Friday, January 21, 2011

3 Potential Solutions to the "Green" Problem

In-town trail. See #1 below:
On Wednesday I asked you:  "is mountain biking really all that 'green?'"

I also posted a link to the article in the Singletracks.com forums to get some more feedback there. You all provided some very interesting responses on the topic, a couple of which I'd like to highlight:

  • Steve mentioned that we should be much more worried about trash and packing in what we pack out. I agree with him, we should all focus on exercising "Leave No Trace" mountain biking. That should be a must for every rider!
  • Several people also questioned whether or not global warming is real or just a hoax. Regardless of whether or not the globe is actually warming, driving definitely does release pollution and burn through our limited supply of fossil fuels.
  • Others mentioned (including me in the original article) that for most riders the issue boils down to more a question of economics and not the environment. The general consensus is that we are going to mountain bike one way or the other, and if we can afford to pay for gas, we're probably going to drive!
Possible Solutions to the Issue
Whether or not humanity is causing the Earth to turn into a noxious greenhouse, excessive driving does cause pollution, does use fossil fuels, and can put a strain on your budget. While this can be a tough issue to discuss, there are a number of solutions out there that could solve, or at least alleviate, the problem(s):

1. Build Trails in Town
In my opinion, this would be one of the coolest ways to solve the problem. Building trails in town allows easy access to singletrack, allowing you to easily ride to the trails, or to extremely reduce the length of your commute. IMBA has actually been striving to do this over the past several years by creating gateway trail systems. One of IMBA's main goals is to create trails that are easily accessible to beginning mountain bikers, but these systems also have the benefit of providing easily-accessible singletrack opportunities for the long-time fanatics.

I'd like to point out that singletrack trails are not very wide: maybe 2 feet at the most. Singletrack can be crammed into a very small space, and you'll find by looking around your local community that there are numerous areas that could house a trail that are currently not being utilized. One of the sweetest things about being a mountain biker is versatility, and we can adapt to riding in almost any environment. I have ridden an urban trail system that hides 30 miles of trails in unused woods. We need more places like that in America! While it might not be very IMBA-friendly, a system like this is definitely eco-friendly.

In-town trail
2. Car Pool
One of the most common solutions that I heard mentioned over the last two days were by people saying that they get together with a bunch of their friends and car pool to the trails, and when they go on longer trips. If you think about this mathematically, every person that you add to the car exponentially decreases your carbon footprint from driving. The graph would look approximately like this:

Exponential Decay
Photo Credit.

3. Ride to the Trail 
Do you want to become one of those freak-of-nature 24 hour racer types? Try riding to the trailhead, riding the singletrack, and riding back every day. If your trails are 15 miles away, you've just added 30 miles onto every mountain bike ride. You'll be in shape for a dirty century or a 24 hour solo in no time! 

4. Quit Mountain Biking and Buy a Road Bike
Just kidding!

Your Turn: What do you think is the best solution to the problem? Add your voice in the comments below!

PS Trek7k wrote about this on Singletracks.com over 2 years ago, and mentioned some of the same things that I'm writing about, so props to him!

10 comments:

Anonymous,  January 21, 2011 at 1:24 PM  

Tucked between the Savannah River and the Augusta River in Augusta, GA there is a three mile twisty singletrack loop. After FATS, I would say it is the most used trail in the area.

A local bike shop has a weekly ride there and also it is a site to the Canal Time Trials series which offers many riders their first chance to race. -brianW

Matt January 22, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

We did our part by carpooling yesterday, dude! I can't say the same for Thomas . . .

Greg Heil January 23, 2011 at 7:47 PM  

@Brian, That's awesome, I've heard of that trail but haven't gotten to ridden it yet. We need more places like that!

@Matt, we sure did! Need to do it again soon!

Tracey January 24, 2011 at 10:33 AM  

Greg, great blog. I'm in winter mode right now (spinning inside) so all this bike talk is going to get me through until spring. I would love to single-track to the trails. Perhaps I'll poke our towns folk to consider this rather than the expensive asphalt alternative. :)

Greg Heil January 24, 2011 at 2:35 PM  

Hey Tracey, I'm glad my blog is helping get you through the cold winter months! :) Hang in there, summer will be here in no time!

Daniel January 24, 2011 at 9:55 PM  

Hey, day late here, nothing new-
Nice to hear someone smart enough not to get caught up in the drama of the now popular Warming debate- really, even if it doesnt cause global warming is it ok to trash the place?
I recently read that every MTB has 6 wheels, 2 on the bike and 4 on the SUV that got to the trail. I don’t see this changing anytime soon although there are some great ideas to lessen the negative effects and more coming out everyday.
On an individual level I just try to do what I can to lessen the environmental impact just as I do with other aspects of my life; cut down on waste, buy less packaging, recycle what I do get, utilize re-usable items whenever possible (water bottles, food containers, etc.). I also think we should always clean up after ourselves and not add more to the problems our sport causes, this includes cleaning up after others if its going to look bad on us MTBs. Yesterday I parked in the corner of a grocery store parking lot that is very popular with MTBs as there is a great trail system right across the street. Upon returning to my vehicle I found some white trash in a moving van parked there eating and drinking items they had purchased in the store. When they left there was beer cans, sandwich wrappers and various other items strewn all over the ground- yea I picked them up. This is where the MTBs park, if the store managers see the trash who are they going to blame? And maybe cut us off from parking there in the future?
Starting with the basics and just working out from there I think we can solve some of the issues that already do or are going to face us in the future.

AJ Heil January 24, 2011 at 11:56 PM  

I'm with you Tracey - All I've got to keep me going in the biking scene right now is my stationary cycling routine. It's not nearly as rewarding and adrenaline-giving as riding single track.

Love the points you made.
Had a good laugh at number 4 ;)

Greg Heil January 25, 2011 at 7:38 AM  

@Daniel, A day late? No one's keeping score, haha! Always love reading what you have to say man. I definitely agree with your sentiments on leaving the place better than you found it. Personally, I think IMBA should incorporate a serious LNT message into everything they do. I had never heard of the more serious LNT principles until I first backpacked in a wilderness. It's crazy rigid!

@AJ, I can't stand those things, haha! Glad you got a kick out of #4

idontfit January 31, 2011 at 8:36 PM  

I have a road bike as well but it would not do so well on the trails. :)

I do drive a Volvo wagon instead of a SUV and get slightly better than avg. fuel economy even with a bike on the back.

Greg Heil February 3, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

@idontfit, Way to do your part!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com. He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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