UPDATE: US Military Confiscate Forty-Five Bikes

by
January 20, 2016

UPDATE, 20/01/2016:

Following yesterday’s story on the US Marines at Miramar seizing mountain bikes, San Diego Mountain Bike Association president Kevin Loomis has posted this update video:


(If the video isn’t showing follow this link instead).

In it he talks about the fact they they’ve had a months long dialogue with the base at Miramar, the fact that they can’t always fence off bases due to environmental reasons (making patrols the only practical way to secure them), and the legality of the trail network in question. They’ve also posted a useful map in the comments for any local riders.

One of our columnists also pointed out to us that in other areas with similar situations, riders have been known to destroy warning signs in the name of plausible deniability (He was careful to specify that he’s not casting aspersions on the riders of San Diego though). We have no idea if that has occurred near San Diego or not, but the San Diego Reader quotes Lt. Matthew Gregory as saying: “I feel like we’ve done our due diligence. We’ve let people know, we put signs out there, and we’ve had patrols warning people to stay off our base. It’s a security issue for us, and a safety issue for them.”

There are many factors that make the kind of job Kevin Loomis is doing an extremely challenging one, but opening and maintaining that dialogue with landowners is vital to keeping all trails open and accessible.

Sycamore Canyon, San Diego
Sycamore Canyon, San Diego

19/01/2016:

Imagine you and some friends are flying down a favourite trail, and suddenly armed military police riding quad bikes surround you, separate you from your bikes, give each of you a $500 ticket, and inform you that you won’t get your bike back until you have a court date and have appeared to pay the fines. That’s exactly what happened to forty-five riders near San Diego last weekend, as reported by NBC (video at link).

Trespassing is more enforced in the US, where it is actually a crime and in some states you might even get shot at (whereas in the UK, it’s a civil matter in most cases and usually used to bolster other criminal charges, such as “trespass and criminal damage” or “aggravated trespass”. I Am Not A Lawyer caveat applies, of course). In this case, it’s a US Military base that happens to have trails criss-crossing its unfenced, un-signposted boundaries.

The San Diego Mountain Bike Association wrote on their facebook page the other day:

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“PLEASE READ and SHARE!!! Marines are enforcing the boundaries of Miramar and are confiscating bikes!!! For months SDMBA has communicated the Marines would be ticketing riders along with confiscating bikes as evidence for riders on their base. Today they started enforcement.

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While all areas on the Marine base are off limits, they currently are focusing on two locations. Today 15 bikes (that SDMBA knows of) were confiscated by Santee Lakes. This is also known as the Mast Medina location to ride to Goodan Ranch. The area under the power lines along the northeast side of the treatment plant are on the base. Also the entire Sycamore Canyon going up to Goodan Ranch is also on military land.”

The military later stated the number of confiscated mountain bikes was actually 45. They may well need to enforce extra security, but the way it’s being done sounds like a dreadful situation and we really feel for the riders. It’s not realistic to expect community groups to be able to reach all riders.

Pirbright, near Aldershot. CC Photo: Colin Smith
Pirbright, near Aldershot

At least similar places in the UK put boundary fences in and signage up warning people they’re entering military land. Aldershot is a good UK example, but so far the army have resorted to good boundary marking, open communication, and no heavy handed enforcement. Trail Action Group seem to be leading the conversation there, showing the importance of joining your local access forum or MTB advocacy group. Doing so doesn’t just help you stay informed, but it lets you become a part of the dialogue that keeps trails open and maintained.

(Topmost image via this youtube video, bottom by Colin Smith, via Geograph).

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