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Marin County Cyclists, Hikers Butting Heads Over Trail Use Rights

INVERNESS (CBS SF) -- A debate over trail use is raging in Marin County, with cyclists and hikers butting heads over rights-of-way.

Pamela Reaves was hiking alone on a sunny afternoon when she crossed paths with a mountain biker.

"I was viciously attacked," Reaves said.

By Pamela's account, the biker picked her up and threw her to the ground after a disagreement about who had the right-of-way.

Reaves said she suffered a concussion, bruised ribs, major contusions, and a loss of work.

"It's hard for me to think about it," Reaves said.

While a case of violence is rare, the trail use debate has been simmering for years.

"Yeah, there is tension for sure," mountain biker Matt Weeder said.

The central issue at play is which trails should be open to mountain bikes, and how to get everyone to play by the rules.

"I've had people swinging their walking sticks at me.  The bikers love the mountain just as much as everybody else.  It's just we gotta run from the cops all the time just to do it," mountain biker Peter Verdone said.

But Verdone doesn't feel he's doing anything to harm hikers.

"I break rules, I break the law, I ride illegal trail, but I don't think I'm putting anyone's life in danger," he said.

There are bikers who want the same trail access as hikers, and hikers who sabotage legal bike trails with upholstery tracks.

Trying to keep control of the open space that runs all the way to the Pacific Ocean in Marin County are five different agencies.  Rangers frantically snap pictures, and hand out citations, chasing cyclists that ride well into the night.

"The night-biking has become a big problem.  They tear up, you know, they say, 'let's shred the trail,'" Nona Dennis of the Marin Conservation League said.  She has been tasked with finding a solution for the problem.  Next month, she'll roll out a campaign designed to stop the cycle of confrontation.

"Slow and say hello.  Stop and say hello.  I mean the bikes are not gonna stop.  We certainly want 'em to slow," Dennis said.

Meanwhile, the county is re-drawing its trail policies, and bikers are hoping for more access.

"We have this beautiful land that created the mountain bike, and it's the most restrictive place probably in the United States to ride mountain bikes," Weeder said.

If history is any indication, getting everyone on the same page will be a tough hill to climb.

"To not feel safe because another trail user is going to crash into you, it's not okay," Reaves said.



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