Ranting on About Big Brother

Posted by on Apr 10, 2008 in Bike, Moab | No Comments

Also see: In Contrast for further discussion on this topic.


Competitive SRPs are required for events where 2 or more people compete in a recreational activity. A permit is also required when 1 person or team contests an established record.

Colorado BLM page.

The language regarding a solo rider is new. At least since I last read the page. It is, no doubt, pointed directly at our niche of riders. One of our defenses at the KTR last year was that we were simply individuals riding a solo time trial. We just happened to be starting together.

However, the absurdity of trying to require a permit for an individual is landmark. It seems to me to demonstrate everything that is wrong in the world of bureaucratic fumbling and bumbling. It is nothing short of charging a fee to use public, tax funded lands. They are also putting a fee on intent, rather than actual usage. If you intend to ride your bike quickly across public lands you are required to apply for a permit. This is ridiculous. And it borders on discrimination.

Never mind that this idiotic policy is utterly unenforceable.

BLM Agent: Hey! Hey you there on the pedal bike!
Rider: Um, yeah?
BLM Agent: You were riding pretty fast there, are you trying to contest an established record?
Rider: …

Again intent comes to mind. What is the intent behind putting such a policy into place? It seems explicitly intended to put an end to the way unsupported solo riders are using the public trails.


There is a lot of vagary in the permit requirements. And they vary from State to State. Colorado and California are the most detailed I have looked at. (For anyone wondering, the Utah SRP page just talks about all the money that tourism brings in to the Rocky Mountain West).

Competitive SRPs are required for events where 2 or more people compete in a recreational activity. A permit is also required when 1 person or team contests an established record.

And from California’s page:

2.Competitive Use – Competitive Use means any organized, sanctioned, or structured use, event, or activity on public land in which two or more contestants compete and either (1) participants register, enter, or complete an application for the event, or (2) a predetermined course or area is designated.

“…where 2 or more people compete in a recreational activity..” This is as wide open as the land around Cisco. If me and a friend want to wrestle in the Mary’s Loop parking lot do we need a permit? Is racing one another back to the parking lot after a hike a recreational activity?

“(1) participants register, enter, or complete an application for the event,”

None of the “underground” events have registration, fees, entry forms or anything of the sort.

“(2) a predetermined course or area is designated”

This is another broad stroke. Every ride, wether organized or not, has a predetermined course or area. Have you ever been on a group ride where you arrive only to find out that you will just be riding “where ever the wind blows us”? Obviously there are variables, but this seems to me a silly requirement.

What I find most interesting in all this are the listed exceptions to needing a permit. Again from the Colorado site:

To determine if an SRP is required for organized groups, the authorized officer at a field office evaluates a proposal using the following criteria:

Will the event create conflicts with other users?
Will the event cause resource damage?
Will the event be inconsistent with BLM recreation management objectives?
Will the event create unacceptable risks to public health and safety?

Besides being subjective to the whims of the relevant Agent, these are fairly broad terms. But it can be reasonably argued that a bike ride answers “no” to every question, nearly every time it would be asked.

From the California site:

Preapplication Interview Checklist:

Are you charging a fee?
Do you expect to make money on the event or is the fee to cover expenses?
Will there be a competition?
Will you advertise?
Will you mark a course?
Will you be expecting vehicles at your event? (How many?)
Will your event involve public lands?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may need a permit from the BLM

All of our rides can fall into the “no” category in all but the public lands question. The vehicles question is odd, and I assume is more applicable to events where massive amounts of people will be participating, or if the event itself involves vehicles, like a jeep safari or rally.

It still comes back to intent though. Will there be a competition? Generally, the answer is yes. Even if the ride is described as a “group ride” or a “solo time trial” there are usually participants who are either going to race one another, or at the very least race against a clock or their own established standards.

The elephant in the room is this: If there are no fees, no registration, no advertisements, no prizes and no sponsorships, then why does the element of competition even matter? Why are we being policed and penalized on our intent to compete?

Why does competition alone require government intervention? Or more accuratley, why does the government think they need to intervene?

Some have asked me why I (or we) just don’t get a permit. There are several reasons. First of all, I don’t believe we need one. In addition: They are expensive. They must be applied for 6 months in advance. They must list the number of participants, have proof of insurance, and have permission from any relevant land owners, and many other red tape steps. On top of that, they have to be processed and approved by a government agency that can decline the application for any reason at all.

It flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of these rides.

Now, let me point out one more thing. I am not an anarchist. I am not anti-government. But I am pro-self reliance. I believe firmly that individuals ought to be responsible for themselves. I don’t need laws and policies to protect me from myself. I will attempt to use my own wit and wisdom to do that. Which is one of many reasons I am attracted to these underground, no frills, rides. They encourage a spirit of independence. Or, as so often cited when describing these rides, they admonish riders to “carry what they need or do without.”

Last year at the KTR I pointed out to the BLM officer that fined me (us) that it was easier to simply get ticketed and pay a fine, than it was to apply for a permit.

She reluctantly agreed with me.


  1. Keith
    April 10, 2008

    Adam, you know my feeling, it’s absurd, ignorant and bordering on unconstitutional. I don’t think we be should suprised that a government organization, set-up to protect public lands for everyone’s enjoyment, is of course selectively determining who can use those lands and how. This isn’t the problem so much as they are becoming so specific in their exclusions and limitations that they are targeting specific segments of the “public” which is most certainly WRONG! If I were independently wealthy I’d help fund a lawsuit simply to bring attention to this frivolous misuse of governing power.

  2. Jeff Kerkove
    April 10, 2008

    I just filed for my permit for the year 2010 when I go back to Moab to ride Slickrock as fast as I can. I am hoping to beat my personal record.

  3. Dave Harris
    April 10, 2008

    Here’s a snippet from Utah’s BLM SRP process handbook. Yep, they are squarely pointing at us – by name even.

    3. A Competitive permit is required for an organized, sanctioned, or structured use, event, or
    activity on public land in which contestants compete and any of the following elements apply:

  4. Ed
    April 10, 2008

    LOL, the absurdity is mind-boggling! I’m speechless which is probably a good thing right now.

    Unbelievable! Good post Adam. I love the fact that we are probably being “watched” as we type these notes. Maybe it’s time for P.O.T.S. and snail mail again.

    Catch me if you can…..


  5. Ed
    April 10, 2008

    By the way this stuff reminds me of another absurdity that was brewing in NYC but luckily never got off the ground:



  6. Meredith
    April 11, 2008

    I think it’s truly unfortunate the attitude Both sides have taken, as regards this event.

    And I think there’s a stunning lack of open dialog.

    But most everyone has heard me express my sentiments before, so I’ll shush.

  7. Dave Harris
    April 11, 2008

    Meredith – you make an eye opening point. We probably need to hear your sentiments again…and again. Lotsa bulls, lotsa china closets, not so much in between.

  8. Epic Adam
    April 11, 2008

    Merideth, you do make a good point.

    Open dialogue is something I am trying to pursue. And maybe FW will able be to open some channels with his course of action. The problem is that in the past there has been attempts to meet halfway, and the Bureau has been immovable.

    I am going to try and contact some folks soon and try and get more information on this, and find out exactly what we can do as riders, to try and make both sides happy.

    I appreciate you adding some perspective to this conversation.

  9. Dave
    April 11, 2008

    It seems to me that this HAS to be open for litigation, if one were so inclined. Maybe I should write a letter to the ACLU.

    I just keep coming back to the contrast between BLM and FS? The FS’s rules seem totally fair and understandable, to say nothing of clear, accesible, and practical. There has to be some reason for the difference.

  10. Meredith
    April 11, 2008

    Adam – I’m excited to hear that you’re at least trying to make direct contact, whatever the outcome ends up being, you’ll be able to claim the high ground.

    If you want any assistance or another person to read through the small print and come up with ideas – I’m usually pretty good at dealing with bureaucracy and red tape.

    (Actually used my college’s own rules to keep them from suspending me for a semester – back in the day 🙂 As if that’s an achievement…

    but really – I’d love to be a sounding board/play devil’s advocate for different approaches or assist in any way I can.

  11. Chris
    April 12, 2008

    We can easily go deeper underground but that doesn’t seem like the best solution.

    I agree we need dialogue and some way to come to an agreement. If they’d just talk to us and tell us what it will take then we can figure out how to do it.

    Dave – the FS/BLM differences are amazing. I just don’t understand why there is such a difference or why they seem to be targeting us so purposefully.

  12. Ed
    April 12, 2008

    It’s becoming so civilized, so organized, so herded, so repressed, so governed, so dead. The spirit is dying.

    Long live FREE trails.


  13. The Rim Ride
    April 12, 2008

    Anyone who would like to express their feelings to a real live BLM permit officer should contact Jennifer Jones at the Moab BLM office. 435-259-2100. Email rimridemoab@yahoo.com if you want a lot more detail and less pleasantries about BLM communications.

    Adam, you’ve expressed a lot of shared ideas much better than I could.

    Ed, You’ve got it, except it doesn’t have to…


  14. Chris
    April 12, 2008


    The spirit isn’t dead, it would just be great not to have to play a game of ‘who gets the ticket’ today every time we want to ride on BLM land!

    Maybe I’m going to be afraid to ride back to the car quickly to get lunch since a undercover BLMer dressed as sage might assuming I’m TT’ing Rustlers loop!

  15. Ed
    April 12, 2008

    “Maybe I’m going to be afraid to ride back to the car quickly to get lunch since a undercover BLMer dressed as sage might assuming I’m TT’ing Rustlers loop!”

    Exactly my point. where does it stop? The rules are capricious, vindictive, oppressive and arbitrary. They are nonsense and negotiating from that base is ludicrous. I’ve been a law abiding trail citizen for a long time and have always advocated cooperation but I chafe at this round of targeting responsible users who just ride on designated open trails.

    The next new rule will be a requirement to register seven year olds who might play with matches.

    Good discussion but I’m not happy.


  16. Marshal
    April 13, 2008

    Personally I do not think talking to the bureaucrats that have involved themselves in shutting down the ‘self-supported’ endurance rides will be very open to any meaningful ‘dialog’. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. I also think the requirements of the ‘permit process’ will alter any ‘grass roots, self supported’ events to be unrecognizable.

  17. Brad Mullen
    April 13, 2008

    I spoke with several folks at the Cholla Challenge yesterday(Man, I hope they had a permit) and it was put forth to contact Ryan Miller who rides for Cutthroat Beers, he is the IMBA rep in Utah, and Dave Ward, editor of Utah Cycling Magazine, he’s an attorney and strong bicycle advocate. Maybe we need to go this root to get a meaningful dialouge started. It seems the ‘crats have a close mind and myopic view of how to manage “our” land, so maybe more persuasive & educated minds need to enter the picture.

  18. Stefan-n-Sheryl
    April 14, 2008


    I always find your posts well thought out, succinctly written, and you always see clearly through any issue to the deeper problem. Thanks for that!

    2 years ago, Boulder County Open Space Mountain Parks added language to their charter to ban competitive events of “more than 3 people trying to best each other”. It came about the same way – a confrontation with a ranger and our informal, unorganized, self-timed Flatiron Time Trials. I guess the ranger just didn’t like that all 7 of us were starting our watches at the same time?! Because other than that, we were no different than the other 300+ OSMP visitors that day.

    What I just can’t understand is this: where does this fear of competition and/or pushing one’s self come from? Do they realize that they have now also banned a pick-up game of baseball, ultimate frisbee, frisbee golf, basketball or a million other common things!

    And yes, you’ve put your finger on the Elephant in the room – it simply is the competitive aspect. Loads of people bike those trails or climb in the flatirons everyday, so what difference does it make if you are going faster (or slower) than the next guy? Neither is causing more impact, or doing anything differently than the other hundreds of people there on the same day.

    Now *this* is absolutely over the top!

    “A permit is also required when 1 person or team contests an established record.”

    What? Huh? Wh… Why?! Any reason? Just one, please? It just makes no sense at all.

    So, I would like to publicly inform the BLM that next time I ride the KT, I will be finishing at the 3rd parking spot in the 2nd row of the Slickrock parking lot. Since this will be a new course, I will be the first record holder and the rest of you will have to get a permit if you want to challenge my time…


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