27 June 2017

Advocacy in the spotlight: in conversation with Heiko Mittelstädt of DIMB

Advocacy in the spotlight is a series of articles to highlight the work of mountain bike advocates and MTB advocacy associations across Europe. To keep trails accessible for mountain biking in your country or to develop new ones, lots of volunteers and professionals are working behind the scenes to make mountain biking a bit better for you. This time we spoke to Heiko Mittelstädt, working for Deutsche Initiative Mountain Bike e.V. as project leader 'Open Trails'

Could you explain what you are working on as project leader of DIMB'S 'Open Trails' initiative?

I´m employed by DIMB as a lobbyist for trails access in Germany. That means I talk to politicans, read studies, write statements, go to congresses and meetings, and inform mountainbiker about trail access. If there are MTB restrictions somewhere coming up, I´m the first contact  to talk to.

What is DIMB's strategy as it comes to improve trail access in Germany? Change of legislation, influence local or regional policies?

We work at each level. It depends on what level the restrictions occur. We writing statements to new law designs and sometimes we need to enter a lawsuit. We talk to politicans, authorities, stakeholders associations, media and tourism mangers. But we also support individual mountain bikers or clubs with our expertise if they are facing local restrictions. 

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge for mountain bike advocacy in Germany at this moment?

It is the 2 Meter Rule in Baden-Württemberg. It´s not only the law itself. It´s a kind of symbol how MTB access will be managed in the future. Will we have the right to roam on any trail, or will we be only allowed to ride on forrest roads and designated MTB trails? 

How would you compare the rights of mountain bikers anno 2017 compared to, let's say, 10 years ago?

In most states the right stays on the same level. If there are restrictions by law, there are not enforced and most time ignored by mountain bikers, because they think they're not reasonable. The big difference is that local authorities try more and more to forbid single trails by sign or, in the case of protected areas, by the introduction of local regulations which can be more strict and can overrule legislation at the state level.

What can mountain bikers do to support DIMB?

By becoming a DIMB member. Or by sharing our articles published at our Facebook page "Open Trails", organize in a club to give MTB a local voice and ride as recommended in our Trail Rules, 

What are you really proud of in terms of results you've booked?

We have succesfully opposed against upcoming restrictions in Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2016. And we get more and more positive newspaper articles and TV reports about what mountainbike really is. 

Last one, what's your favorite place to ride in Germany and what makes it special to you? 

I´d prefer the middle ranges with a huge amount of natural S0-S2 trails. I´d like the Pfälzerwald with it´s smooth trailnetwork, loneliness and friendly people.