Biking in wilderness forbidden, even in Marin County

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Argue as he might, Steven Gravenites couldn't convince the federal judge in San Francisco earlier this month that he should be found innocent of possession of a bicycle in a wilderness area.

The 45-year-old mountain biker and well-known Marin County, California, wheel-builder was fined $60 but was able to reclaim his bike. Rangers had taken it as evidence for illegal trail riding in the Point Reyes National Seashore in June.

Home of mountain biking

An account of the trial — it actually made it to federal court — in the Marin Independent reports that Gravenites tried to get the court to consider the bigger picture of the history of mountain biking. Acting as his own attorney, he asked one ranger:

“Are you not aware mountain biking was created in Marin and is a source of local pride?”


“Are you aware mountain biking is an Olympic sport?”

Gravenites' main defense was ignorance; he didn't know that biking was illegal on the trail he took, and it wasn't posted as such.

The judge noted that federal rules don't allow biking in federal areas; there doesn't have to be a sign to forbid cycling. If there are no signs that allow mountian biking, then cyclists should assume it's forbidden.

More signs?

The judge issued the fine and allowed Gravenites to get his bike back, then commented that maybe more signs are needed.

Of course more signs are needed. Why would someone expect bicycling to prohibited on a perfectly good trail? I've slipped up and stumbled onto “no biking” trails at parks in Seattle; if you see a trail with bike tracks, wouldn't you assume it's a legal trail?

The federal prosecutor's office issued a press release in the case:

Steven Gravenites, 45, was convicted of possession of a bicycle in a wilderness area. The guilty verdict followed a bench trial before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman. This conviction is the result of citations originally issued by Park Rangers in the Point Reyes National Seashore on June 21, 2007.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Gravenites, from Bolinas in Marin County, possessed a bicycle during an illegal trail ride on June 21, 2007 in Point Reyes National Seashore. Mr. Gravenites admitted during the bench trial that he had previously been issued a citation for illegal trail riding in Marin County in 2001.

Stated [U.S. Attorney Scott] Schools: “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute these offenses as illegal mountain bike trail rides contribute to soil erosion, cause wildlife disturbance and interfere with the enjoyment of the park by hikers and others.”

According to a 2002 National Parks Conservation Association resource assessment, Point Reyes, designated a national seashore in the early 1960’s, is a sanctuary for nearly 30 percent of the world’s marine mammal species and 45 percent of the bird species in all of North America.

As a sidenote, I just stumbled across this International Mountain Bicycling Association link for Land Protection and Mountain Biking. There are some stories there about attempts to close down some forest trails to mountain biking.

First spotted at Law blog: Crime of the day

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