A court decision for mountain biking – and what it means

The court ruling does not make the development of offers for mountain bikers easier, but rather more transparent.

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But first, a brief summary of the facts: Alec Wohlgroth and Matthias Lüscher were fined for riding single trails on Zurich's local mountain, the Üetliberg, on their mountain bikes. When they appealed against the fine in court (through two instances), they were acquitted. (The whole story from the perspective of the two mountain bikers can be read here).

According to the acquittal, riding single trails on the Üetliberg is permitted, except where it is explicitly prohibited.

Reason to be happy

The ruling is a reason for joy for Alec and Matthias and for many other mountain bikers, because mountain biking on single trails on the Üetliberg and in the rest of the canton of Zurich is generally permitted. Mountain bikers are allowed to use these trails, the court ruled.  

Ask questions instead of just thinking for yourself

If the legal situation seems unclear, it is often difficult to understand because most people do not understand legal language. Nevertheless, hours are wasted on hypotheses and personal interpretations of the law. And suddenly people accept their own theories and the many legal obstacles that stand in the way of mountain biking. 

Alec and Matthias, on the other hand, asked questions and insisted on their right to an answer. As a concept, this is simple; as an action, it is groundbreaking and hopefully inspiring.

You can't wait until you've received a fine to ask the court. You can actually just ask the authorities because you're a citizen. And the authorities are happy to give you information. And it's worth asking several people at different authorities because they often only have one point of view.

What the people of Graubünden can do, others can do too

The court decision opens up the possibility for the canton of Zurich to deal with mountain bike developments in the same way as in the canton of Graubünden. There, people are (in some cases far) ahead of the rest of Switzerland in terms of implementation and have long allowed mountain bikers on all trails, except those that are explicitly prohibited. Graubünden has even already promoted its own network of trails with the hashtag #allesfahrbar. Similar implementations are now also closer in the canton of Zurich because the basic interpretation of the law is now the same. 

These are great prospects for all mountain bike supporters in Zurich and more than a glimmer of hope for other cantons. And: the people of Graubünden are very open and willing to talk when it comes to sharing their experience with the rest of Switzerland. 

When, if not now?

The court ruling does not make the development of offers for mountain bikers easier, but more transparent. This is a great help and brings new clarity and security to planning, development and communication processes. This clarity is currently available for authorities, project participants, developers and mountain bikers, for supporters and critics. Everyone has benefited from this.

Accordingly, the court ruling is one thing above all for the many mountain bike supporters inside and outside of Zurich: an encouragement to take action. So put your projects on the table and get to work. When, if not now?

Thanks!

We would like to conclude with a thank you. I don't know Matthias Lüscher personally. Alec Wohlgroth has been my friend for over two decades. 

We would like to thank both Matthias and Alec for their commitment, their energy and their perseverance. This thanks also goes to all the people in their region who are making a big effort and taking small steps to fight for the rights of mountain bikers. This always benefits people outside of the respective region too.

Grazia fich! Thank you very much! Grazie mille! Merci beaucoup! Thank you!

27 March 2023

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