Is cycling/mtb a right or a privilege and should we, as riders, have to pay for this privilege?
What do I think? Well I would love to tell you it is your right to ride a mountain bike and do it where ever you please but we do not have things like freedom to roam acts as they do in countries like Scotland and others. So it is a privilege. Is the act of riding a bike in general a right or a privilege? Well I would say that it is your right if you are using it as transportation, especially if you pay taxes. You paid for those public streets that you use and share with vehicles and other pedestrians and you are using it as a mode of safe, cheep and environmentally safe transportation. If you are using it strictly for recreation, then I would have to lean towards the privilege side again. Nothing you choose to do for your own enjoyment is your right. You have the right to have enjoyment and pleasure in your life but you don’t have a right to anything that leads to that unless it is inside your own home or on your property. If it is outside of that area it is on public land or someone else’s land, at that point unless it is a necessity of life, I know for some of you like me believe MTB is a necessity but it’s not, it is not a right, it is a privilege bestowed upon you by the land owner or manager and we need to respect that but should we have to pay for that? Do we already pay for it in some form or fashion?
Yes, we, as the mountain biking community, do, at least hear in MN, especially the Metro area. We have organizations such as MORC and MOCA that are non-profit groups that do the majority of the maintenance and that work is all done by volunteers from the MTB community. I feel we are already paying for this privilege in our blood, sweat and tears but not all of us are doing this. Should those that don’t volunteer to maintain have to pay more? Above and beyond their MORC dues and possibly even more if they aren’t a MORC member? Some people think so, do I?
In short, no, I don’t think that we should have to pay anymore to use the public land then we already do with our blood sweet and tears, taxes and donations to the organizations that maintain these facilities. However if money is truly needed and these facilities are endanger of going away would I be opposed to such fees? No, if the money is truly needed and will be used to maintain the facilities, build new trails and go directly toward this location even if it isn’t used for materials but used to pay salaries of the works, that is fine and I am all for this but ONLY IF NEEDED. Also, if they do charge a fee it better not just go back into the city or county fund and be used on non-park things or to pay some politician more money that they don’t deserve!
How should this be approached? Well first off let me give you a little background, this topic has been going on for years throughout the MTB community here in MN and there are multiple threads on the MORC site but just recently a post was posted with a link to an article from GA where they state is considering charging to ride MTB in many of the most popular sites. (http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-trails/advocacy-alert-three-ga-state-parks-to-target-mountain-bikers-with-a-trail-fee/)
The major difference here is that these sites are all in state parks and governed by one body. They can set a flat fee across the board and riders know what to expect. We already have a couple places that do charge to ride and none of them are MORC sanctioned trails. Hill Side in Elk River which is in a city park, they charge a small fee I can’t recall but I feel it’s like $3-4, there is no one there that requires you to check in or makes sure you pay but it is required to my understanding and their might be a fine if you don’t. I’m not sure. The other is Afton Alps, this is privately owned ski area and they have the right to charge what they please and that is currently $9 and that is why I have not rode there and it’s not high on my to do list. I haven’t heard many great things about the course and at $9 a pop don’t have much desire to ride there. It is a shame because with the location, they could have the best MTB course in the state and justify such a price. I know of a fact that this course doesn’t see near the use out as other locations such as Lebanon Hills which is free and has a much better reputation.
I would be willing to pay $25 or so to ride a lift assisted MTB Park! I know lots of people that would but again it would have to be a quality built facility with awesome runs. A lift to old boring repack isn’t going to cut it.
So if we are to start charging to ride or paying a fee to, will this affect how much or often people ride or discourage new riders from trying out our already extremely expensive sport? It might…. I really feel that if you are going to charge more than a couple dollars to use it, it really needs to justify the price tag. The trails will have to be high quality, which they pretty much are already and that will be in the eye of the beholder to a point, and their will need to be a certain requirement of the amenities at the location. I don’t feel that a place could charge even $5 a day to ride if they do not offer running water and bathroom facilities.
I don’t know how paying to ride the metro trails would work out or how it would be organized. Would all the trails be pay to ride? Would all the trails be the same price? Should they be? How would one differentiate the pay scale? Who would be the governing body? Not very many trails are in the same city or even the same county. Who would be collecting the money? How would it be spent? Would there be season passes? Would you have to have one or multiple season passes? Would there be a discount or a benefit to being a member of MORC? Say a 25% discount or something. Would there be a way to earn a free pass through volunteer work as they do in GA? There are so many unanswered questions that would need to be covered before this could really happen.
I can’t answer all these questions, nor do I want the responsibility of doing so. IMO if they start charging for trail use I don’t think it will affect the core users, as most of them are adults with “real” jobs and can afford to pay for their hobbies, however you might ostracize the younger people from getting into the sport or from parents from letting a child try another new and expensive sport as MTB already demands hundreds to thousands of dollars to get started and to keep riding. Also it might tax lower income people right out of the sport.
I personally don’t think it is a good idea but is it inevitable? Probably, how long till it happens or how much it is going to cost , I don’t know but I know if there is a politician someplace involved in this decision they will be looking to make a buck so it’s only a matter of time!
It’s something to think about and even talk about! Let me know what you think……
Keep it real!