Fat Tire Fest October 17th! LADOT Bike Blog interviews CORBA

LADOT Bike Blog had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve Messer, a member of CORBA’s board of directors, on the rainy Wednesday morning before CicLAvia. CORBA, the Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Association, is holding their largest fundraiser of the year this weekend On Sunday October 17th CORBA will host the Fat Tire Fest at the Lake Castaic State Recreation Area. We talk with Steve about the Fat Tire Fest, CORBA’s mission and activities, their response to the 2010 LA Bike Plan and more, below the fold.

Come to the Fat Tire Fest this Sunday!

CORBA’s Biggest Fundraiser

CORBA, an all-volunteer organization, uses the annual Fat Tire Fest as their largest fundraiser of the year. The festival itself will also be run entirely by volunteers, donating their time simply for their love of off-road bicycling and their desire to support the good work CORBA does.

Fat Tire Events

The Fat Tire Fest, sponsored by REI, Bike Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Specialized, Cynergy Cycles, and Six Six One, and others, has a full slate of events geared towards off road riders. Covered here, the festival offers Poker Rides, raffling away free bikes, exhibitions, skills clinics, hill climb contests, guided group rides, and a few new events:

Advanced XC ride with Pro Allison Mann

Professional mountain biker Allison Mann and other Fat Tire Fest volunteers will be on hand to help riders through an advanced cross-country course specially designed for the festival.

Cyclocross with Brad House

Bicycle Advisory Committee member Brad House will be on hand to conduct CORBA’s first Cyclocross race. If you haven’t seen Cyclocross before, you should really check it out. It looks like a blast.

CORBA Board Member Steve Messer in the Glendale hills

CORBA – Representing LA’s Off-Road Bicyclists

CORBA has represented the interests of off road bicyclists since 1987. The group formed in order to work with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy when state and local officials considered closing trails in the Santa Monica Mountains to bicyclists. CORBA was also a founding club of the IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

Since that time, CORBA has successfully advocated for multi-use trails throughout the LA region, founded an all-volunteer Mountain Bike Unit (MBU) that patrols off-road trails, organizes work crews to build and maintain off-road trails, and runs a number of outreach and education programs.

Guarding Trails & Building Trails

CORBA has vast experience working with the various government agencies and jurisdictions that often overlap in the open spaces surrounding Los Angeles. Whether it is the national and forest services, the national and state parks systems, the various cities of the LA region, or the non-profit conservancy organizations dedicated to protecting open space, CORBA has walked the balance beam between them all to preserve bicyclists’ rights to off-road trails. Most recently, CORBA was a part of the coalition that helped preserve Mandeville Canyon Park from development.

The MBU organized by CORBA was the first of its kind in the nation, and has become the model emulated across the country. CORBA also helps keep trails safe by organizing volunteers to perform trail maintenance along almost all the trails in the LA region used by mountain bikes. Without their efforts, many trails in the LA region enjoyed by hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists alike, would fall into disrepair.

Youth Adventures

In addition to the work on the trails and in the parks, CORBA is also dedicated to educating young riders and bringing the joys of off-road biking to those who would otherwise not get the chance. As part of their Youth Adventures program, CORBA takes small groups of disadvantaged or at-risk youth out to trails in the Santa Monica Mountains to learn how to mountain bike. Serving over 350 children every year, the Youth Adventures program provides equipment, bike skills, back-country training, and ecosystem education to groups of 10-17 kids at a time. The proceeds of the Fat Tire Fest fully fund the Youth Adventures program.

Bike Plan Critique

The members of CORBA have a few strong critiques of the current draft of the 2010 LA Bike Plan. While displaying their displeasure with the current plan, however, CORBA also has many suggestions they feel will reasonably bridge the gap between mountain bikers and the City.

No Bikes in LA City Parks

Currently, bike riding is not allowed on off-road trails in any park within the Los Angeles City boundaries. Current city ordinances prohibit bike riding in parks on non-paved surfaces and the Department of Recreation and Parks has yet to make mountain biking a priority. While the 1996 Bike Plan called for 8 to-be-determined bike-accessible paths in LA City parks, the current draft leaves it for “further study”. The current draft’s stance comes from public comment during Alta’s 2009 LA Bike Plan draft, where consensus could not be reached between mountain bikers and other city park users like equestrians and hikers. You can read CORBA’s full comments on the LA Bike Plan at their blog.

The current Bike Plan does have the objective “Provide a safe and comfortable experience for all users [of City Parks]”, but CORBA does not see how this can be adequately achieved when mountain bikes are not integrated into the City parks and are forced to either ride illegally or outside of LA entirely.

As opposed to some of their equestrian counterparts, CORBA does not view access to LA’s city park trails as a “zero sum game” where accommodation of one mode necessitates the exclusion of others. As builders and maintainers of many multi-use trails in the LA region, CORBA feels like they have the institutional expertise to find solutions which can satisfy all parties. CORBA has even voiced a willingness to conduct the necessary trail studies and to build and maintain new trails should they be called for.

CORBA does not view opening up some of LA’s park trails to mountain bikes as a “trojan horse” or “domino effect”, steadily pushing other users out. Rather, they view it as the opportunity to allow Angelinos of all types to enjoy parks and get exercise. They also advocate for a “mountain bike park”, similar to a skate park, in one of the City parks. CORBA already is working with the City of Glendale to built a bike park for mountain bikers, and such a park could help mountain bikers enjoy our City’s parks without coming into conflict with other trail users.

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