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

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Overview

This study found that all mountain bikers, from casual to the most avid, are most likely to ride on trails without hikers or equestrians, and are willing to pay a fee to ride on these trails. While mountain bikers are more likely to use singletrack trails, only the most avid are willing to pay a fee to extend the proportion of a ride that is singletrack.

Relevance

Findings from this study can be used to inform which trails might be best-suited to develop for mountain biking and the conditions under which access fees could be acceptable without discouraging use.

Location

The study was based in Oregon, but the exact location was not specified.

Trail Type

The authors used hypothetical trails with a range of difficulty, length, and access fees. Some were exclusively mountain bike trails, while others also allowed hikers and equestrians.

Purpose

This study is designed to identify the trail characteristics most valued by mountain bikers, with the goal of being able to predict the types of trails mountain bikers are most likely to use. To identify when access fees might be an appropriate management tool, the authors investigate how access fees might affect which trails mountain bikers use. The study was conducted by university researchers; the funding source is not provided.

Findings

The authors found the following patterns in mountain biker preferences for trails:

  • Bikers prefer trails without hikers or equestrians,
  • Bikers prefer trails with more singletrack than doubletrack, and
  • Bikers generally prefer trails that are either short and steep, or long and relatively flat.

All types of bikers were not willing to pay a fee unless there were improvements to their experience, such as increasing trail length, increasing the proportion of singletrack, or creating a trail exclusively for mountain bikers.

All types of bikers were willing to pay a fee, ranging from $3 for casual cyclists to $25 for serious mountain bikers, to ride on trails exclusively for mountain bikers.

The most avid mountain bikers were willing to pay a $5 fee in exchange for increasing the amount of singletrack trail. However, casual users were unwilling to pay for this enhanced experience.

Methods

The authors obtained their data using a survey known as a “choice experiment.” The survey contained questions about hypothetical trails, defined by the following criteria: total length, percentage of the trail that is singletrack, total vertical feet of climbing, number of peaks along the trail profile, the entrance fee amount, and whether the trail is also used by hikers and equestrians. Respondents were presented with hypothetical trails that had varying characteristics and were asked to choose which one they would be most likely to visit. They were also asked background information about their interest and experience with mountain biking, gender, age, and household income.

Using a statistical model, the authors were able to identify the factors that were most important in determining which trails mountain bikers prefer. They also used these data to estimate mountain bikers’ willingness-to-pay for different trail attributes.

Data were collected at the Portland Bicycle Show, where individuals were asked if they rode mountain bikes. Of the 326 individuals who rode mountain bikes, 92 percent agreed to take the survey.

Citation

Morey, E., T. Buchanan, and D. Waldman. 2002. “Estimating the benefits and costs to mountain bikers of changes in trail characteristics, access fees, and site closures: choice experiments and benefits transfer.” Journal of Environmental Management 64(4): 411-422.