Plans for a comprehensive system of bike trails in the East Bay have long been stymied by the EBMUD (the East Bay municipal water district). That is because EBMUD has an absolute ban on bike riding on its trails. For the past 50 years, only hikers and equestrians have been permitted on the trails. There are huge gaps in the bike network as a result.
But now the water agency is reconsidering the ban. Last month, it held a public hearing — and as usual, the Sierra Club is vehemently opposed:
A total of approximately 45 people spoke. The Sierra Club came out very quickly against making any changes at all through Stormin’ Norman Laforce. If it weren’t for the fact that we needed to listen respectfully and smile we would have laughed him off the stage. He is thoroughly ridiculous. The lady that followed him from the Sierra Club, a former director of EBMUD, Ms.Burke, was equally ridiculous. They have no idea at all.
By and large even the people who would not have supported access to cycling suggested that absolute closure was unreasonable. They were simply concerned against all of the usual horror stories about mountain bikers, the need for enforcement, and the challenges that these created. I think that these were all fair criticisms.
Mary Selkirk, a former director who voted to exclude mountain bikers in 1996, spoke of regretting her decision as patently unfair. This was huge. She had real gravitas.
However the greatest proportion of people who spoke suggested the value of mountain biking especially in terms of generating good health and good trail use practices in our youth. The contact with nature and our tendency to be stewards, the need for unblocking closures that inhibit the entirety of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. People spoke in terms of hoping for flexibility and the potentials for evaluating as things unfolded.
The ossified leadership within East Bay Sierra Club chapters has grown increasingly bizarre in its policy positions. They have opposed bike lanes and transit-oriented development. They have even endorsed anti-BRT candidates for Berkeley City Council.
Their actions are completely at odds with policies adopted by the Sierra Club’s National Board of Directors. Indeed, the “official” Sierra Club policy specifically encourages bike access on trails where safety and environmental quality are not compromised. When will the National organization start requiring local chapters to comply with Sierra Club policy?