Dear MCMBA Members and Supporters:
A bill has been introduced to the Michigan Senate that could remove mountain bike access to trails designated for equestrian use. This bill is unfair, bad for mountain bikers, gives special treatment to a single user group, and threatens trails we hold dear.
This bill (Senate Bill 1191) was introduced by Sen. Runestad on Sept. 28, 2022 as an amendment to PA 1994 PA 451, despite efforts from the Motor City Mountain Biking Association (MCMBA), League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and others to block it. We need your help: Please reach out to your state senator by Monday, October 10 and ask them to oppose SB1191.
Hundreds of thousands of Michigan mountain bikers will be affected by this bill. It affords special treatment to a single non-motorized trail user group that no other group receives, and it threatens a sport and industry that contributes significantly to Michigan’s outdoor recreation sector. Please urge your senator to reject this bill.
Board Chairperson, Motor City Mountain Bike Association
WHY THIS BILL IS BAD FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS
The MCMBA, League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and others oppose SB 1191 for the following reasons:
1. Ambiguous Language
Subsection 4 reads: “If… a trail was posted by the department for equestrian use or for equestrian use and hiking, and if the trail was not posted for bicycling, then… both of the following apply.” A hostile party could come back after the law is enacted, point to an unsigned trail, and present a legal challenge to say, “The trail was not posted for bicycling, so only equestrian use is authorized on the trail.” This may mean we have to reroute long-established, separate mountain bike trails to eliminate intersections or access points that are used by all non-motorized trail users.
2. Uncertain Scope
There is nothing in the bill text that would limit its scope to specific trails. This means that MCMBA trails in Proud Lake Recreation Area, Highland Recreation Area, and Maybury State Park are at risk from this bill to have the trails or portions of them marked as off-limits to bicycles from the equestrian trails subcommittee.
3. Doesn’t Address Unsigned Trails
Equestrian advocates have stated that the bill would not affect bicyclist access to trails which are not posted for either equestrian use or bicycling. However, the bill does not explicitly address this issue, which reinforces our concerns with ambiguous language in subsection 4.
4. Reduces Flexibility for DNR Without Real Benefit for Multiple Trail Users
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) already has the authority and a process to designate trails for equestrian use and/or limit mountain bike access to specific trails. This bill essentially codifies the current MDNR processes and shifts the balance to benefit equestrians. Since this writes the process into law, it cannot easily be changed. If the policy landscape around trail use changes over the next 10 or 20 years, through changing preferences or new technologies, the MDNR will not be able to easily change with it, and trail users may be negatively impacted as a result.There are no advantages to legislative approach over MDNR land use order approach. If the MDNR’s existing process is essentially identical to what is proposed in the bill, what is the advantage of devoting legislative time and resources to codification, rather than allowing MDNR to apply its process to the trails named by equestrians as areas of concern?
5. Mountain Bikers Lack of Representation
Another major issue with the bill is its one-sided nature. Mountain bikers have nothing to gain from this bill, and much at risk. Part of the risk comes from the Michigan Trails Advisory Committee (MTAC) structure, which codifies a special equestrian trails subcommittee and guarantees snowmobile, ORV, and equestrian representation on the MTAC, but does not offer similar representation to mountain bikers. Additionally, this bill eliminates State tourism representation on the equestrian trails subcommittee, creating an even deeper echo chamber of equestrian representation. A companion bill that either restructured the equestrian trails subcommittee into a non-motorized trails subcommittee with broader representation, or guaranteed mountain biker representation on MTAC, would address a long-standing disparity in law and provide a balancing benefit.
Prior to the pandemic, the MDNR conducted a study that estimated there were 300,000 mountain bikers in Michigan, but mountain biking in Michigan has been growing in the last few years. Based on Outdoor Industry Association research, mountain biking has grown almost five percent since 2015 nationally. Membership in MCMBA has grown by 17 percent in the last three years. By our estimates, based on more recent surveys, MCMBA membership growth data, and population data, the number of mountain bikers in Oakland County alone is likely about 40,000 strong.