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Estimating the Benefits and Costs to Mountain Bikers of Changes in Trail Characteristics, Access Fees, and Site Closures: Choice Experiments and Benefits Transfer

A Publication of the Journal of Environmental Management (2002)

Tens of millions of North Americans and Europeans own mountain bikes and millions of them are avid trail riders. The growing popularity of mountain biking in many areas has led to increased trail degradation and conflicts among users on single track. This study could be used as a template to estimate benefits and costs to other users (hikers and equestrians), a critical component of any analysis of the types of policies managers must consider.

Estimating the Benefits and Costs to Mountain Bikers of Changes in Trail Characteristics

Mountain biking is an increasingly popular leisure pursuit. Consequences are trail degradation and conflicts with hikers and other users. Resource managers often attempt to resolve these problems by closing trails to mountain biking. In order to estimate the impact of these developments, a model has been devised that predicts the effects of changes in trail characteristics and introduction of access fees, and correlates these with biker preference on trail selection. It estimates each individual’s per-ride consumer’s surplus associated with implementing different policies. The surplus varies significantly as a function of each individual’s gender, budget, and interest in mountain biking. Estimation uses stated preference data, specifically choice experiments. Hypothetical mountain bike trails were created and each surveyed biker was asked to make five pair-wise choices. A benefit-transfer simulation is used to show how the model and parameter estimates can be transferred to estimate the benefits and costs to mountain bikers in a specific area.

Experiments were designed to estimate how mountain bikers would value changes in the characteristics of trails. The mountain bikers in our sample displayed reasonable and plausible behavior while choosing between pairs of hypothetical sites. The estimated parameters indicate more single-track is preferred, so is banning other users. Fees, by themselves, would be unwelcome. Trail difficulty is appreciated, but only up to a point. The consumer surplus estimates varied across bikers quite plausibly in terms of household budget, gender and interest in mountain biking. Willingness to pay is a function of income and interest in mountain biking.

The results suggest that significant numbers of bikers would be willing to pay an access fee for improved conditions; the amount would depend on the number of substitute sites and the trail characteristics and fees, if any, at those sites.

Published September 10, 2001

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