adventure golden sunshine

You’ve crawled uphill for 45 minutes and finally reach the entrance to your trails. The day starts here.

You drop into the line, and take the opening corners perfectly. A rare achievement in itself. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and you're slamming down the trail, picking up speed as you go.

You fly down a drop, going faster and faster, wind behind you, and then just as you’re past the crux of the run... you get flashed by a speed gun and fined hundreds by the police for your efforts.

Not exactly how you wanted that sentence to end is it? And what if we told you that on some trails, that could soon be the punishment even if you’re only riding at 16mph. It's a sad truth.

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

We’re talking about the news that speed guns are to be introduced at a trail centre near San Francisco in a bid to impose a 15mph speed limit on mountain bikers in the area.

The speed guns will be deployed in open zones and on shared trails in Mount Tamalpais park, and manned by two Marin County rangers assigned to appear around the 34 open spaces in the park, encompassing 16,000 acres.

In our view, the move seems rather unnecessary, and is possibly just an indicator that trail etiquette should be something more commonly taught to mountain bikers and promoted, rather than forced upon them.

It’s common trail etiquette to take care in highly-populated parts of the mountains and hills and make sure you don’t scare any animals or walkers - though they should also be respectful to mountain bikers as long as they're not causing any danger.

But at the same time, this seems excessive – particularly the 15mph limit that has been decided on, and the precedent that this could set if one or two silly riders cause serious incidents or infringements in other parts of the country or even the world.

It seems fair at least to only have the limit in open spaces, where there are a lot of people around, but the suspicion that it could easily move up to cover all of the trails if there are incidents elsewhere is surely now looming.

San Francisco Chronicle

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, The Interim Director of Marin County Parks, Pat O’Brien, confirmed that the majority of mountain bikers are indeed courteous and responsible, seeming to confirm that it is the few rather than the many who have brought this change about.

“For years we’ve had concerns expressed to us about safety on unpaved road and trails," he said. “So we think it’s natural to use a proven program in our open spaces.

Photo: Uros Svigelj

“I wish to emphasise that the great majority of bike riders respect safety when they ride on the Open Space trails."

The dp guns will be active almost immediately, though a "warning period" will precede the introduction of fines in the area.

“Oh my God they come whizzing up, out of nowhere, and they yell at you to move over. It’s scary."

Local bike mechanic Matt Wheeler expressed his concerns about the effect this could have on his work and the economy, saying: “It feels like crawling. People come from all over the world to ride mountain bikes on Mount Tam. We don’t want to discourage people from doing that, do we?"

And a Texan-rider who had made the long journey to ride and had reportedly even crashed at 30mph that same day went as far as saying: “they’re going to ruin the sport if they make people go 15 miles an hour."

Hikers are predictably more on board with the change, with a local dog walker Beth Greer saying: “Oh my God they come whizzing up, out of nowhere, and they yell at you to move over. It’s scary."

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