The 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail is a hiking paradise that stretches from Canada to Mexico and winds through Washington, Oregon, and California. Up until 1988, people were allowed to ride bicycles on the trail but then the U.S. Forest Service decided to ban bikes completely. Now, a new campaign dubbed Sharing the PCT has formed to reassess that decision and push for returning knobbies to what many call the Perfect Cycling Trail.
Bike advocates say the 1988 ban was done too abruptly, without public comment or opportunity to appeal. Oregon-based group Disciples of Dirt, which supports the mission of Sharing the PCT, wrote on its website that the ban was “just fear and misunderstanding, mixed with a lot of well-funded ignorance.”
In 2010, a group of citizen activists looked further into the 1988 decision. They wrote a letter to the USFS on November 12, 2010, asking them to “put in place a process to examine the continuing usefulness of the 1988 closure order.” Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
“The closure order may have been intended to be only temporary. In 1988 mountain bicycles were newly popular and there was little understanding of how to manage them. Twenty-two years later the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service know how to manage multiuse trails. It is time to reassess the usefulness of the closure order.”
Sharing the PCT wants the USFS to use the Continental Divide Trail as a model for management. That trail, which runs more than 3,100 miles from Canada to Mex, is open to bicycles.
The group also pointed out that the Forest Service’s own policy dictates an annual review of the closure order, yet such a review has never been done. “We wish to be part of a public process to reevaluate the closure order comprehensively,” they wrote in their 2010 request.
They followed up that request in May of 2011 and earlier this year they finally got a response. “We received word that the USFS could be initiating a formal review process as early as sometime in 2013.”
Portland resident Daniel Greenstadt is one of about a “dozen or so” citizens who are behind the Sharing the PCT initiative. He said that for now Sharing the PCT just wants to raise awareness of the issue. The USFS has said they’ll look into it, but what exactly their review will entail remains to be seen. “The outcome could be a re-affirmation of the closure of the trail to bicycles; but our goal is to simply get some process and some daylight on the issue,” he said.
It’s likely, Greenstadt says, that the USFS will open up the issue to a formal public process. When it does, groups like his and mountain bike and trail organizations from all over the West Coast will weigh in. It’s also important to note that any consideration of bicycling on the PCT would only impact portions of the trail that are not designated as federal wilderness, since that designation is governed by a whole different set of rules.