Mountain bikers are the fastest non-motorized trail users. It takes just one irresponsible cyclist to create a bad reputation for mountain bikers. The reverse is also true. Responsible riding can be one of the most powerful advocacy tools to get more people on bikes and protect mountain bike trails from closure.
In 2010, IMBA Local partner Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers (CCCMB) was seeing increased user conflict in Montaña De Oro State Park in California. CCCMB wanted to protect existing trails from closure and encourage land managers to approve new mountain biking trails in the region. In order to do that, they had to find a way to address trail conflict. With that, the Bells4Bikes Program was born.
The idea was simple. Boxes with bells were placed at trailheads, and riders could take a bell to attach to their bike. Humans can hear the bell from a few hundred yards away, and horses can hear the sound from at least a quarter mile away. The ringing allowed people to slow down or yield if needed. Mountain bikers could then return the bell in a box after their ride or donate $4 and keep the bell for their next ride.
CCCMB Director at Large Bill Jenkins started the Bells4Bikes Program in Montaña De Oro after hearing about other groups using bells to mitigate user conflict on multi-use trails.
“Joe McDonald (previous CCCMB President) mentioned at a meeting that the Santa Barbara SAGE Trail Alliance was putting some bells in some mailboxes at trailheads in the Santa Barbara area. I contacted them and started from there. I contacted Bevin Bells and we have been working with them since 2010,” said Jenkins.
The first bells from the program were handed out on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010. CCCMB later expanded its bell program to include San Luis Obispo City multi-use trails. Local businesses soon began pitching in. To date, the program has had 27 bell sponsors. Many mountain biking and trail stewardship groups in the region have also adopted a similar program.
“Since we put up the Bells4Bikes web page, I have replied to 38 emails looking for information on how to start a bell program. I send FAQs, some bell box photos, and a good luck. Quite a few groups have replied that they now have a bell program in their area,” said Jenkins.
Local land managers have also been very receptive to the Bells4Bikes Program, allowing CCCMB to open more trails to mountain bikes and multi-use in San Luis Obispo County.
CCCMB President Christie O’Hara shared, “Overall everyone is pretty grateful to have bells on the trails, especially local equestrians and hikers. Many always say thanks for having a bell when passing.”
If your club or organization wants to know more about purchasing bells or starting a program, email email@example.com.
IMBA Corporate Partner Trek makes a variety of Electra bells that you can use to alert other trail users and help you share the trail.