Bicycles belong in Wilderness.

That statement arouses passion in some people. If you are a dedicated, long-term Wilderness advocate, it may bring feelings of motorcycles invading your precious hiking places. If you are an avid, backcountry mountain biker who wants to get away from cars and roads, it can summon feelings of persecution or unfair discrimination.

The problem with this passion is that it divides us, and the wilderness of planet Earth needs all the friends it can get. Both hikers and cyclists are "environmentalists." We all love pristine, unsullied, natural, wild places and want to see them protected from development. Why must bicycles, which harm the natural environment no more than feet, be banned in order to protect wild places?

The statement here is presented differently than on the front page. We have left out the word "some" to provoke. Up front, we said, "Bicycles belong on some trails in some Wilderness areas." The idea is that we can have plenty of hiking-only, or hiking+horse-only trails and still allow bicycling on some trails within designated Wilderness. But what we have now in Wilderness is a complete, system-wide ban on bicycling, which is not supported by environmental, legal, historical, or political arguments, and therefore is unjustly discriminatory.

Our discussion begins with an essay by Jim Hasenauer, former President of International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), about the big Why Bikes Belong. Gary Sprung, former Senior National Policy Advisor to IMBA, offers thoughts on the legal and policy words of the Wilderness Act that some think lead to the bike ban. He also offers a refutation of other arguments used against wilderness bicycling.

Later we plan to expand this section. Many debates occur and we can bring you the specifics. We hope to offer some history lessons, too. Perhaps we can offer space to our opponents.

Whether you support, oppose, or are just curious about our header statement that "bikes belong," please bear in mind the need for a big and growing movement of people working together to protect the planet.