A Letter to The First Lady Michelle Obama on the topic of making mountain biking legal in Rock Creek Park here in Washington DC

a few months back I worked with my third grade son's Dean's class with a persuasive essay project

I met with the class and gave a presentation about mountain biking and the notion of making mountain biking legal on the natural surface trails of Rock Creek Park here in Washington, DC

the presentation involved a slide show of images that displayed my family riding their bicycles on natural surface trails as well as some shots of me racing my bicycle


when the children had finished their essays I scripted this message to accompany their letters
then the letters were sent to The First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let's Move initiative

here is what I wrote...

First Lady Michelle Obama

Last month I went to my older son Dean’s third grade class to see my son’s biography presentation about Nepalese mountain climber Tensing Norgay. While waiting for my son’s turn to give his speech, I had the pleasure of watching some of the other children give their presentations to the class. You would have been flattered. A girl named Kayla gave one of the most memorable productions: Kayla did her biography presentation about you, Michelle Obama.

The Michelle Obama biography presentation was fantastic from all angles. Not only was the report well written and informative, there was also a healthy snack of carrots and cheese for each of the children. Then as a complete surprise the presentation was given while doing the hula-hoop. This third grade girl started the hula-hoop and then began to speak. Kayla’s voice did not carry any disruption from the elliptical motion of her hips nor did she ever falter with the hula-hoop itself. Kayla’s presentation was impressive and well received.

In this presentation about you and your life there was mention of the LET’S MOVE initiative. Although I had heard of LET’S MOVE, I had not really known much about it. So later that evening when I got home I sat down at my computer I GOOGLED LET’S MOVE and read about this initiative.

As a father of two young boys I try to raise my boys to eat right and stay active. Within the long list of activities that my children enjoy, bicycle-riding ranks pretty close to the top. As a family we ride our bicycles all over the city. The only thing that my boys enjoy more than riding their bicycles around the city is riding their bikes “off road.” Off road cycling is also known as “mountain biking.” Sadly… to go mountain biking we have to put the bikes on the car and drive a minimum of sixty minutes outside the city. So, if a child were to seek to get their SIXTY MINUTES worth of physical activity each day by mountain biking then they would have to drive a minimum two hours to make this happen. That is not at all practical, but… what about mountain biking locally?

Here in Washington, DC there is an amazing natural resource known as Rock Creek Park. This park bisects the city bordering all sorts of neighborhoods in The District. The park has trails that offer outdoor physical opportunities for hikers, runners, dog walkers, and horseback riders… but not bicycles. Riding bicycles on the natural surface trails of Rock Creek Park is illegal.

Riding bicycles on the natural surface trails in Rock Creek Park is illegal? Why?

Why is mountain biking illegal in Rock Creek Park? I am not entirely sure… this is just the way it always has been. My guess for why the trails are closed to mountain biking is because the mountain bike is so misunderstood.

Mountain biking really just means riding a bicycle on natural surface trails. There does not need to be a mountain. Usually mountain biking means riding a fat tire bicycle on dirt trails in the woods, sort of like hiking… except on a bike. On top of that basic misunderstanding there exist a few myths about mountain biking.

-People falsely believe that bicycles cause excessive damage to the trails.

Well, responsible mountain bikers ride responsibly. The impact of a responsible mountain biker is similar to the impact of a responsible hiker and far less than any equestrian responsible or not. Responsible riders do not ride when trails are wet and vulnerable to damage. Properly built trails can sustain bicycle, hiker, and horse traffic. Poorly built trails cannot sustain any use.

-Then there is the myth that bicyclist and hikers cannot get along.

I ride my mountain bike on multiuse dirt trails all over the Mid-Atlantic and all over the country. In these hundreds and hundreds of dirt miles I have encountered all sorts of hikers, runners, and horseback riders. The interaction between mountain bikers and other trail users is usually quite pleasant. There is room for everyone. Responsible riding and respect for others is displayed and the space is shared without issue.

Washington, DC has facilities for all sorts of sports. There are soccer and baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, but there are no bicycle facilities. Riding a bicycle on the city streets is a dangerous activity… especially for a child. If mountain biking were made legal in Rock Creek Park then there would be a safe haven for adults and children to ride their bikes away from the dangers of car traffic.

Making mountain biking legal in Rock Creek Park would not be an expensive procedure.

How much would it cost to make mountain biking legal in Rock Creek Park?

Not much. It would cost no more than taking down the NO BIKES signs and telling the people that they can ride their bikes there.

There are bicycle advocacy groups like IMBA: International Mountain Bike Association and MORE: Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts that would work in conjunction with the National Park Service to clean up and re-build the trails so that they could sustain the type of wear caused by cyclists. Honestly, the trails of Rock Creek Park are in poor shape. Allowing mountain biking would actually benefit the trail system because the mountain bike culture is so involved in the trail-building process.

Right now I see the NO BIKES signs in Rock Creek Park like a locked chain link fence around a potential urban mountain bike heaven. Taking down the signs would be like tearing down the fence. Thus allowing the kids to get some exercise and maybe develop a life long love for riding a bicycle.

Feel free to contact me if you or a member of the LET’S MOVE staff cares to discuss this further.

Thank You for your Time

Joel Gwadz


Husband, father, dog owner, and cyclist


Web Links to those two Bicycle Advocacy Groups

IMBA: International Mountain Bike Association


MORE: Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts


An article about a change in Trail Access Laws changed under the Bush Administration


here are some similiar posts on the Gwadzilla Page


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