Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Advocate for Mountain Bike Trail in Huddart Letter

Dave Holland
Parks and Recreation Director
San Mateo County Parks and Recreation
455 County Center, 4th Floor
Redwood City CA 94063-1646

Dear Mr. Holland,

I attended the Huddart Wunderlich trail policy meeting of January 31. I was only able to audit the meeting by securing a place outside by a window. Most likely well above the safe and legal limit of occupancy, the building was over-crowded and there were many people outside who were unable to participate. I sympathize with the difficult task you had in facilitating this meeting. My letter intends to explain why I support the creation of a bike legal trail south of King Mtn Rd in Huddart Park.

Because of the acrimonious disposition of anti-bicycle people present, a reasonable and objective appraisal of the trail proposal was impossible. I heard too many rude remarks whispered. Even worse, occassional loud boorish jeering obstructed civil conduct. I was appalled by the large number of negative assumptions made. Only a few of the anti-bike folk had a proper understanding of the proposal. I am afraid that more moderate people were silenced by the prevailing bully attitudes. Many of their objections were not applicable. I will list the chief objections of the opponents to the trail in Squealer Gulch (that I heard at the meeting) and to bicyclists in general, explain my position on each one of them below, and also write in support of a multi-use policy on the Bay Area Ridge Trail and a proposed new alignment east of Hwy 35 in the vicinity.

  1. Mountain bikers on trails spook horses and pose an unacceptable risk to equestrians who use those trails.

    Sometimes bikes and riders spook horses, but most of the time they don’t. Sometimes horses and their riders spook hikers and bicyclists as well. The trail proposal does not call for sharing the trail with horses, so for this issue the point is moot. A proper attitude of the horseman combined with the correct training of the horse will minimize danger. Furthermore, combined with proper behavior from the cyclist, incidents of conflict will be rare. Getting all the folks on the trail to improve their habits is always going to be a challenge but it can be done. I volunteer intensely at Henry Coe State Park in Santa Clara County and frequently share trail work, events and the trails with equestrians. We get along well down there. I have friends who ride horses. The situation and attitude in San Mateo County is exceptional and probably has a lot to with the fact that equestrians and their horses are not conditioned to multi-use trails and ethics due to the fact that the County has granted them exclusive access to the trails.

  2. If mountainbikers want to ride up to Skyline they can/should buy cheap bike rack and drive to Alpine or Windy Hill.

    The reason mountain bikers want this trail is because we think it is proper to have access close to where people live to trails that are enjoyable to ride. People in the community deserve to have the option to ride from home on a variety of routes without having to get in the car. Sometimes a major reason for going out on a bike ride is to get away from the car. To avid cyclists the assertion above shows that the opinionator sees automotive transportation as a birthright and not the privelege that it is. Not everyone can simply afford at a whim to jump in a car and drive somewhere to ride, nor do they want to. Indeed the economy of this is changing, probably for the worse, and more people will find the costs of driving to recreational sites less attractive in the future. Perhaps the economic myopia of the affluent Portola Woodside community explains the origin of the comment. For these wealthiest of San Mateo residents $2.50/gallon gas and $300 bike racks may seem cheap, but for most of society these are not trivial expenses.

  3. We do not want mountainbikers in Woodside.

    This comment is outright and shameless segregation and has no bearing on the issue of the trail proposal. Those who do not welcome cyclists, anti-mountainbike equestrians, are elitists and class conscious. They express their values, and interpret their economic privelege, long standing tradition, western heritage, and local influence as entitlements to exclusive access of San Mateo County lands and roads whereas they are in fact a small minority in the county. The vast majority of tax paying San Mateo residents do not ride or own horses, nor could they afford to do so if they so desired. A sober appraisal must determine that many times more tax paying people own and ride bicycles than own and ride horses in San Mateo County. If the governing bodies of San Mateo would accept this comment by the equestrians and appease them they would do a great injustice to their constituents.

  4. Here are some reasons why cyclists (lumping all bike riding types together) are not welcome in Woodside or on the proposed trail in Huddart County Park:
    • Cyclists are rude.
    • Cyclists ride in large groups that impede traffic.
    • Cyclists are a nuisance.
    • Cyclists disobey traffic laws.
    • Cyclists change their clothes in public.
    • Cyclists urinate on private property.

    These objections are not directly applicable to the trail plan, but they are worth considering. This is because the opponents of cycling in San Mateo County Parks probably believe these negative behaviors will be repeated within County Parks. Furthermore there is an anticipated conflict between equestrians and cyclists as they both simultaneously attempt to access the parks.

    These are all gross generalizations. These complaints are drawn from observations concerning all cyclists, including road cyclists. All of these assertions are plausible and are derived from direct observations which I believe are true. However these displays of bad behavior are not the norm, nor are they condoned by the bicycling community at large. These assertions should be tempered by an analysis of the perspectives from which they may arise.

    Bicycles are vehicles. All vehicles must share the road. Signage has improved greatly over the years to alert both drivers and cyclists of the potential conflicts and rules of the road. However due to the popularity of the area congestion is sometimes a problem. Wherever there is congestion there will also be road rage. The roads are public. Cyclists, tourists, and residents are drawn to the area for the same reasons. It is beautiful in Woodside.

    Cyclists often ride in groups because they find more security and social value as a group. When a cyclist feels physically threatened sometimes the response is unfortunately a rude one. One of the reasons we want a bike path up to Skyline is to provide a car free alternative to access Skyline by bicycle in the area. Signs exist that implore cyclists to ride single-file, but they don’t always do so. Signs exist that post the speed limit, but motorists don’t always heed them. A dedicated bike path or wider street may improve the situation.

    The problems associated with large numbers of cyclists visiting the area do need to be addressed by the governing bodies in the area. While these are not the direct responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Department, it is proper to take these matters into consideration. These problems: scarcity of parking and toilet facilities, lack of respect for traffic laws, and public nudity are correctable by a combination of providing more facilities and code enforcement by the local municipality. Public restrooms should be made available by the city. The cost of these facilities can be offset by the patrona! ge of local businesses. Parking problems should be addressed by a special committee and may be best served by provided sattelite staging areas away from the town center. Perhaps the town is already working on this. Properly signed and citation enforced parking regulations will help.

    The well established system of bridal paths utilizing both public and private easements must probably remain accessible only by equestrians. A study followed by practical recommendations of how bicyclists will access the proposed trail through and from the town without impacting existing equestrian access needs to be further developed. This needs to be done both to assuage the suspicions of those against cyclists and also to provide a practical guide to cyclists. Normally this segregated approach is unneccessary, impractical and improper, however due to the polarized character of the trail community in the neighborhood this is appropriate.

    As for the problems of urination and nudity, these can be mitigated by peer pressure within the cycling community. The cyclists must elevate their standards and respect others. The combination of improved facilities, a conspicuous program of code enforcement, and peer pressure will solve this problem.

  5. Bay Area Ridge Trail.

    I am in support of the gathering interest in developing a new trail corridor for the Bay Area Ridge Trail in the vicinity east of Skyline in the area to bypass the current section alignment in the MROSD Purisima OSP along the Soda Gulch Trail. The current alignment is not practical or in keeping with Ridge Trail norms. This trail has been ruled unsuitable for multi-use by the MROSD in recent meetings. Horses and bicycles are not permitted. An upshot of this evaluation is that the MROSD and the trail community realize an appropriate opportunity exists to create a new alignment through County Park and other lands higher up and to the east of Hwy 35. Access to this reg! ional trail is directly implicated and one of the reasons for the trail proposal being discussed here. The proposed bicycle trail in Huddart Park should be constructed with the publicly disclosed intention of connecting to a possible future multi-use Ridge Trail alignment.

    I understand that there are very significant physical and political obstacles that must be overcome. For example, the summit end of the Squealer Gulch Trail (for a working name) is currently problematic. However, there are practical alternatives, and a soundly engineered trail is possible, no doubt about it. Similarly the political obstacles and the process itself require stamina and patience by advocates of the Ridge Trail. There is a good consortium of respected advocates in favor of the proposed east alignment of the Ridge Trail who will prevail. This eventuality must be anticipated in developing plans for Huddart and Wunderlich Parks and supported by San Mateo.

  6. Conclusion.

    I wish to add that San Mateo County needs to seriously reassess it’s interpretation of who the Department of Parks and Recreation serves. I recognize that there is no legal obligation for the County to observe or respect the philanthropic wishes of James Huddart who desired to serve the youth of San Mateo with the creation of Huddart Park. But if the County desires to honor the legacy of James Huddart they would allow this concession to the youth and young at heart cyclists of San Mateo and future residents and approve the creation of a bike trail, a peaceful alternative to a potentially dangerous road, and a multi-use Ridge Trail alignment, and properly serve the County of San Mateo.

Thank you for your consideration.
Paul Nam

No comments: