Advocacy in the spotlight
Member of the month – highlighting the advocacy work of our national and associate members across Europe.
Firstly, could you please introduce yourself and your organisation?
There is not just one individual, but many that represent and formed the German Initiative for Mountain biking (or DIMB, the German short form) throughout the years. DIMB was founded in 1991 by individuals, industry, media and retail due to legal restrictions for Mountain bikers in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Under its state forest law, it is forbidden to ride any trail that is narrower than 2 Meters. Since then, we have advocated for legal trail access all over Germany and its 16 states. Throughout the years, DIMB evolved to what we know today and consists of three pillars: first, the club itself with regional interest groups, offering bike rides as well as being a contact point for regional stakeholders, a racing team as well as other MTB clubs, who are members of the DIMB. Second, the instructional pillar who provides the most comprehensive and sought after training for MTB Guides and riding technique trainers in Germany. And of course, the third pillar that we call Expert Advice, who is advocating pro MTB and giving advice on all issues regarding Mountain biking, whether it be legal, environmental or MTB trail building.
Could you tell us a bit about your organisation’s vision and ambition? And/or any relevant projects you’re working on?
Our vision is anchored in our statutes: we want to promote Mountain biking as a recreational and sports activity – no matter the age, sex or race; free access to trails while considering nature and social responsibility; create and maintain MTB trails and last but not least protect the environment, as we all love being in nature. We are fully aware that this is quite a lot, but we believe that we need to see the whole picture to make this work.
As of right now, we do have a focus on legal issues as well as MTB trail building. Here we came up with a new training offer for clubs and individuals, that starts this March – we are really excited to see this happen and can’t wait to share our first experiences!
What have been your major achievements or successes you’d like to highlight?
In Thuringia for example we advocated for a forest law that came into effect in 2019, underlining the principle of free access to riding all given trails, paths, and roads. Prior to that, in the same year, we also passed a statement of common understanding which was handed to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forests with other stakeholders, including local authorities and administrations, landowners, hunting groups as well as hiking clubs and many more. This statement made clear that we need a federal law that provides the same legal ruling throughout Germany when it comes to Mountain biking, i.e. it is free and legal to ride on any given trail, path and road with hikers having the way of right.
Within our regional groups, especially in Nuremberg and in the districts around Stuttgart (Rems-Murr), there are very strong and successful efforts towards building official trails, which is amazing to see!
Major challenges you’ve faced in past or present?
There are a couple of different challenges, that we come across these days: from a broader perspective it is the lack of knowledge about our sports that we too often experience when speaking to stakeholders, may it be politics on a state or regional level, forest, hunting, other sports or recreational groups, nature conservancy agencies and so forth. This in turn leads to biases about MTB, which we tackle by stating facts deriving from current legal rulings as well as scientific research in response to these, more than often emotionally driven prejudices. A very time consuming and- to be honest – sometimes also nerve wrecking process, especially when also looking into mainstream media, who all too often connotate MTB in a negative manner as well.
Besides these very broad issues we also face very tangible challenges in terms of local trail closures and threats in regard of legal or environmental restrictions. As of right now, the German Government is hearing all stakeholders in reference to a new, federal forest law that shall come into effect in 2024. So, we have a lot to do right now to have our voice heard there.
Collaborations with other organizations that helped you along the way.
Over the years we developed quite a good network, exchanging thoughts as well as positions on different topics. First and foremost, of course, there is the IMBA EU with the IMBA Summit that helped developing such a network throughout Europe and was and still is very inspiring for new thoughts. We also partner with the BDR, the German Cycling Federation, when it comes to instructional regards or positions on MTB in general. Almost all outdoor sports interest groups in Germany, including us, are also part of a Board for Outdoor Sports and Nature. Another Board we are members of is about alpine safety. Then there are other interest groups, such as horseback riders, who face similar problems like us, who we consult with frequently, as well as regional tourism boards. MTB industry, retail and media are also part of our extensive network as well as regional MTB clubs and individuals who advocate pro MTB.
What’s needed in your country to fully unlock the potential of mountain biking?
First and foremost a federal law that underlines and consolidates free access to trails, paths and forest roads throughout Germany with no state laws counteracting. This is also our number one priority we’re working on. Then we see four more fields of action: further Development and Implementation of rules and guidelines, e.g. for the process of trail legalization and building, networking with and communicating towards stakeholders involved in MTB related subjects, offer regional development advice for tourism and local recreation and lastly spread the word also amongst the community and media, i.e. professional communication. And of course: an awesome community of Mountain bikers, who help achieve all this by promoting our ideas and helping us!
How can local groups or individuals support or get involved in the work of DIMB?
Become a member and spread the word! The more we are, the better are our voices heard.
And if you want to do more: we are more than happy if you get in touch with us, so we can discuss ways of a possible engagement!
In one year, what do you hope to have accomplished?
We hope that our voice will be heard regarding the new federal forest law – this is the most important topic right now. We also hope to gain new members and have successfully implemented our MTB Trail building classes. And of course, we hope to have some spare time left to jump on the MTB ourselves and enjoy nature 😉