Welcome to Safe Trails! Thank you for your support!
Our first concern is SAFETY on our trails. Injury
collisions and conflict with mountain bikers and other trail users
have caused our concern.
Below are excerpts of reasons and thoughts
why Safe Trails has been created here in Santa Barbara, California,
USA. Please join us.
SafeTrails is a group of concerned trail advocates
in the Santa Barbara California area who share a common goal of
keeping our front country footpaths safe for all users.
Santa Barbara is in a truly unique location in
California. It is the only place on the west coast where the mountains
run east to west rather than north to south. Our mountains rise
to up to 4000 feet from sea level in just four miles. The Santa
Barbara area has been inhabited since before the Spanish arrived
in the 1500's. There were large populations of Chumash natives
who lived a full and productive life in this area. The monks were
surprised at the industry and health of the natives which resulted
from their varied diet of seafood and native plants. The natives
moved between the sea shore, the mountains and beyond in yearly
cycles. They left behind a beautiful heritage and many historic
footpaths that traced their annual journeys. We have an obligation
to be the stewards of these history trails and to protect them
for future generations.
brought us together:
The Santa Barbara area is also unique in having
our footpaths begin on a road and end on a road. Camino Cielo,
the "Sky Road" runs across the top of our front country
range and is the terminus for most of our front country footpaths.
People and horses have been using these footpaths for centuries
to go up and over to the interior of Santa Barbara County. With
the construction of Camino Cielo in 1934, the footpaths were bisected
and opened up to those who wanted to hike down from the top either
to the front or to the backcountry. In the 1970's people started
experimenting with riding bikes up and down the trails. Since
our trails are very steep only a few hardy souls would attempt
the ride at a very slow speed, stopping to carry their bikes at
Over the years bike technology changed and the
first mountain bikes were introduced in the 1980's. Some riders
started riding up and down the mountain footpaths. By the mid-1980's
the number of mountain bikes and the concerns for safety were
first raised. The Forest Service conducted public meetings about
the use of mountain bikes on the trails and did surveys of trail
use. The public meetings degenerated into shouting matches with
each side trying to out shout the other. The Forest Service was
seeking consensus on what they should do but consensus was not
possible with such high emotions. The Forest Service decided to
stay with the status quo. The trails were left open to all users
with the intent of revisiting the issue in the future. A follow
up survey was done in 1990 which showed that many more hikers
had had exposure to mountain bikes on the trail and the negative
feelings towards them had risen. In about 1991, a young mountain
biker was found dead after he fell off one of Santa Barbara' s
Again the bike technology advanced in the 1990's.
Many ski resorts started to rent bikes specifically designed to
go down steep ski runs so that they could generate more income
from idle facilities in the summer. Owners of these bikes found
that they could be used in other areas, specifically, areas where
there was a road at the top of a mountain range and another road
at the bottom. Santa Barbara fit this requirement to a tee. Down
hill mountain bikes started to be used on the Santa Barbara footpaths.
At first, it was an achievement to just complete the run down
one of our extreme steep trails. Some time after, riders started
to keep track of their times coming down. In order to improve
their times, riders started to alter the trails by removing rocks
and cutting diversions around difficult rock drops. What was once
the venue of expert down hill racers quickly became the pastime
of young teenagers. What once took a hour, now could be done in
ten or eleven minutes. The footpath became more and more like
a race course complete with smooth dirt surfaces and banked turns.
What once had a top speed of five miles an hour could now be done
at 30 miles per hour.
At the same time, hikers, equestrians, trail
runners and after-dinner walkers were still trying to use the
footpaths. The equestrians were the first to start abandoning
the trails and moved most of their riding either to the back country
or to private trails open only to equestrians. On the existing
footpaths there is no escape zone for equestrians when a fast
moving mountain bike comes down. Most of the footpaths have a
steep drop off on at least one side and a hill on the other. Additionally,
most are too narrow, at some points only 18 inches wide, to allow
a mountain bike to pass an equestrian safely. A young man was
thrown from his horse and kicked in the face when a mountain bike
hit the horse. More recently, there were several incidents where
hikers were hit by fast moving mountain bikes.
The same technology that allows individuals to
ride rougher terrain at higher speeds increases the risk to other
trail users. Many hikers and walkers began to be displaced from
the footpaths. Eventually a group of trail users got together
and decided that trail safety for all should have a higher priority
than the sport of a few. SafeTrails was born.
our goals are:
1. We want to convince land managers in the Santa
Barbara area that trail usage should be based upon safety and
well defined standards rather than laissez-faire simplicity.
2. Safe Trails does not encourage, support, or
condone violence between trail user groups. Planting traps, trip
wires and other devices to injure mountain bikers or equestrians
is immoral and illegal and does not further anyone's cause. Bikers
riding as close as they can to other trail users to 'dust' them
is also unacceptable.
3. We want to hear from all sectors of the community
on how they think local trails should be used.
4. We want to collect information about trail
conditions and incidents so that decisions can be based upon facts
rether than emotions.
5. We want to educate trail users about the effects
of mountain bikes on our steep narrow front country trails.
6. We want to put a stop to the displacement
of legitimate trail users by special use groups. The loss of peaceful
and quiet right to the hiking experience for the old, the very
young and the disabled should not be ignored.
7. Multi-use trails in Santa Barbara's front
country should meet standards set by the International Mountain
Biking Association (IMBA) in their book 'Building Better Trails'
of no more than an overall grade of 10% with maximum tread grade
of 15% with grade reversals and trail widths adequate to give
equestrians 'escape routes'.
8. Where existing trails do not meet those minimum
standards listed above, we support closing those trails to mountain
bikes, changing the designation from multi-use to footpath use
unless and until they meet those standards. Trails should be closed
unless posted as open.
9. We support locating and opening mountain bike
only areas so that mountain bikers can enjoy their sport.
10. We support healing the wounds of the trail
community once each group feels that they are understood, that
their needs are being met and that they are able to enjoy our
trails in a way that is acceptable to them.
Please join us in our quest to convince the local
land managers that safety should be our first concern.
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