Like sunny days and warm temperatures, summertime is the season for mountain bikers getting injured by booby-trapped trails. It’s sad and scary that it has become a common occurrence. Whether these are childish pranks or true attempts to injure others, does it really have to come down to this?
Wire snares, spike strips, barbed wire, blockades, and even Punji Stake traps show up on trails around the world. Unfortunately, there are far too many to write about them all. But, if you think these are just innocent pranks meant to flatten tires or knock people over – a rider in the UK broke his neck and was killed by a booby trap in 2001.
There were two widely reported incidents of people being injured by manmade trail obstacles around this time last year. A Canadian rider was cut by barbed wire north of Toronto. I thought Canadians were too nice for this type of stuff? In South Africa, a wire snare sliced the neck of a rider. Thankfully, neither one of these injuries was life-threatening.
These types of incidents also happen off the trails and to more than just mountain bikers. People sabotaging bike races with tacks and rerouting running events happen all the time. A cyclist in Minnesota even had a molotov cocktail thrown at him from a bridge… that’s scary stuff. Snowmobilers, ATV riders, and dirtbikers are also under attack.
I’m not a lawyer (nor a meteorologist, as some of you kindly pointed out), but setting traps to injure others intentionally seems like a serious crime. Who is getting so pissed off by other trail users to take things this far? Unfortunately, catching the culprits is rare, as booby trap artists are usually smart enough not to hit the same spot twice.
A few weren’t so smart. A 65-year-old Canadian woman was caught on camera after repeatedly dragging obstacles onto north shore trails. In Oregon, a psychiatrist was charged with fourth-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment after creating blockades, laying nails, and stringing rope across trails. Two men in Utah were arrested via Facebook tips after setting some truly barbaric traps near Provo, Utah. A couple of others have been caught on camera, but incidents far outnumber arrests.
What did most of these people have in common? They just wanted bikers to slow down. I think it’s a valid point, even if their method of making it was quite flawed. While most of us mountain bikers are courteous and respectful of other trail users, it only takes one reckless rider or a giant shred crew to give us all a bad name. Lack of trail manners drives me nuts, but I’ve certainly been guilty of forgetting them at home more than a few times.
So how can we all play nice together? First off, check out IMBA’s rules for responsible riding. Second, slow down a little. After work at 6 pm is not the time to go all out on a busy, multi-use trail. Save that stuff for one-way bike-specific terrain. Third, as a general rule, always yield to other users. Even if they jump out of the way before you, the effort alone goes a long way. Lastly, don’t take over the trail. Whether you’re out shredding with the bros or just casually walking your pack of rescue dogs, there are other people out there, moving at various speeds; keep that in mind. After all, we’re all out there to have fun.
If you do find booby traps, document them, remove them (if you can do so safely), and spread the word. Happy trails!