2016 Pinkbike Awards - Advocacy of the Year Winner

Nov 26, 2016 at 9:21
by Vernon Felton  

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Advocacy of the Year Winner

Ted Stroll of the Sustainable Trails Coalition

Picking a single advocate of the year isn’t easy.

There are countless individuals and organizations the world over, working tirelessly to improve trail access. They attend tedious meetings with land managers, rebuild trail in horrible conditions, write countless grant proposals and do all the hard, dirty and largely thankless work that allows the rest of us to simply climb on our bikes and head out for a ride. We owe them a lot.

Still, if pressed to pick a single person who made a difference in 2016, the nod goes to Ted Stroll of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). Here’s why.

Pinkbike Advocate of the Year
Ted Stroll of the Sustainable Trails Coalition.

Since 1984, America’s Wilderness areas (currently about 110 million acres of public lands) have been off limits to mountain bikers. For more than 30 years, conventional wisdom held that this ban on bikes could never be challenged, much less lifted and yet one group and its leader, Ted Stroll, have proven conventional wisdom wrong.

True, the ban on biking in Wilderness areas is still very much alive and, unfortunately, well, but Stroll and his organization have raised a challenge to the status quo in Washington D.C. and that is worth our recognition all by itself.

In less than two year’s time, Stroll and the STC succeeded in persuading, two congressmen (Utah Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch) to introduce The Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act. The Act is a revised version of a draft bill that Stroll authored. In a nutshell, the Act would reverse the blanket ban on mountain biking in Wilderness areas and on some iconic backcountry trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail and Continental Divide Trail.

Under the Act, Land managers would still be able to close trails to mountain bikes in these pristine areas, but if the bill passed, public officials would now be legally required to actually give mountain bikers a fair shake at gaining access to trails—a monumental shift for the better.

Image Wikipedia

Will The Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act actually go anywhere? That’s anyone’s guess. But whether or not it passes is almost beside the point.

Here is why Ted Stroll and the STC deserve some recognition. Bikes are banned from trails all over the world because of one depressingly common misconception: that mountain bikers have more of an impact on trails than hikers and equestrians.

STC’s challenge to the Wilderness Act’s ban on bikes is a very public challenge to a falsehood that keeps trails everywhere closed to riders.

Every rider—no matter where they live—benefits from that.

Wilderness mountain biking Photo By Leslie Kehmeier Courtesy of IMBA
Another great trail, this one in Idaho's Boulder White Clouds, shut down by a recent Wilderness designation.


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