City maps show plans to expand areas labeled off-limits to biking, from northeast of Hermitage Park to south of Terwillegar Park, and through the Whitemud and Mill Creek ravines.
At a news conference in February called in response to erupting controversy, the City’s director of urban growth and open space, Lindsey Butterfield, accused cycling stakeholder groups like EMBA of spreading “misinformation.” The City declined an interview for this story.
“The intention is not to ban mountain biking,” Butterfield said. “It’s to make sure (…) we understand the best places for that activity so that it doesn’t harm our ecosystem irreparably.”
City FAQs on the issue claim mountain biking has “greater” impacts than hiking in some situations – such as habitat fragmentation, stress on wildlife and soil erosion.
But, Yurkovich doesn’t buy it. The suggestion that biking might cause more environmental damage than hiking or running is a major sticking point for the bike community.
“The preponderance of the scientific research is that the effects of cycling are pretty well on par with foot-based use,” Yurkovich said.
Yurkovich said mountain bikers are environmental stewards who maintain existing trails voluntarily – putting in 594 volunteer hours in 2021.
“EMBA is the only organization that is doing maintenance on those trails. We shouldn’t be excluded from them, particularly because we think the science says that impacts from cycling aren’t really all that different from the impacts from hiking or running on a trail,” he said. “If you’re going to allow someone to hike or run on a trail, we think it should be open to cycling as well.”