US National Parks push regulation change benefitting mountain bikers

The US National Park Service (NPS) is looking at a change in regulations that will empower park superintendents to better manage trails for bicycles, without sacrificing environmental review or public comment opportunities.

The current policy governing bicycling on NPS trails dates from 1986, and does not account for more than 20 years of research and experience managing bicycling on trails on public lands. One outdated rule is directed at motorized users such as personal watercraft, motorboats, snowmobiles, ORVs and commercial trucking, mining and aircraft. Proposed regulation changes will streamline an overly cumbersome process, while maintaining all reviews and comments required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

"[The International Mountain Bike Association] IMBA first began asking the agency to clarify and streamline this rule in 1992, when IMBA Executive Director Tim Blumenthal met with [then] NPS Director James Ridenour on the subject," said IMBA Director Mike Van Abel. "We hope to see that the process for recognizing mountain bike trails will now become more clear and efficient."

"Bicycling is a good fit for many national parks. It's a quiet, low-impact, family-friendly activity that provides a great way to get adults and kids excited about exploring America's most scenic places," says IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. "We're very pleased that the NPS intends to update its regulations to better serve visitors."

IMBA signed a formal partnership agreement with the NPS in 2005 and the two organizations have been working together ever since to create and enhance appropriate opportunities for mountain bicycling in national parks. Currently, more than 40 NPS properties host mountain bicycling, on both dirt roads and narrow trails.

A public comment period is expected to follow the pending regulation change.

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