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Bikers versus hikers: B.C.’s war of the woods

On British Columbia’s busy mixed-use trails, a battle for space is raging, complete with tripwires and snares


 
Nanaimo RCMP

Nanaimo RCMP

From the seat of his bike, Sterling Eyford thought he saw a shadow. It was an early August morning in 2013, and Eyford was riding along Kings Road in Victoria, headed to his 5 a.m. shift at the CBC. Even his high-powered light could not pick out the black electrical tape strung across the road. The 35-year-old radio producer came flying down a hill, then hit the tape. He flipped over his handlebars and landed on his jaw, fracturing it in two places. The impact nearly severed his spine. His neurologist was stunned he was not paralyzed, given the extensive damage to his vertebrae. He kept grabbing Eyford’s thigh—“You can feel that? Are you sure?

Eyford, who was riding a popular cross-town cycling route, was one of a growing number of cyclists, hikers and mountain bikers being snared in traps in B.C. The dangers have been most evident in the province’s woodland parks, where hikers and bikers are increasingly jostling for space and tensions are running high. Last week, the RCMP arrested a 64-year-old woman for setting traps on the renowned mountain bike trails on Vancouver’s North Shore. Police stopped her at 5 a.m. as she emerged from the woods, allegedly after laying rocks and logs across the steep, slick rainforest trails on Mount Fromme; RCMP are crediting two bikers, who collected video evidence from infrared cameras they had hidden in trees high above the trail, with her arrest.

Cam McRae, founder of North Shore Mountain Biking, an online magazine, said the pair, who wish to remain anonymous, took action after repeated complaints that debris was being laid on the trail, increasing danger to bikers: “If you come around a blind corner, you have no ability to stop,” says McRae, 49, a pioneer of the radical, freeriding North Shore style of mountain biking. “The trails are so steep and so fast.”

Elise Roberts, a 59-year-old who leads seniors walks in the area, does not condone the behaviour of the woman but understands her frustration: “This issue is only going to escalate if policies are not put in place to separate hikers and mountain bikers.” Roberts is “horrified” by the media’s treatment of her: “She’s being demonized for allegedly taking the law into her own hands to, I suspect, protect her safety on a multi-use trail.”

Record numbers of British Columbians are flooding the province’s trails to hike, snowshoe, ride dirt bikes and exercise their dogs. Some were former hiking trails, now designated as mixed use. “It’s getting crowded,” says Mike Nelson, a board member with the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association. Confrontations are becoming more frequent.

In 2013, B.C. authorities issued a warning after a rash of close calls with tripwires and booby traps: A Victoria mountain biker had his throat cut by a steel wire strung across a cycling trail. An eight-year-old girl was clotheslined on a Chilliwack trail. A labradoodle and then a jogger were snared by crude, ugly traps laid on the Grouse Grind, a popular hiking trail in North Vancouver. In Merritt, in B.C.’s Interior, a pipe bomb was found at the trailhead of a popular path used by dog walkers, hikers and cyclists. It was set to explode when the gate was opened. Across the border in Oregon, a psychiatrist pleaded guilty to assault in 2013 for stringing nylon cords between trees and planting nails in the ground. He told a forest ranger he did it because “he did not like downhill mountain bikers.”

But the fight has been most heated on Vancouver’s North Shore. There, a labyrinth of dark, wet trails over rotting trees, thick roots and hunks of granite have been cut into the mountainside, redefining what is possible on a bike and spawning a $30-million bike and tourism industry. Monica Craver says she has been repeatedly attacked online for her opposition to the encroachment of bikers onto area hiking trails, where they have damaged frog and mushroom habitat. Recently dubbed “the spawn of Satan” on Twitter, she has been the subject of online forums with titles such as “Monica Craver needs to get a life.” “These bikers are bullies,” she says. Craver believes the woman arrested by the RCMP was simply trying to protect herself and the trails she loves.

Eyford views actions such as hers differently. He will need surgery later this year to remove a vertebra. He still can’t feel his jaw and hands, which have permanent numbness. “These people are acting maliciously, laying traps so cyclists break their necks. Had this woman not been stopped, there is no way a mountain biker wouldn’t have died.”


 

Bikers versus hikers: B.C.’s war of the woods

  1. I would have no problem with laying attempted murder charges against someone who sets traps as described above (or murder if someone dies as a result). That’s not to say I don’t understand how hikers could become frustrated with cyclists who don’t properly share the trails.

    “If you come around a blind corner, you have no ability to stop… The trails are so steep and so fast.” Any trail with blind corners should NOT be mixed-use trails. Or cycling trails, for that matter. Any trail that matches this cyclist’s description, while undoubtedly fun for the thrill-seeker, is a potentially deadly accident waiting to happen.

    Sounds like BC needs to get its act together to properly regulate these trails – and enforce the use regulations. Mixed-use without clear sightlines is pure negligence.

    • I agree. They should designate some trails for biking and others for hiking. In Calgary, they actually set a speed limit on the flat bicycle trails and police on bikes monitor it and catch speeders. The mixed use bike paths are awful. Many years ago a man going 40 kms/hr on his bike killed a very elderly man when he hit him on the bike path. Mixed use paths just don’t work.

    • Skull Trail is designated as mountain bike primary. This means that it’s signed as such at the top and the bottom of the trail. It’s also very easy to hear bikes coming down the trail. Mixed use trails have longer sight lines and features to slow cyclists down. This woman clearly wanted to hurt a cyclist and hid her actions by carrying out her sabotage at 4-5am.

  2. Ja, give them clubs and let them fight it out! Why are the nature lovers so angry? So very, very angry.

  3. It’s astounding and head-scratching to read comments from people like Monica Craver that justify life-endangering trail sabotage as a necessary step that people take to protect themselves and their trails. The sabotage in question occurred on a trail built by bikers, that they gladly share with hikers. Yet, when a person then goes and lays traps for the bikers, people have the audacity to defend such actions? It seems that 95+% of trails users are reasonable social people. However, the select few zealots that are willing to justify criminal actions to lay their claim to the woods seem beyond logic or reason. There are regulations in place, and groups like NSMB have been leaders in forming positive relationships with other trail users, and they spend countless hours working with local government to maintain trails and educate users. Unfortunately, there is no negotiating with the fanatical anti-MTB minority faction that seems to think they have some special claim to nature. And a note to others, don’t mix your issues. Mixed use city pathways have nothing to do with trails in the woods built by bikers. Different regulations, different circumstances, and very different user groups.

    • Upon reading Mr. Tesluk’s comments we can clearly see the unsettling divide between the “bikers vs. hikers” mentality. His use of the term “fanatical” can easily be used to describe both sides of the coin, if you wish to take sides. But, the whole issue is much more complicated than the “us vs. them” attitudes that prevail.

      Multi-use hike-bike trails are dangerous, with many incidents in North America of hikers getting badly hurt, or killed, by bikers colliding with them. Some of these incidents are reported. Many are not. The aggressive, pugilistic nature of those mountain bikers inside our forests is most likely why so many people don’t wish to confront them face to face? Canadians happen to be much too polite about such things, unlike our neighbours to the south of the border. Mixed use pathways have just as much to do with “shared” trails in the forest. Hiking/pedestrian paths and trails should be kept separate from biking paths and trails.

      A couple years ago, a few medical doctors in Oregon voiced their concern over multi-use hike-bike trails being a bad idea to begin with: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/06/in_forest_park_biking_and_hiki.html

      Separating hiking trails from biking trails will go a long way in alleviating the present conflicts we are still seeing. A hiker/pedestrian doesn’t stand a chance against collision with a metal bike and rider with a combined weight of 100kg, speeding up to 20km or more. The reason why these multi-use trails exist is because it is cheaper, and there is little will by the land managers and authorities to enforce bikers who ride on hiking only trails.. Every trail becomes a “multi-use” trail for mountain bikers, if not enforced.

      There is an overblown sense of entitlement that exists around mountain bikers and so many other cyclists these days that make them a serious threat to pedestrians, hikers, and motorists. Different regulations, different circumstances, and very different groups… maybe….but still makes for a dangerous situation when they all try to “share” the very same spaces. I know of hikers and pedestrians who have been badly injured by cyclists sharing the trails, paths and sidewalks. Many of them don’t bellow loudly, and publicly, like the mountain bikers do when injured or “offended”. I wish they would. But, will our authorities and land managers take note and act accordingly? It remains to be seen. So far their record has been dismal across the board.

  4. Yes, I use the word “fanatical” to describe anyone that defends criminal acts that threaten the lives of others. I have referred to events that have been documented as fact (i.e. trail sabotage and individuals quoted in defending it). There are also many other cases (documented as fact), including one man initialed M.V. who attacked several mountain bikers with a saw, as clearly documented in police report and newspapers. This individual is likely trolling this very forum under a pseudonym. So while I refer to factual cases of cyclists lives endangered by “fanatics”, my respondent uses unsubstantiated claims that have nothing to do with the case at hand.

    So while our mystery respondent refers to unsubstantiated generalizations to paint cyclists broadly as the enemy, while I target only the minority of people that try are using the criminal actions of one person as a platform for their own anti-cycling campaign. I applaud the land managers and local governments that have worked hard to support multiple uses in the woods. This is no easy task, and I see no cyclists in this forum decrying hikers or other classes of trail users in broad sterotypes to serve their own narrow interests. Indeed, the “fanatical” lot seem to target cyclists for all manner of evil. Cyclists as a threat to motorists? What a laughable and indefensible suggestion, that only a reality-departed individual could suggest. I challenge anyone to show that cyclists pose a threat to motorists, and not the other way around. The next thing you know, cyclists will be blamed for global warming. I think this forum has done a fine job yet again of revealing the anonymous trolls that hide behind acronyms, and who would rather try to paint cyclists as the enemy, rather than join in the denouncement of criminal action (i.e. documented trail sabotage, on a trail built by cyclists). It seems you are either against life-endangering sabotage, or in the small and factitious group that futilely attempts to manufacture reasons to blame the situation on cyclists. While the vast majority of hikers and multi-use trail users seem to welcome cyclists (and all their hard work in maintaining trails), a reluctant embittered few continue in their myopic quest to paint cyclists as “the problem”. Good luck with that. The rest of us in civil society will carry on with getting along.

    • Just to clear up some facts that keep getting spread across the mountain bike WWW. MV is not a criminal. He has no criminal record, thanks to mountain bikers’ heavy prejudice against him, others, and people like the unnamed woman you demonize, “trying and convicting” her before she has been even charged! You are no angel, yourself, Mr. Tesluk, writing articles in the NSMB.com rag, like this one, to stir up the pot:

      http://nsmb.com/granny-booby-traps/

      This, and your comments sound pretty “fanatical” to me. Seriously, Mr. Tesluk?

        • I don’t lie about something I have direct knowledge about. That article was written by a journalist very biased in favour of the mountain bikers. Here is some proof:

          http://sfist.com/2010/06/02/anti-mountain_bike_advocate_attacks.php
          “Update: All charges against Mike Vandeman have been dropped.”

          Thus, Mike has no criminal record. There was no real evidence, except for the fact a couple mountain bikers were riding on a Hiking Only trail, ignoring “NO BIKES” signage. Your story link comes from mtn.biker journalist writing a biased piece to favour mountain bikers, in any case.

          This is the truth that mountain bikers refuse to acknowledge. They keep putting this senior on trial over and over again… It is sickening! Mountain bikers really hate hearing the truth, and anyone who dares to challenge them. And that is a fact.

          We are not fanatics. We are just people who are sincerely concerned with the safety of others on trails and paths, and for the ongoing well-being and ecological health of our forests, riparian areas, watersheds and wildlife who reside there. Double black diamond expert-rated MTB trails, like Skull, should not be built so close to residential areas, intersecting with hiking trails. And, a proposed extension of that same trail, in 2015, onto a residential street is very poor “planning” by our District Parks land managers. But, as I stated before, mountain bikers like yourself are bullies. Very few will have the nerve to stand up to bullies.

          But, I am not writing all this to spar with mountain bikers, but to educate non-mountain bikers that the whole “biker vs. hiker” issue is much more complicated than meets the eye, or even what the above article covers. I trust people can decide for themselves…

          Please stand down.

          • “Double black diamond expert-rated MTB trails, like Skull, should not be built so close to residential areas, intersecting with hiking trails. And, a proposed extension of that same trail, in 2015, onto a residential street is very poor “planning” by our District Parks land managers. But, as I stated before, mountain bikers like yourself are bullies. Very few will have the nerve to stand up to bullies.”

            It is interesting how the land managers and owners (CMHC, DNV, BC Park…) deemed (MTB’ing) as perfectly acceptable on the land they administer and oversee, but you do not. The NSMBA.ca are trail advocates, made up of 100% volunteers, that build and maintain ALL trails on the North Shore for ALL trail users, yet that is still not enough for you. You want it all planned, designed and executed to the tune of your sole vision, and no other way will suffice. While not all trail users are polite, you say MTBers are the bullies? Oh the irony! Dear Pot, please meet kettle.

  5. Yes, thank you for recognizing my fine writing elsewhere. I have received endless compliments for my satirical deconstruction of the sterotypes that the anti-MTB fanatics hide behind. Clearly, I hit the target, and the target has a horrible case of denial.
    While we are on the subject of denial, it is also laughable to refer to cyclists as being characterized by their sense of entitlement. This blatant hypocrisy ignores the fact that the trail sabotage identified in the article occurred on a trail built and maintained by cyclists. Wow. Someone goes and endangers the lives of cyclists on a trail that is fully compliant with local regulations, and you accuse the cyclists of entitlement rather than focus on the selfish actions of the criminal perpetrator. So yes, I demonize the ACTIONS of the perpetrator, and take great relish in seizing the opportunity to emphasize the fact that the anti-MTB groups so eager to claim the high moral ground are repeatedly exposed as criminals and people willing to use violence to achieve their goals.
    It almost feels unfair to sit back and pick-apart the faulty logic and double standards spewed out by the anti-MTB cult (who again, I emphasize represent a small small portion of the non-cycling public). This “war” truly exists only in the heads of those that see cyclists as some sort of enemy pariahs. Meanwhile, the vast majority of hikers, cyclists, and trail users carry on enjoying the woods and each other’s positive regard.
    So yes, fanatic fanatic fanatic. That word seems apt for people willing to use violence, or excuse the use of violence to expel mountain bikers from the woods. Your school-ground effort to spin the word “fanatic” back at me only reveals your total lack of purchase in this discussion. I bid you good day, and wish you good health.

    • Not so fast! I have direct knowledge of this fact, so why would I lie? I have nothing to hide, nor defend. Plus, black and white proof in an online article from San Francisco — if you search deeper you can find more info…

      http://sfist.com/2010/06/02/anti-mountain_bike_advocate_attacks.php
      “Update: All charges against Mike Vandeman have been dropped.”

      **Thus, MV has no criminal record** There was no real solid evidence, except for the fact a couple mountain bikers were riding on a Hiking Only trail, ignoring “NO BIKES” signage… Your story link comes from mtn.biker writing a biased piece of journalism favouring mountain bikers, in any case.

      This is the truth that mountain bikers refuse to acknowledge. They keep putting this senior on trial over and over again… It is sickening! Mountain bikers really hate hearing the truth, and anyone who dares to challenge them. And that is a fact.

      We are not fanatics. We are just people who are sincerely concerned with the safety of others on trails and paths, and for the ongoing well-being and ecological health of our forests, riparian areas, watersheds and wildlife who reside there.

      Double black diamond expert-rated MTB trails, like Skull, should not be built so close to residential areas, intersecting with hiking trails, in the first place. And, a proposed extension of that same trail, in 2015, onto a residential street is very poor “planning” by our District parks and land managers. But, as I stated before, mountain bikers like yourself are bullies. Very few will have the nerve to stand up to bullies. (That is why there are “so few of us” around who do speak up.)

      But, I am not writing all this to spar with mountain bikers, but to educate non-mountain bikers that the whole “biker vs. hiker” issue is much more complicated than meets the eye, or even what the above article covers. I trust people can decide for themselves right from wrong… Please stand down.

      • I won’t stand down until you stop lying and distorting the facts to fit your narrow view of the world. MV was convicted by a jury of his peers for his assault on a mountain biker with a saw. It’s a fact, and thus it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

        There are mountain bikers that need education on their actions. There are also hikers that need education on their actions, and the same goes for equestrians. There are responsible and irresponsible trail users of every ilk. What I don’t understand is why you spend so much time advocating for a small issue when there are much bigger environmental and ecological ones out there (dams, loss of agricultural land to development, oil pipelines, etc). I suspect it has more to do with selfish and NIMBY reasons on your part that you’ve decided that you just don’t like mountain bikes and so you’ve decided that that will be your cross to bear.

        • What part of “direct knowledge” do you not understand, T_J? **The charges for MV have been dropped.** He has no criminal record.

          Anyone who digs deeper can find that information for themselves.

          Why are you so angry when someone speaks the God-honest truth? Why do you mountain bikers keep “trying and convicting” MV over and over again?

          • Monica, I’m never quite sure if you’re so blind that you’re unintentionally lying to yourself, or if you’re trying to twist the truth by lying to everyone else. I can claim direct knowledge as well. The blog linked below has MV himself admitting that he was sentenced and that he served his time as community service. He was charged, tried by a jury of his peers, found guilty, and sentenced. I’m not sure how you can deny this but undoubtably you will.

            http://www.mtnbikinggirl.com/index.php/2011/03/coverage-on-vandeman-trial/

            No anger, I’m quite happy because I rode my bike today. Smiled at some hikers, smiled at some other bikers, no one got hurt and everyone enjoyed a beautiful day. Later I will take my 3 year old out and we will hit the trails. He’s quite an accomplished rider.

  6. Actually, MV was convicted of battery, as he himself clearly acknowledges: http://www.mtnbikinggirl.com/index.php/2011/03/coverage-on-vandeman-trial/ Note my link is dated 2011, compared to your 2010 link. I guess that trumps your point, and perhaps suggests you check your half-facts before wading into the big kids area of the pool.

    The more you banter on here MEC, the more your sound reason comes into question. The story that started this page is about dangerous traps set for bikers, and you spend your time inventing excuses for the perpetrators and defending their potential motives, instead of denouncing what is clearly criminal behaviour. If it was any other crime of violence (name one), would you dare to speak up to defend the perpetrator while blaming the victims? Under what conditions is that considered a civil or defensible position?

    I will never “stand down” from a person that has the nerve to take sides with people that use violence to get their way. The gross hypocrisy of you calling bikers “bullies” is difficult to stomach in light of the (documented) serious injuries riders have endured at the hands of trail saboteurs (see article above).

    I also have to ask, who is “we”. I’m not sure who you are grouping yourself in with, but it seems there are few people that want to join your parade, and I am sure most trail users (hikers, bikers or otherwise) have a mutual interest in seeing that criminal endangerment and sabotage of trails is dealt with effectively with stern punishments. You just go ahead spinning your boohoo web in some strange effort to look like a victim and the voice of reason. It must be getting awfully lonely out there on that branch you keep sawing off.

    • What part of “direct knowledge” do you not understand, JT? **The charges for MV have been dropped.** He has no criminal record.

      Anyone who digs deeper can find that information for themselves.

      Why are you so angry when someone speaks the God-honest truth? Why do you mountain bikers keep “trying and convicting” MV over and over again?

  7. “God-honest truth”???? What part of the word “fanatic” do you not understand?
    And please do not try to label me as “angry”. I am very happy. Your pathetic attempt at labeling others has no power here. After years of your efforts to demonize cyclists, it must truly taste foul to learn that labels can work in both directions.
    Here we have a story about life-endangering trail sabotage, and you use the opportunity to argue the legal status of other people involved in violent attacks on cyclists, and waste your time defending the perpetrator in North Vancouver who has had charges recommended to the Crown by the police. As for MV, it is not possible to have charges “dropped” after a conviction for battery is obtained. Please stop arguing against reality. The conviction is documented far and wide. We have no need to try and convict over again, it is already documented as fact.
    How do you no see how irrationally stupid this makes you look as you continue to deny reality? And how do you not see that you are simply digging yourself a deeper and deeper hole by tying yourself to these acts of violence by justifying them as some type of protective measures?
    I stand by the vast majority that are dedicated to getting along and sharing the woods, and choose to distance myself from those that advocate or defend the use of violence. But feel free to go ahead and bind yourself to MV and also the NorthVan saboteur. It will simply make it that much easier to spot the fanatic amidst the vast crowds of reasonable happy people…Yup! there is the fanatical one, waving the “God’s honest truth” flag, and desperately trying to wage a war that nobody else wants to fight.
    I would like to say that it’s been a slice revealing the hypocrisy and indefensible nonsense in your words MEC, but the “God’s honest truth” is that you seem to do a pretty great job of that without anyone else’s help. I think my work is done here. I shall exit this conversation permanently now, and provide you the space to launch one last retort, protesting the innocence of your fellow acolytes, and desperately trying to wriggle and squirm one more sentence that will somehow make everyone see the “truth” you see. Come on MEC, you know you want to do it. Yo have to do it. The bouncing cackling goblin inside your mind commands you to answer once again with a verse from your sacred book of anti-MTB scriptures.

  8. A new website (www.BikeMaps.org) allows citizens to report collisions, near misses and hazards on all bike routes. It works worldwide and could be useful for early detection of growing conflict on roads, multi-use trails, or Mt bike trails. As well, the website is a repository of data on cycling incidents that can be used for better planning.

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