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Local mountain bikers stage protest against trail restrictions at Pleasanton Ridge

Organizers call for more trail access amid overcrowding, safety concerns

Chris Beratlis addresses the dozens of mountain bikers who participated in the Pleasanton Ridge protest ride, including cyclists from Modesto and South Lake Tahoe. (Photo by Chuck Deckert)

Dozens of mountain bikers gathered together at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park earlier this month to call attention to what they say is a lack of trail access for cyclists to use.

Cyclists of all ages joined in on the Pleasanton Ridge protest ride on Feb. 6, calling for more trail access. (Photo by Chuck Deckert)

The Feb. 6 demonstration consisted of a protest ride along the park's fire roads, which are the only trails mountain bikers are legally permitted to use. However, the roads are shared by hikers, equestrians and other park users.

"Since we're only allowed to ride on fire roads and fire roads are about 8 to 20 feet wide and they condense all the user groups on the fire roads -- which is horseback, dog walkers, hikers and bikers -- that's where all the conflicts are happening because bikers go screaming by and it makes the hikers upset," said Chris Beratlis, who spearheaded the Pleasanton Ridge protest ride.

Beratlis, a Pleasanton resident who owns My Buddy's Bike Shop in Livermore, said this action was the result of a decades-long battle between the mountain biking community and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), which oversees and operates most of the local mountain biking trails, including at Pleasanton Ridge.

"Since day one after the park district was formed, biking was not allowed, and when they allowed it after biking became more popular in the '70s and '80s, they were only allowed to be on fire roads, just like they are now," Beratlis said. "So, no laws have changed, no rules have changed. They've treated the biking community almost as if we're outlaws, and we're not."

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Using social media to spread the word about the protest ride, Beratlis said he saw people come from other communities to support the effort, including Modesto and even from as far as South Lake Tahoe.

Over the past 20 years, Beratlis said that he and other members of the mountain biking community attended several meetings, including with the Pleasanton City Council and EBRPD, to make requests for more riding options for mountain bikers. He said that they received "nothing but 100% resistance."

Chris Beratlis (front center), spearheaded the recent protest ride to raise awareness about overcrowding on park trails. (Photo by Chuck Deckert)

San Ramon resident and avid mountain biker Ron Balthasar shared similar sentiments.

"We've gone to countless meetings -- land access meetings -- I've filled out a lot of documents, we've tried to go about this the correct way and work with East Bay Regional Park District but there's been absolutely no results and if anything it's gotten worse," Balthasar said, adding that bike riders have recently been receiving tickets for riding on other existing trails within the parks that are not designated for bikes.

Both Balthasar and Beratlis said bikers have resorted to using the alternative trails to alleviate overcrowding on the fire roads.

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"The current policies are that we're all allowed on the same fire roads, which is very, very unsafe. It's ridiculous how unsafe it is and that's what we were trying to demonstrate," Balthasar said of the protest ride.

He said that on the day of the event, he spoke to some of the hikers in the park and let them know what was going on. He said the protest was actually well-received by the hikers he spoke to who agreed that they need separate trails. "They don't want to see a bicycle coming down a hill that they're walking up," Balthasar said of the hikers.

At EBRPD parks, mountain bikers are only permitted to ride on fire roads which are shared by hikers, equestrians and other park users. (Photo by Chuck Deckert)

While the access issue existed pre-pandemic, overcrowding on the trails has become exacerbated by an influx of park users over the past two years, which EBRPD does recognize as an issue, according to Brian Holt, EBRPD chief of planning, trails and GIS.

"When gyms were closed and a lot of other things were closed, people from all user groups and stakeholder groups rediscovered the parks," Holt said, adding that the increase in demand is not going away even as pandemic restrictions ease.

Like Beratlis and Balthasar, Holt also said there have been decades of tension between the mountain biking community and the park district.

Holt said that a trail user working group that was formed after a 2019 board workshop explored several ideas and concerns among the various park user groups, including hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and others.

While the working group has since phased out, he said that their discussions led to some short-term strategy ideas for how to address growing mountain bike demand in the parks.

Among those ideas are some pilot programs that could potentially be implemented, such as operational controls like designating certain trails as one directional or exploring alternate use days for trails where mountain bikes are permitted on some days and other days are strictly for hikers or equestrians, according to Holt.

Beratlis and Balthasar both said that there are existing trails at Pleasanton Ridge and other EBRPD parks that could be designated for mountain biking but currently are not.

Holt said that redesignating trails gets into policy decisions that the Board of Directors would have to make. "Under our existing ordinance 38, bikes are prohibited on any trails that are less than 8 feet wide and that's the regulation," Holt said.

He continued, "There can be exceptions to it; certainly it's possible that the board could vote to exempt certain trails, but I think there's concerns about the user built trails in that they haven't gone through what would be the traditional process, which is environmental review and a look at how the full system works. And that's generally something that is voted on and approved by our board, and that also gives all the other stakeholders an opportunity to provide input. So that's where, frankly, this process gets hung up a lot of times."

Holt said that while addressing the needs of the mountain biking community is one of the goals of EBRPD's master plan that was adopted in 2013, it is a challenging process -- particularly amid controversy and tension that tend to make policy decisions difficult.

"We've been working with the mountain biking community for a long time and we will continue to," Holt said.

He added, "While things may seem slow and unresponsive, we're working within a difficult political and permitting environment with these types of things, so we're trying to continue to find those opportunities to partner. And moving forward, the only way any of this is going to be successful is a good partnership where we're all working together and understanding the constraints that we have at the park district and our need for environmental protection and safe trail experiences."

Beratlis said that he plans to host additional protest rides at other EBRPD parks until there is some action taken to address the biking community's concerns.

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Local mountain bikers stage protest against trail restrictions at Pleasanton Ridge

Organizers call for more trail access amid overcrowding, safety concerns

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 15, 2022, 10:16 pm
Updated: Wed, Feb 16, 2022, 11:02 am

Dozens of mountain bikers gathered together at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park earlier this month to call attention to what they say is a lack of trail access for cyclists to use.

The Feb. 6 demonstration consisted of a protest ride along the park's fire roads, which are the only trails mountain bikers are legally permitted to use. However, the roads are shared by hikers, equestrians and other park users.

"Since we're only allowed to ride on fire roads and fire roads are about 8 to 20 feet wide and they condense all the user groups on the fire roads -- which is horseback, dog walkers, hikers and bikers -- that's where all the conflicts are happening because bikers go screaming by and it makes the hikers upset," said Chris Beratlis, who spearheaded the Pleasanton Ridge protest ride.

Beratlis, a Pleasanton resident who owns My Buddy's Bike Shop in Livermore, said this action was the result of a decades-long battle between the mountain biking community and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), which oversees and operates most of the local mountain biking trails, including at Pleasanton Ridge.

"Since day one after the park district was formed, biking was not allowed, and when they allowed it after biking became more popular in the '70s and '80s, they were only allowed to be on fire roads, just like they are now," Beratlis said. "So, no laws have changed, no rules have changed. They've treated the biking community almost as if we're outlaws, and we're not."

Using social media to spread the word about the protest ride, Beratlis said he saw people come from other communities to support the effort, including Modesto and even from as far as South Lake Tahoe.

Over the past 20 years, Beratlis said that he and other members of the mountain biking community attended several meetings, including with the Pleasanton City Council and EBRPD, to make requests for more riding options for mountain bikers. He said that they received "nothing but 100% resistance."

San Ramon resident and avid mountain biker Ron Balthasar shared similar sentiments.

"We've gone to countless meetings -- land access meetings -- I've filled out a lot of documents, we've tried to go about this the correct way and work with East Bay Regional Park District but there's been absolutely no results and if anything it's gotten worse," Balthasar said, adding that bike riders have recently been receiving tickets for riding on other existing trails within the parks that are not designated for bikes.

Both Balthasar and Beratlis said bikers have resorted to using the alternative trails to alleviate overcrowding on the fire roads.

"The current policies are that we're all allowed on the same fire roads, which is very, very unsafe. It's ridiculous how unsafe it is and that's what we were trying to demonstrate," Balthasar said of the protest ride.

He said that on the day of the event, he spoke to some of the hikers in the park and let them know what was going on. He said the protest was actually well-received by the hikers he spoke to who agreed that they need separate trails. "They don't want to see a bicycle coming down a hill that they're walking up," Balthasar said of the hikers.

While the access issue existed pre-pandemic, overcrowding on the trails has become exacerbated by an influx of park users over the past two years, which EBRPD does recognize as an issue, according to Brian Holt, EBRPD chief of planning, trails and GIS.

"When gyms were closed and a lot of other things were closed, people from all user groups and stakeholder groups rediscovered the parks," Holt said, adding that the increase in demand is not going away even as pandemic restrictions ease.

Like Beratlis and Balthasar, Holt also said there have been decades of tension between the mountain biking community and the park district.

Holt said that a trail user working group that was formed after a 2019 board workshop explored several ideas and concerns among the various park user groups, including hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and others.

While the working group has since phased out, he said that their discussions led to some short-term strategy ideas for how to address growing mountain bike demand in the parks.

Among those ideas are some pilot programs that could potentially be implemented, such as operational controls like designating certain trails as one directional or exploring alternate use days for trails where mountain bikes are permitted on some days and other days are strictly for hikers or equestrians, according to Holt.

Beratlis and Balthasar both said that there are existing trails at Pleasanton Ridge and other EBRPD parks that could be designated for mountain biking but currently are not.

Holt said that redesignating trails gets into policy decisions that the Board of Directors would have to make. "Under our existing ordinance 38, bikes are prohibited on any trails that are less than 8 feet wide and that's the regulation," Holt said.

He continued, "There can be exceptions to it; certainly it's possible that the board could vote to exempt certain trails, but I think there's concerns about the user built trails in that they haven't gone through what would be the traditional process, which is environmental review and a look at how the full system works. And that's generally something that is voted on and approved by our board, and that also gives all the other stakeholders an opportunity to provide input. So that's where, frankly, this process gets hung up a lot of times."

Holt said that while addressing the needs of the mountain biking community is one of the goals of EBRPD's master plan that was adopted in 2013, it is a challenging process -- particularly amid controversy and tension that tend to make policy decisions difficult.

"We've been working with the mountain biking community for a long time and we will continue to," Holt said.

He added, "While things may seem slow and unresponsive, we're working within a difficult political and permitting environment with these types of things, so we're trying to continue to find those opportunities to partner. And moving forward, the only way any of this is going to be successful is a good partnership where we're all working together and understanding the constraints that we have at the park district and our need for environmental protection and safe trail experiences."

Beratlis said that he plans to host additional protest rides at other EBRPD parks until there is some action taken to address the biking community's concerns.

Comments

Nils Erickson
Registered user
Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 16, 2022 at 5:10 pm
Nils Erickson, Pleasanton Heights
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 5:10 pm

Their argument makes no sense at all. If people don't want to see a bike coming downhill at them on an eight foot-wide road trail, why would having a bike come down at them on a steep and uneven one-foot wide foot trail be better?

Stay on the fire road. Bikes are dangerous to hikers and riders on steep foot trails. Seems like the current policy is a good one. And it sounds like the board has already been through this before, and that's why there has been no change. Current policy is fine.


Mike Vandeman
Registered user
San Ramon
on Feb 16, 2022 at 6:50 pm
Mike Vandeman, San Ramon
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 6:50 pm

What were they thinking??? Mountain biking and trail-building destroy wildlife habitat! Mountain biking is environmentally, socially, and medically destructive! There is no good reason to allow bicycles on any unpaved trail!

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: Web Link . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see Web Link ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Mountain bikers also love to build new trails - legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat - not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals' full use of their habitat.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 16, 2022 at 7:14 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Nils and Mike are antibikers who refuse to follow the published science. They should not be allowed to post due to spreading dangerous misinformation about a group of people they don’t represent or understand.


Jerry
Registered user
Bridle Creek
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:30 pm
Jerry , Bridle Creek
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:30 pm

Hey everyone just so you know Mike Vandeman (was arrested) for assault with a deadly weapon. He actually cut a mountain biker across the chest with a handsaw. (portion removed) Here is an article

Web Link


Jeff Durban
Registered user
Del Prado
on Feb 17, 2022 at 9:48 am
Jeff Durban, Del Prado
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 9:48 am

@ Nils @ Mike - Every user group has bad apples that negatively impact the group's reputation. No one group is to blame for negative impacts to our parks and open spaces. Hikers and dog walkers leave trash and poop bags along the trails, horse riders cause extensive damage to trails and leave piles of manure in the middle of trails. Some Mt. Bikers ride off established trails or ride too fast near other trail users, but in the end, we are all tax payers who are entitled to use our parks and open spaces for those legal activities we enjoy.

What the Mt. Biking community is asking for is fairly simple. They are looking for single track trails that can be dedicated to biking. Many other parks in the State have seen the benefits of working with the Mt. Biking community to build bike only trails. Done responsibly, trails can be built with minimal impact to the environment often following nature/animal trails that are already present. The trails remove a large percentage of the riders from the main fire road trails reducing the bike-hiker-horse interactions while allowing riders to enjoy their hobby to its fullest.

If you want to see an example of how well this works, visit the Soquel Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz. Miles of trails have been built that not only help mitigate erosion of the hillsides, remove dead trees and underbrush that would be fuel for wildfires, and provide a great place for riders to enjoy all levels of Mt. Biking.


Joe
Registered user
Livermore
on Feb 17, 2022 at 12:45 pm
Joe, Livermore
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 12:45 pm

As I look around at the pics, it seems most of the “protesters” were on E-bikes. EBRPD should be more aggressively enforcing the “No E-bike” rule.. They truly don’t belong on nature trails. Period.


Carl
Registered user
Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:08 pm
Carl, Stoneridge
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:08 pm

Jerry, I read your web link about the arrest and trial of Mr Vandeman. The trial took place in 2011 and the author said it was not a slam dunk case. What was the outcome of the trail? Guilty or innocent? Sometimes it is not safe to have a mixed use trail and something has to give. Seems the bike riders have had a bunch of wins, just look at all the markings on our streets dedicated to biker safety, and can’t stand to be told no.


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:31 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:31 pm

Rancho San Antonio Park in Cupertino has "horse gates" at the trail heads. They are too narrow for a horse to pass through and too narrow for handlebars to cruise through. Runners and walkers can pass unimpeded.

I was coming down hill walking a few years ago on the ridge when three mountain bikers approached at a left angle towards me on a narrow trail. they stopped, I stopped, we all had conversation then went on our way. I pointed out that a large tree had just come down up the trail behind me as I was coming down.

They said they would check it out. They had parked their vehicle in the Moller Ranch area and got on the trail there.


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:35 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:35 pm

Rancho San Antoin Park in Cupertino is runners Heaven.


Paul
Registered user
Birdland
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:57 pm
Paul, Birdland
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2022 at 7:57 pm

Hi Carl,

Michael Vandeman was convicted of misdemeanor Battery and misdemeanor brandishing a deadly weapon in public (PC242-M: BATTERY and PC-M-417A1, respectively). He was sentenced to 30 days weekend confinement, three years probation and a fine. He was narrowly acquitted of the most serious charge of assault. I know this because I served on the jury. Court record is here:
Web Link
(Users will need to enter the defendant’s name.)


Ob
Registered user
Amador Estates
on Feb 18, 2022 at 3:22 pm
Ob, Amador Estates
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2022 at 3:22 pm

If you want to see wildlife destruction, just go up on the ridge after the sheep are up there. Mtb destroy the environment, *** please.


Gee
Registered user
Amador Valley High School
on Feb 19, 2022 at 7:12 pm
Gee, Amador Valley High School
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Below is a good analysis of mountain biking impact.

Conclusion:
Mountain Bike Management Implications
So what does this mean for mountain biking? The existing body of research does not support the prohibition or restriction of mountain biking from a resource or environmental protection perspective. Existing impacts, which may be in evidence on many trails used by mountain bikers, are likely associated for the most part with poor trail designs or insufficient maintenance.
Managers should look first to correcting design-related deficiencies before considering restrictions on low-impact users. By enlisting the aid of all trail users through permanent volunteer trail maintenance efforts, they can improve trail conditions and allow for sustainable recreation.

Web Link

Dr. Jeff Marion is a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey who studies visitor impacts and management in protected natural areas. Jeremy Wimpey is a doctoral candidate in the Park and Recreation Resource Management program at Virginia Tech.


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