Philip Keyes is one of the most respected names in mountain bike advocacy. Since co-founding the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA) in 1988, Keyes has grown a grassroots club into one of the most successful advocacy organizations in the nation, with more than 5,000 members across New England. As recognition for his significant efforts in helping mountain bikers gain equal access to public lands, in 2008 Keyes was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
So on Monday when Keyes sent this email to International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) executive director Mike Van Abel and board of directors chair Robert Winston, it communicated two very clear messages. First, NEMBA is urging IMBA to support the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC) and its efforts to overturn the blanket ban on bikes in Wilderness. Second, NEMBA wants IMBA to clarify its position on electric mountain bikes.
This email is one of several developments in recent weeks related to the blanket ban on bikes in federal Wilderness, the STC, and legislation surrounding e-MTBs. In the letter, NEMBA strongly recommends IMBA to support the STC, even after IMBA stated last week in a blog post by spokesperson Mark Eller that the organization will not be offering any support for STC. NEMBA warns IMBA that if they do not support the STC, they risk becoming “irrelevant” as the voice of mountain bike advocacy, particularly if STC ends up succeeding in its efforts.
Further, NEMBA wants IMBA to reaffirm their 2010 stance that eMTBs “should be regulated as with other motorized off-road travel.” Keyes goes on to say that NEMBA is, “concerned IMBA is poised to abandon this position.” NEMBA’s concern revolves around a recent independent study on the impacts of eMTBs, funded by the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association and PeopeForBikes. NEMBA is concerned that IMBA’s involvement with this research indicates they may use the data, possibly under pressure from the bike industry, to take a more accommodating position on e-bikes on trails.
This letter from NEMBA to IMBA is critically important, as NEMBA believes, “If bikes aren’t allowed in Wilderness, mountain bikers will always be second-class citizens on all public lands.” Further, “If IMBA believes that power-assisted bikes should be allowed on non-motorized trails then our fate will be sealed as being part of the motorized community.”
If you are a mountain biker concerned with future access to public lands, please educate yourself on this topic, as the two issues NEMBA addresses may well significantly shape the future of mountain bike access. To read the complete letter from NEMBA to IMBA, follow this link.