Currently bicycles are prohibited in federal wilderness areas in the United States. However there is a bill in the House of Representatives that would remove the prohibition.

As one can imagine, this has stirred up a rather fierce debate on both sides of the proposal both for and against.


Because this is a controversial subject, I am not asking whether or not this is a good or bad idea or what the pros and cons would be but rather hoping for a fair listing of the arguments on both sides.

  • Are you asking about trails in Federal wilderness areas or also about non-trail wilderness areas? Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 0:16
  • @thedarkwanderer Both Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


I'm a cyclist on the side of people being allowed to ride on trails in National Parks. The arguments for are simple: allow bikes so cyclists can enjoy nature while doing a healthy activity they also enjoy. Bikes are faster than hiking, allowing you to explore more trail in a day, make the descents a lot easier, and also enable older people who can't hike well (bad knees) to still enjoy a gentle trail by cycling.

The arguments against are mainly related to trail maintenance and safety. Bikes can make a mess out of muddy hiking trails, especially when strong cyclists try to pedal through the mud and dig up ruts, but maintenance wise that the only con to a bike, unless you want to include tire tracks on rocks. The main concern is safety; people bombing down a popular trail and colliding with hikers, or scaring horses, which usually results in people getting bucked off and hurt. Parks are concerned about liability. Mountain Biking is a high speed sport, and high speed sports are all capable of producing serious injuries. Park officials don't want to have to deal with crashes and wipeouts, or complaints from jumpy hikers about that crazy cyclist who passed them going "dangerously fast".

Parks are all about keeping the peace, which mostly means the peace and quiet in the administration building, they don't want to deal with paperwork, which incidents of any type create for them. It's easier to ban an activity then it is to deal with the injuries and drama from it.

  • 3
    I too am a cyclist and feel like this sums it up pretty well. Often times non-cyclists will say that bikes tear up the trails, but horses are far more destructive and allowed many places that bikes are not... and they poop on the trail, my bike has yet to do that... :P
    – Nate W
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 21:55
  • 3
    Arguing that destructive activity A should be allowed because more destructive activity B is already allowed doesn't seem very convincing to me. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 1:46
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    @huck_cussler Cycling isn't any more destructive than hiking is. A lot of boots in the mud can mess up a trail just as much as biking does, Hikers are the one who make trails wider, which is one of the reasons they are so appealing to cyclists. Bike trails tend to stay really narrow, and grow over easy. Hikers widen the trails, especially when they try to walk side by side. Hikers also like to cut corners, straight-line up a hill, or tromp through the woods to go look at a flower or take a picture.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 3:39
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    The question asked for the argument against. I never said the maintenance argument was a strong argument, just one that one might try to make.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 3:39
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    Point of order: The OP asked about wilderness areas, not national parks. In the US, the two are not the same. In fact, mountain biking is permitted and there are even maintained trails specifically for mountain biking in several US national parks. While some national parks do include wilderness areas, and the NPS does maintain some wilderness areas apart from national parks, there are also many wilderness areas not under management of the NPS. All wilderness areas have bicycling prohibited. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 23:32

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