Can hikers and cyclists coexist?

Lately the outdoor community has been buzzing about mountain bikers and hikers sharing the same trail, specifically the  Pacific Crest Trail and according to Rocky Mountain Journal, a 2-mile section of trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ve written about sharing the trails before but for some reason the debate surrounding the Pacific Crest Trail seems downright nasty.

Those who think that the Pacific Crest Trail should be closed to bicycles cite reasons like “it’ll change the dynamics and experience of the PCT” and “if that happens I’ll go out of my way to pull step-over logs across the trail on blind corners.” They also argue that the Appalachian Trail isn’t open to bicycles, so why should the PCT open itself to cycles.

Those who support bicycles on the PCT simply write, “in thinking about the myriad reasons why we as cyclists want access to the Pacific Crest Trail, our thoughts always somehow come full-circle, back to the notion that we, just like everyone else who enjoys the PCT, are devout nature enthusiasts…We have a profound respect for our environment, the places we ride, and the people we share the trails with.

We haven’t hiked the PCT yet but I’m sure that if bicycles are permitted there will be an increase trail usage, at least initially, along with environmental impacts, safety concerns.

It kind of reminds me of early debates in the downhill ski community regarding letting snowboarders on the mountain…”they’ll destroy our trails, run over our kids, and ruin the culture of the sport,” were common quibbles.

Personally I’m torn. On one hand I believe that hikers and cyclists can safely co-exist. On the other hand there is something cool about being on a trail that’s just for those traveling by foot. Frankly, I’m just glad they aren’t considering opening the trail to ATVs.

And it’s become somewhat of a good guy vs bad guy debate, hikers trying to make mountain bikers out to be the bad guys and mountain bikers trying to claim the moral high ground.

When it comes to hikers and mountain bikers, there is no good guy or bad guy, we’re all just trying to play outside. Rarely do we encounter a jerk who is a hiker or a jerk who is a mountain biker. For the most part people on the trails are good, they say “hi,” they step aside, they follow good trail etiquette. We’ve picked up trash left behind by hikers and mountain bikers and both forms of recreation leave a footprint on the environment.

One thing is for certain, If the PCT were open to cyclists, you can be sure that we’d want to ride the trail just as much as we want to hike it.

What do you think, can hikers and cyclists co-exist?


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  2. Sara |

    Hiking around Pole Mountain you occasionally come upon a mountain bike. Really it’s only an issue if they’re flying around a curve, as they are wont to do, and come barrelling at you. You can sometimes hear them on their way down the mountain, which helps. Most bikers are considerate, cautious, and generally even quiet. So yeah – learn to deal with it, widen the trail, be considerate. Another trick is to make trails one-way, so you don’t have as many surprises with oncoming traffic.

    • Rebecca |

      I agree, most of the time it’s simply a matter of good trail etiquette from both the hiker and the mountain biker. I’m a huge fan of one-way trails too, they just make sense when people are sharing the trails.

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