Over the last couple of years, our recreation trails have seen a surge of use and popularity, including by people who had little previous experience recreating in the outdoors. In some cases, there have been instances of lost hikers, people who have run out of water, and close encounters with wildlife, and in some cases conflicts between trail users.
In response, the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists launched a Bike Ambassador program in March as one way to address all of these issues. Our goal is to be of assistance to all kind of trail users, not just bikers, but also to promote good trail etiquette among the growing ranks of mountain bikers.
Bike ambassadors are selected for their diplomatic skills in dealing with people; they are not trail enforcers or patrols. Rather, they are trained to help all trail users—hikers, trail runners, dog walkers, equestrians, hand-cycle users and bikers—who may in need helpful directions, extra water, assistance in fixing a flat tire, basic first aid, or other kinds of minor assistance. Sometimes, people just want to know “how far is it?”
We currently have 18 bike ambassadors who are out on nearly every trail in the Tucson valley where bikes are allowed (among other kinds of uses). Look for them: they are wearing blue and gold (think Ukraine colors) jerseys with “bike ambassador” prominently printed on the front along with the SDMB logo. They are not setting any riding records but are out there to engage with trail users and improve the outdoor recreation experience for all.
Each bike ambassador is charged with helping to make the trails safer for everyone since trails are common ground. Ambassadors have bells on their bikes to alert others to their presence, and they have been trained on how to behave around horseback riders. Besides serving as goodwill ambassadors, after each ride, the they complete a report which details which trails they rode one, how many users they saw and type of trail users, number of cars in the parking lot, and they note any trailhead issues or trail conditions that need attention. These points are then shared with the relevant land managers, in this case Pima County and Marana Parks & Recreation. We vetted this program with them and they see the program as a valuable volunteer contribution to increasing trail safety and improving the trail user experience.
Mountain bikers are sometimes cast as scofflaws in the community who are only concerned about recording the fastest times on local trails, everyone else be damned. While every group has its share of renegades, this characterization is untrue of most mountain bikers, however. To reinforce the importance of sharing the trail with others and exhibiting appropriate behavior on the trails, our “Be Cool” campaign with mountain bikers was launched 3 years ago with the specific goal of improving trail etiquette amongst mountain bikers. The elements of our etiquette campaign:
Personally, we have noticed an improvement in trail etiquette here in Tucson with the "Be Cool" program, particularly at Sweetwater where the past was sometimes marked by complaints and conflicts from hikers about MTBers. Our new bike ambassador program is designed to take the new step to make our trails even safer and better—for all users.
© 2018 - Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists -
SDMB is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Tax ID#27-4499320)
PO Box 65075, Tucson AZ 85718