graphics department. It’s all of us that use bicycles and love bicycles, whether we ride to work or on the trail.
What are other ways that the industry and us, as cyclists, can help ensure cycling appeals to everyone?
While man has always sought to fly, in the post-World War 2 time period, there was a growing interest in the idea of “flying cars”, that is personal flying devices that could pull into a garage and then whisk their inhabitants off to a location. At the time, it seemed like the stars had aligned for just such a reality. Thru the war, 2 inventions were refined that seemed to make this possible: the gas turbine and the helicopter. In fact, German engineers had developed the intermesh helicopter, a type that auto hovers. Many of those engineers and scientists found their way to the United States via Operation Paperclip.
On paper, a flying car sounds great. Faster than ground transportation and able to go point-to-point versus following roads. However, in practice, the idea of a flying car is a nightmare. Besides the complexities of actually flying an aircraft, there is the matter of preventing all these flying cars from running into one another. Then there is the fact that conditions in air are always changing as the atmosphere takes on many properties of a fluid in a vessel, with competing air currents and changes in air flow. From that time till today, history is littered with failed flying car ideas, some famous, some not so famous. In the end, the idea of the flying car remains (and likely will always remain) an idea.
When it comes to user management techniques, there is one that sounds like a great idea on paper, but a nightmare in actual usage: Alternating Use. This leads to the following questions:
Let’s see how the idea is not matched by the reality.
Many things come in boxes, from the small boxes for jewelry to the large heavily built boxes for appliances. In mythology, it was Pandora’s Box (though in the original Greek it was a jar) that contained all the ills of the world that were let loose when Pandora decided to take a peek. In religious connotations, the Jewish Ark of the Covenant was an ornate box to hold the original tablets of the commandments.
There is another type of box we will consider, one containing mountain bike trails. This type of use is known as Boxed Use. To know what comes in that box, we need to answer the following:
Let’s lift the lid and see what Boxed Use all about!
While we think of some cars as being “hybrids”, having both gas and electric powerplants, the greatest use of hybrids has always been in agriculture. Farmers realized certain types of wheat had more yield, but were fragile and other types of wheat were hardy but had low yield. The answer: pollinate one type with the other and cultivate the wheat that had both characteristics; yield and hardiness. From the moment man began farming, creating hybrids, either on purpose or by accident, was just a basic part of the process. Today, large percentages of fruits and grains we consume are hybrids in some way.
But what if, as we are creating urban mountain biking trails, we need a little bit of this and that? Is there a way to do what a farmer would do, mix the attributes of various user management techniques?
There is, and that is called Hybrid Use. To explore this user management technique, we need to know the following:
Let’s do some cross-pollination and see what we get!
When you do laundry, you are well aware of the need to place certain colors and fabrics in separate loads. Cottons, whites, colored. This type of segregation of clothes is important as placing certain clothes together can damage them. Reds and whites are a common example of this, as either the colors will run, turning whites pink or the red will be bleached out.
While we have spent the last 3 parts of this series talking about how to share trails, today we go a much different direction: ensuring these users that previously shared, never share. Much like the laundry, we are going to sort them, segregating them in other words, into their unique experiences. If that is the case, we have some questions we need to answer:
Preferences can be strange things. Some preferences, like our favorite flavor of ice cream are relatively minor with little or no influence on our lives. Others, like whom we wish to form romantic attachments to, can be very powerful and they can be one of our defining characteristics. Many preferences change with time and a few stay the same our whole lives.
When it comes to trails and users on those trails, we can make choices that sort users and show that we prefer one set of users. Therefore:
Get your favorite ice cream spoon out as we dig into Preferred Use user management techniques.
Raising Children Australia, says the following about “sharing”:
Sharing is a vital life skill. It’s something toddlers and children need to learn so they can make and keep friends, and play cooperatively… Sharing teaches children about compromise and fairness. They learn that if we give a little to others, we can get some of what we want as well. Children who share also learn how to take turns and negotiate, and how to cope with disappointment. These are all important life skills.
While it’s safe to assume most of us learned how to share at home and kindergarten, it does raise some questions that are pertinent to the idea of shared trails:
How do you manage users on the trail? They will be there, often without knowledge of the trail and its history. Some will have no idea that different user groups are going to be there also. So how can you make sure everyone has a good time? How can you ensure everyone knows how to interact?
The way to manage these experiences is known as “user management techniques”. This article is the first in a series on user management techniques and how to use them for urban mountain biking.
Mountain biking, as a sport and recreational endeavor, isn't very old. Depending on how you define the moment mountain biking was born, mountain biking is around 40 years old. In those 40 years, we’ve gone from cobbled together rigid bikes to bikes able climb to and descend on nearly every terrain available. We’ve gone from a group of hippies to one of the fastest growing sports for high school kids.
There is a lot to be proud of.
But we have brought some baggage with us that, much like disco and sex in a van with an airbrushed desert scene, is better left behind. What could that be? It’s simple: illegal trail building and trail riding.
Its human nature to assume the things we like or accept as normal don’t have a large negative environmental impact. Things we don’t consider to be that big of a deal can have huge effects, like man made clothing materials or earthworms.
Years ago, there was a video by an environmental group that involved a young mother who returned to an area where forest thinning operations had taken place and complained about how it was a travesty to have any logs cut. Like a certain commercial from the 1970s, a tear literally did run down her cheek. Yet, she explored this area wearing a North Face puffy jacket made with polyester and stuffed with dacryon. Do you think she knew the difference in impacts she was illustrating? That area of forest would be back to its old self in her lifetime. Within her children’s lifetime that section of forest could be considered “old growth”. Her jacket would pollute the environment for the next three hundred years (at a minimum). The infrastructure required to create the materials of that jacket, i.e. petroleum, and ship them to factories and then to stores in her area directly destroyed hundreds of times the forests than the thinning operations. The carbon released by all this shipping threatens every forest on the planet, which, if the math is right, is much larger than the forest she shed tears over.
Can we, as mountain bikers, find ourselves in a similar Catch-22? Can we overlook a large impact that is front of our nose? How can we quantify existing conditions at a site before creating trails? Is there a way to quantify conditions after creating the trails?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.