“Bike Hate” and Public Comment-Induced Dysphoria (PCID)

(Had trouble uploading photo, imagine e-bike)

I think many of us who have read public comments may feel sympathetic with Ms. Bonnell from Jefferson County, Colorado. She seems to have a case of “public comment induced dysphoria” or PCID. Not that it’s in the DSIM, but possibly should be. As I recall from my experience in the Forest Service, our healing modality involved a support group and often craft beer..

As part of her decision-making to allow electric bikes on trails in Jefferson County, Mary Ann Bonnell would sit at home reading survey responses.

“There were a lot of late nights screaming at pieces of paper,” she says.

They made her think of a webinar she viewed. An advocate from Europe, where the charged-up wheels are commonplace, had spoken on differing attitudes he observed in the United States.

Now they were tangible for Bonnell.

“In America, there’s this whole, ‘I earned it, I am getting my Strava times and all this by sheer me, and how dare you come in and use an e-bike to get the same time as me that I’ve earned, or how dare you get the same access as me.’

“It’s sort of that mentality that I saw in writing. The contents just made me feel icky.”

Two other interesting things about this article by Seth Boster of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

I. MBers worried about being kicked out of places due to ebikes. We’ve talked about that before here.

Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates President Cory Sutela is like many: happy for e-bikes commuting, not for them traveling the backcountry.

“We believe that unregulated e-bikes on mountain bike trails will lead to a loss of access for mountain bikes,” he says.

Bonnell found access to be the root of some fears in her sociological review. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, when mountain bikes were widely deemed nuisances, riders battled for the freedom they have today.

“The gen 1 riders remember when they weren’t allowed on trails,” Bonnell says. “So they worry about another visitor group coming in and reawakening that urge to ban bikes. That comes from a very real place.”

II. Amidst all the ideological fervor, some real world experience.

But Bonnell, a Jefferson County parks ranger, reports so far so good in the first year of Class 1 e-bikes being allowed on the local trails. No noticeable increase in conflicts. No accounts of e-bikers getting themselves stranded far afield, as opponents suspected would happen.

In 2018, Boulder County Parks and Open Space took cues and launched a similar review. With the rate of cycling incidents high in the foothills, e-bikes were tried on the plains’ wide paths.

“What we found, perhaps counterintuitively, was e-bike speeds are not greater than conventional bikes in most cases,” says program manager Tina Nielsen.

While pointing to a “massive caveat” in the small sample size of 12, she provided data showing average speeds of 13.8 mph for e-bikes, 14.5 mph for conventional bikes. While a conventional rider was clocked at 26 mph, rangers recorded the fastest e-bike at 17 mph.

Boulder County commissioners this month will decide on allowing Class 1 and Class 2 (powered up to 20 mph without pedaling) e-bikes on those plains trails. That will be Nielsen’s recommendation, despite a 57% majority of survey respondents opposed to the move.

The resistance stems from general “bike hate,” Nielsen says. “There’s a lot of anxiety about bikes. It’s not just e-bikes.”

She adds: “It takes a while for things to shake out, and over time, I think people are gonna find that e-bikes, they’re just bikes.”

3 thoughts on ““Bike Hate” and Public Comment-Induced Dysphoria (PCID)”

  1. I saw this same thing with the comments on the Pike San Isabel NF travel management. It was amazing seeing the pure viciousness from the anti-motorized folks. There were so many comments saying things like “motor vehicles have no place in the National Forest” and calling motorized users every name in the book. I expected that, but the sheer level of hatred in those comments was surprising, especially considering almost everyone who visits the National Forest drives there in a motor vehicle.

  2. Well, I’m sure this doesn’t help, but there is plenty of hate to go around. I think the worst is for oil and gas and coal, (same argument, who doesn’t use them?), timber, ranchers, OHV people and so on. And horse poop is icky and so on.. The weird thing is that people are comfortable having their apparently real names associated with these comments.

    Who among us can cast the first stone? Ouch! Ouch!

    I thought I should get psychological hazard pay for reading public comments, another one of my Least Popular Ideas.

  3. Oh, I can identify. Read through pretty much every comment having to do with a collaboration in R1 and R6 from 2010 to 2015. And it’s all public record so I don’t mind dropping some names.
    Dick Artley was so bad I had to treat his comments as outliers and didn’t include them in the study. Karen Coulter from BMBP was also fun. Ad Hominem’s were certainly far from the norm but they did occur enough for me to be like “wtf”?

    All this to say, commenter fatigue is for real.


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