Mountain Bikers Look in Vain for Legal Support for Mountain Biking

Mountain Bikers Look in Vain for Legal Support for Mountain Biking

Post by Mike Vandem » Tue, 06 Jun 2000 04:00:00

Um, how about the right to be stupid? Or the right to be a jerk? Or the
right to destroy wildlife and wildlife habitat? Oh, I forgot, you are
already practicing those.... :)

Michael, why can't you just tell them the TRUTH???: that there is NO RIGHT

Glad to be of service.... :)


Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 22:15:22 -0700

Subject: litigation?

Roger suggests we should not be so quick to dismiss legal action, at least
without some serious legal homework. I submit to you, the contrary is
true. We can not seriously contemplate successful litigation, absent some
serious homework. Two lawyers, both very sympathetic to this cause, have
suggested that litigation may not be the best approach. In my case, I
consulted with two other lawyers, both on our side, both exerienced in
this field, and both agreeing that litigation is difficult in this kind of
situation. Some of you are frustrated at that, and would like to take

I suggest that those who want to file a lawsuit need to come up with a law
that provides the basis for a cause of action. Unfortunately, I don't
think any of the suggestions I have heard over the past week will work.
"Rights of way" may indeed be a constitutional matter, but how does that
apply here?  What law says that an agency cannot restrict the actions of a
group based upon the enjoyment or aesthetics of another group? There are
many such laws. Some people don't want African American kids in their
schools for aesthetic reasons. That would be against the law. But people
also don't want motorcycles, dogs or even horses on trails for aesthetic
reasons. They get away with it because it is not illegal. Laws prohibit
non-tile roofs in Palos Verdes. It's legal, though based entirely upon
aesthetic considerations. Noise ordinances are commonplace, and are
entirely based upon the enjoyment or aesthetics of certain groups over
others. We legally make all sorts of aesthetic judgments when we regulate
our society, and there frequently are groups who legitimately disagree,
but who lose anyway.

The fact that cyclists "won" the case involving "single file" signs is
most certainly irrelevant to this situation. I know nothing about the
case, but even if the threat of a lawsuit helped resolve the matter, the
applicable law was doubtless entirely different. It may be that cyclists
prevailed there because of political clout.

Having said those things, I would be delighted if we could find an
appropriate law upon which to base legal action. With all of its
disadvantages, a well founded law suit can provide a good opportunity to
vent frustrations, and avoid destructive actions, provided people have
faith in the legal remedy.

So, let's do everything we can to investigate this. It is time for those
favoring litigation to consult with legal experts, and come up with
something upon which to base a lawsuit. Check with the attorney mentioned
by Roger, and with any others you know of. I would love to be proven
wrong. It would be great if the tool I studied so hard to perfect could be
useful in this situation, and if that happens, I may well volunteer my
services to help. But generalities based upon how we would like things to
be won't do the job. Let's get specific. And please don't demand that
those against litigation prove there is no remedy, particularly when they
are so much on your side. That burden is too great.

In the meantime, I continue to suggest the community building activities
that insert cyclists into the power structure. We also need to be
absolutely certain that cyclists assume responsibility for their own
actions and impact. I have not heard a great deal about that during this
discussion. I know that is being done, but it is not being broadcast. What
are cyclists doing about those jerks among us who are screwing it up for
the rest? How does your bike patrol work? Do you have information posts?
Have all of you who are so upset, participated in activities which educate
cyclists? As stated in earlier posts, I am not familiar with the details
of ROMP's ongoing relationship with MidPen, and assume many of these
things are being done. But they need to be publicized, and subject to
dialogue among interested cyclists. As an added benefit, it often helps if
our opponents realize that we are doing something ourselves to proactively
solve problems.

Enough for now. I look forward to hearing about some specific legal
remedies that we can chew on.

Happy trails,

Michael Kelley


> >2.  ROMP will not participate in legal action on this matter.

> Rod, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss legal action, at least not
> without some serious legal homework.  There are several laws that apply
> to this situation, at both the state and federal levels.  Rights of way
> are a constitutional matter.  You might also research the original
> MPROSD charter.

> When a governmental agency restricts the rights of any one group based
> solely on the aesthetic enjoyment of another group it treading on
> *very* thin legal ground.  This is classic might-makes-right politics
> and a rare opportunity for civic minded cyclists to establish legal
> precedent.  Un-democratic, questionably legal political acts occur all
> across the nation, until someone stands up and fights for what they
> believe in.  Being nice and PC are great 99% of the time.  Situations
> like this, however, call for a more forceful approach.

> For example, a similar example of might-makes-right politics was
> recently resolved in favor of bicyclists in another part of San Mateo
> County.  For 5 years the cities of Woodside and Pescadero erected
> "bicyclists ride single-file" in their and the county's jurisdiction.
> SVBC, MPBC and many individuals tried in vain to establish a dialog
> with county and city officials to have the signs changed or removed.
> It wasn't until a group of us got together, pooled our money, and hired
> a lawyer that they signs were finally removed.  It took less than one
> year from the time we first spoke with a lawyer until all 20+ signs
> were gone.

> We were prepared to go to court but it turned out to be unnecessary.
> Like ROMP those groups (the SVBC and MPBC) were initially opposed to
> working with a lawyer or being a party to any legal action.  We worked
> with their concerns by soliciting their support on the premise that it
> would not cost $1 from their budget and that they would not be named as
> a party to any suit.  It took money AND the legal and political
> expertise of a well known and well respected lawyer, Owen Byrd of Palo
> Alto, to convince the county that these signs were divisive,
> undemocratic, and probably not legally defensible.

> I would recommend ROMP members not sit on their hands and let the
> MPROSD old-guard take advantage of the situation.

> Roger Marquis

I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to
humans ("pure habitat"). Want to help? (I spent the previous 8
years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)