The US-based International Mountain Bicycling Association has collated a selection of scientific studies on its website that examine the impacts of mountain biking on trails, vegetation, and wildlife. The studies indicate that mountain biking, contrary to common belief, is no more damaging to the environment than other forms of recreation, including hiking. However, IMBA recognises that unruly mountain bikers can have a detrimental social impact.

Mountain biking’s impact on environment no worse than hiking, claims IMBA

IMBA’s review, titled ‘Natural Resource Impacts of Mountain Biking’, looks at all the available international studies that have measured the impacts of cycling and other trail use.

"Like all forms of recreation, bicycling does affect natural resources," said Gary Sprung, IMBA’s senior national policy advisor and author of the review.

"But since the birth of mountain biking, some environmentalists and hikers have maintained that cycling causes more damage to trails, vegetation, and wildlife than hiking. The science performed to date does not support that notion."

Eight empirical studies are summarised in the report, from researchers in America, Australia and New Zealand.

IMBA’s review does not evaluate sociology studies.

"The more challenging issue for trail users is not their differing environmental impacts, but rather their social

conflicts, which are quite real, thoroughly studied, and manageable," said Sprung.

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