Ever stare off into the distance at green rolling hills and wonder, whose land is that and can I ride there? If you’re in the East Bay, it’s probably water district land and no, you are not allowed to mountain bike on its trails, which are otherwise open by permit to hikers and equestrians.
However, things could change this year as the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) considers allowing bikes on limited perimeter trails as part of updating its master plan. The idea is to open up important trail sections — 7 miles in rural Pinole and three shorter 1 mile segments in the Berkeley and Oakland hills — to help connect the Ridge Trail for bikes. When complete, this visionary multi-use trail would provide hikers, bikers and equestrians a continuous and car-free loop that follows ridge lines around the San Francisco Bay.
This is huge and all thanks to the advocacy of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, who have helped EBMUD develop a 2 year pilot project to test ride these 10 miles of trails for bikes.
However, at the community meeting this Monday, things didn’t sound very rosy for biking. Speakers from equestrian, hiking, and native plant conservation groups outnumbered mountain bikers 3:1 in the room. They almost uniformly labeled mountain bikers as plant tramplers, rut makers, reckless trespassers, and dangerous liabilities.
This is why I urge you to write EBMUD right now. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by the close of business on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. Don’t forget to cc’ your EBMUD representative (find your rep here). Find the full text of the watershed master plan update here.
Speak up, because I know you’re out there, the responsible and community oriented mountain bikers all out there enjoying the trails with me. Here are just a few pictures from trails – all bike legal – in the East Bay hills. This is what we are fighting to protect, ride, and connect. All of these spaces are natural and contested, hand-built and man-made, native and invaded. It is up to your imagination and our political will to make it beautiful for bikes.
As a staff member of Bike East Bay, I threw my helmet into the ring as well. Here was my comment for the EBMUD board of directors, made at 9:10pm after already 2.5 hours of public comment:
Thank you EBMUD staff and board members for sticking it out with the rest of us. I’m here as a staff member of Bike East Bay, a trail building volunteer with the Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay, and, despite my appearance as a fit, young cyclist, I am a botanist in disguise. I have a Master’s in plant biology from UC Berkeley and I received my training in the ecology and evolution of California plant communities. My favorite thing in the world is to go mountain biking during the California spring blooms.
I’m here to speak in support of the proposal to connect access for bicycles around the Bay Area Ridge Trail. I’m also here to offer Bike East Bay’s full support in reaching the biking community as we work to educate users on how to safely share the trail to enjoy our beautiful natural areas in the East Bay.
At Bike East Bay, we work to make the East Bay a great place to ride because everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and affordable way to get around. In addition to advocating for bike friendly policies, we run a bicycle education program that teaches over 5,000 kids and adults every year to ride safely and with confidence. We also have extensive experience working with community outreach. Earlier this year, we received complaints about people speeding on the Bay Trail in Richmond. We deployed volunteers to talk to cyclists during commute hours to get the word out about slowing down and sharing the trail responsibly.
So, I want to offer the assistance of our 4,000 members and volunteers in raising awareness for safe cycling on our shared trails in the East Bay, so that more people can learn important life lessons like, “Leaves of three…Let it be.” Or, leaves of three… that’s a Giant Trillium blooming for just a short time in our California spring. Thank you.
I also want to give a big shout to other important advocates in the room. That this proposal is in the plans at all is all thanks to this persistent and growing community of mountain biking advocates in the Bay Area. In addition to the Ridge Trail Council, these include the Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay (BTCEB), our local trail stewards and mountain bike advocates, and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), which was founded in Berkeley and promotes youth mountain biking nation wide. They spoke for you at the meeting. Please support this movement by volunteering, and also financially by becoming a member or by making a donation.