I am a mountain biker and a hiker, and I love both activities very much. Recently, while biking on a shared single-track trail, I came upon a group of hikers. One hiker began a discussion about how we're ruining not only the experience of the trail for them and other hikers, but that we were in fact ruining the trail itself by riding our bikes in the first place. It has always been understood by bikers that riding trails while they're very wet and/or not properly groomed can cause ruts to form and overall just contribute to screwing up the path and the area around the path in general. However, when the trails are dry and clearly intended for hikers as well as bikers, due to their grooming status, my friend and I couldn't see any reason that riding our bikes would cause damage to the trail.
My question then (not to do with the interactions/opinions of hikers and bikers with each other) is:
Do bikes actually impact hiking trails in a significantly negative way? If so, how bad is it? Can anything be done to solve this without restricting trails to hikers only?