The Problem of Too Many Motorcycles in the Dolomites
(Note 12/19/11 : Thanks to so much great support, this post is getting a ton of traffic, BUT – having views means nothing if we are going to show it to the powers that can do something about this problem, PLEASE – Leave a comment)
Update April 28, 2012. Each of the major tourism offices around the Dolomite’s Sellaronda as well as Sudtirol tourism were contacted about this issue. All but Alta Badia refused to comment. Alta Badia asked, “What motorcycle problem?”
It’s time to bring up a nasty subject that many who visit the Dolomites experience in a very negative way. For years now I have felt growing anger and frustration for the thousands of motorcycles that come to the Italian Dolomites. I finally brought it up to locals, business owners and my athlete friends and promptly discovered I’m not the only one who feels this way. So angry are they that the subject is almost painful to discuss, for it seems nothing is being done about it. I however, am more than happy to publicly state my thoughts and make it clear that these motorcycles are a cancer to this amazing region.
The Dolomites are unarguably one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and everyone has the right to experience them. But why is one user group allowed to negatively impact the experience of all the others while at the same time causing numerous disturbances to the natural environment in the forms of noise and exhaust pollution as well as a very real threat to the safety of others.
The problem is that motorcyclists come from all over Europe to ride the Dolomite’s famously steep and curvy mountain roads. This is fine as an activity, but the manner in which all too many do it is completely irresponsible on the part of both the riders and local authorities.
This last summer was my first spent climbing some of the walls in the Dolomites. Nowhere is the issue of these motorcycles more apparent than up high where there should be no sound but the wind and jingling of climbing gear. Yet here, the roar of motorcycles is a nearly nonstop irritant. They are so loud it is often impossible to hear one’s partner. Numerous friends came for both climbing and cycling and all made the same comment, “This is disgusting”.
And the Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site? What a joke. It would be better named the UNESCO International Motor Speedway.
The Dolomites UNESCO Status
This from the UNESCO Page regarding the criterion of managing the Dolomites in accordance with UNESCO Requirements:
“The property requires protection from tourism pressures and related infrastructure. Each of the component parts of the serial property requires its own individual management plan, providing not only for the protection and management of land use, but also the regulation and management of human activities to maintain its values, and in particular to preserve the qualities of its natural landscapes and processes, including extensive areas which still have wilderness character. Areas that are subject to more intensive visitation need to be managed to ensure visitor numbers and activities are within the capacity of the property in relation to the protection of both its values and the experience of visitors to the property. Adequate resources and staffing, and coordination between the staff teams in the different components of the property are also essential.”
Seemingly nothing is adhered to. Protection from infrastructure? They just keep building; pistes, lifts, hotels, access roads, you name it. Maintain the values of human activities? Apparently loud motor sports are a historical activity and value. Or maybe they just see, “Maintain value”, as in €€€. Preserve the qualities of natural environment? In many places of the Dolomites it sounds like you are at the Indy speedway. And it seems the only staffing is by politicians looking to satisfy businesses within the region who everyone knows pockets most of their earnings to avoid exorbitantly high Italian tax rates.
Meanwhile, the Italian police, in their typical show of dramatic yet completely inefficient force, have set up speed traps on busy summer days. The joke is, according to Italian law they must post signs warning oncoming traffic of the impending radar check that lay just ahead. The motorcycles slow to legal speeds, pass by, then resume their ear splitting roar after the next curve in the road. …”Ha ha carabinieri. Fools.”
Or, as is well known, motorcyclists come in groups and send one rider ahead to check for police or anything that may be in the way of his friends – once all clear, he calls back and gives the go ahead for his 18 buddies to charge full bore up or down a pass. Never mind the cyclists silently pedaling along who have to listen to or be nearly taken out by the mirrors on these super bikes. The father of a close friend was killed by a motorcycle while riding his bike up a Dolomites Pass in just such a scenario.
While riding here, I have seen several serious crashes and countless near misses when they lose control in turns, or veer right into my line, when they can’t control the power of the bike they have rented.
What Can be Done?
I have heard from local businesses that there is a fear that with increased motorcycle regulations will come a decrease in revenue. But wait, motorcyclists can’t drink beer during the day. And, it is commonly known that many do not stay in hotels within the Dolomites but opt to stay outside where it is cheaper, the same place where they eat dinner so they aren’t driving at night. I asked several friends who have affordable hotels right in the Dolomites if they ever have motorcylists as guests. The answer, “Almost never”. Why can’t these businesses turn their attention to other summer tourists who also come in great numbers; hikers, cyclists, and climbers.
There are grumblings from within the region, namely from Michil Costa, a local hotel owner and well known activist who strives to keep a handle on tourism gone wild. But it would seem that like so many things, the almighty Euro speaks loudest. As tourists grow tired of the Dolomites experience, or word does get out of the problem, perhaps would be visitors will go elsewhere. All the many tourism websites and magazine articles glorifying the Italian Dolomites are not telling the whole truth. Like my friends all said, “It is disgusting”.
The only thing that may change this is if other tourists begin making it clear that these motorcycles are not tolerable. The web, forums and social media are great ways to start. Italy was one of the first countries in the EU to do something about second hand cigarette smoke in restaurants – how different is this? A solution is to remove some of the freedom these motorcycles are abusing. Have some real speed traps with huge fines, have real noise ordinances that are enforced, and multiple offenders lose the right to drive a motorbike. I do not see this problem on Swiss passes where there are regulations and consequences for breaking them. There I see motorcycles, not in the same numbers, but I see them riding slower and not making nearly the same noise.
The Impact on Dolomite Cyclists, Hikers and Climbers
Visiting mountain lovers be warned. It can be horribly obnoxious and occasionally dangerous here, so much so that I mostly refuse to ride my bike on any of the best passes from about July 1 through early September. Also, educate yourself about the German and Austrian holidays in May and June, for these periods have the Dolomites a virtual racetrack for big, fast bikes.
The Sellaronda Bike (Bicycle) Day
A move in the right direction regarding awareness comes in the form of the now twice annual Sellaronda Bike Day. This event, held early in the summer and again in mid September, draws 16,000 cyclists to enjoy the famous Sellaronda Loop, on closed roads. In addition to the cyclists are an increase in the number of hikers and climbers who can now enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of the Dolomites in silence. The event has brought about awareness and acknowledgement that these tourists, ever hungry and thirsty, bring in enormous revenue while not impacting the environment.
Have you been to the Dolomites? What was your experience?
This is where I ask for your comments. Pressure needs to be put on the region from those that come and spend money. Voice your opinion. If you have been to the Dolomites and had experiences with the motorbikes, good or bad, please let us know. Leave a comment and we’ll make sure the messages and experiences are passed on to the Tourism Board.
(Note 12/19/11 : Thanks to so much great support, this post is getting a ton of traffic, BUT – having views means nothing if we are going to show it to the powers that can do something about this problem, PLEASE – Leave a comment)
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Reading this post makes me some kind of angry, why is it possible that we … as locals … are going around with steaks on our eyes and are not able to see that this kind of tourism doesn’t pay on the long way.
Sometimes we are not able to recognize how fortunate we are to live in this place that all people envy us. We have still this rural way of thinking and fear to change something for the future.
We are at a point of no return now, we as locals missed to take a clear position on this problem and it’s time to feel ashamed for what is happening on our roads.
In the meantime it’s winter time, the motorbike noise is finally over until April. And when the Moto Gran Prix starts, as cyclist I need to train not only the legs but the middle finger too!
Perhaps there can be a “special edition” of the Holiboza made. It would be white, and have a large black picture of a middle finger salute printed on it. Then, when the motos buzz by, we can raise a drink to them…
This last season was truly awful. The noise and sheer numbers of motorcycles were simply intolerable. All of my clients had at least frayed nerves, and most felt threatened at some point during their weeks here. I saw zero police presence on the mountains during several extended stays this summer.
Thank you for this post Dan, I will help you in whatever way possible with getting word out and trying to make a difference.
I couldn’t agree more.
The Route des Grandes Alpes (French Alps) has a similar if smaller problem
Yes, I agree that motorbikes are a problem in the Dolomites. Never been somewhere where there are so many! Not sure how you solve the problem though. I have been on the back of bikes and have friends who ride motorbikes and they love the mountains for the same reasons cyclists love them so it seems a shame to deny them their fun. Maybe there could be motorbike free days/weeks?
I agree with you Liz, I am not out to deny them their visit. But if they choose to ride here, they need to abide by rules. Noise control and speed limits. But first these rules need to actually be in place. That is the responsibility of the authorities, but they do nothing. The motorcycles have been given free reign and are abusing it. There has been the idea of rotating pass closures throughout the week to disrupt traffic flow – but this seems pretty ineffective, they’ll just adapt.
Thanks for writing.
Let’s face it, roads are public and everyone can enjoy their holiday. But bottom line is that everything is about respect, respect for:
– car drivers
– local workers
Of course in every group of persons there are a few ‘black sheeps’. But as it was this summer among motorbikers it’s hard to find the white ones!
Even just driving your car around is frightening as after each turn you don’t know what group of centaurs is driving towards you.
Then you find this kind this kind of videos on youtube:
– Video #1
– Video #2
and you realize there is something to be done.
Igor, The YouTube videos are proof to anyone who hasn’t been here that what we speak of is true. The place has become a virtual racetrack for these types of people impressed by what their motors can do. I have no respect, not when they so negatively and profoundly impact the experience for all the other people.
This has to stop.
I suggest you view the videos and if you object to them you can report them to YouTube. Select the “don’t like” icon then select the “report this video” button. If enough people complain maybe they can get removed.
I did watch the videos and have no problem with the guys who made them, or the videos themselves. I am sure there are hundreds others like them. It is just the overall problem of what these videos prove is going on. What you see happening in these, the sheer numbers of them going up the Stelvio as fast as they can, cutting turns, gunning it, the roar the engines needlessly make – all while they are playing their games amongst others playing their games but without impacting anyone else. Watching the videos was like riding in the Dolomites on any sunny summer day… how sad is that?
Dan you are so right!
I do write this both as former bike rider (yes…those super bikes) and current Dolomites local and lover.
We used to ride around the Lake Maggiore, and what we cared about most was…guess what…speed (God, I’m glad I survived this period of my life)! Suddenly police started to increase controls and cameras were put eveywhere.
Result: we started to go on pist (real pists) if we felt to ride fast and discovered that the Lake Maggiore was actually beautiful…never had time before to take a real look.
By the way, I really loved bikes…I kind of stil do, but since at least 6 years if I see a sunny day, a motorbike is the last thing I want to be on!
Dolomites are gorgeous, and beside the stunning landscape they became so popular and even a successful brand because of “few” simple things:
– strong food and wine culture
– preserved traditions
– countless paths through the mountains for every level to enjoy
– untouched (or better, carefully-touched) nature
– possibility of doing many outdoor activities almost from home/hotel (no…motorbike doesn’t count as an outdoor activity…the only thing you can get from outdoor on a bike are squashed insects on the helmet)
There is for sure something more (I do not consider ski now, just speaking about the summer season), but still…those things made the Dolomites what they are, and they all are now affected in a very bad way from this new “trend”.
Come on, is it really worth risking all that?!
I agree, this is a big problem. I cycled around the Sella Ronda 2 years ago and had a couple of near misses with motorbikes coming down cols on the wrong side of the road. On one occasion I was forced in to the gutter. The biker slowed down a little as he approached me, but not to apologise, he just wanted to yell at me and laugh and make some sort of “gesture” with his finger.
I don’t mind bikers and cyclists taking the best line around a bend if the road is clear, and I’ll do it myself on my human-powered cycle, but bikers seems to apex a bend and/or swing out wide even when they clearly see a cyclist coming up the hill towards them.
These places are not race tracks, people come here to be in the natural environment. There are plenty of places for bikers to go where speeding is allowed and where it is safer (Nurburgring for example). As far as I am concerned big bikes should be banned from these roads. However, motorbikes are not illegal and these are public roads, so I doubt it would happen. The next best thing would be simply to put some speed cameras up and increase the number of traffic police – it would be easy to finance this, the money from the fines can pay the wages of the police (I imagine they would have a healthy profit out of it too).
Limiting and regulating the use of motorcycles in the Dolomites is a necessary action to preserve the environment’s unique combination of stunning natural beauty, cultural heritage, and recreational resource for locals and visitors.
I have been to the Dolomites twice in the last three years. Both in the summer months to enjoy the cycling, hiking and culture it has to offer. The most recent time I noticed a marked increase in the number of motorcycles as well as an increased amount of interactions with inexperienced and careless riders.
The Dolomites are not just another gem in Italy’s tourism crown, as is obvious from the UNESCO World Heritage classification. Rather, they are a magnificent asset for the entire world, past, present, and future.
We all have a right to access this wonderous place. However, the vehicle for our explorations should be one which does not endanger other users, create noise pollution that degrades the natural silence, or create other forms of “exhaust” that infuriates locals, tourists, and wildlife alike.
Two wheels, two legs, two eyes, one heart. Love for the Dolos!
The roads were not built with drag racing in mind. They were built so humans could pass through the beautiful landscape at a mindful, respectful, reflective speed. So that the mountains and crags slowly infuse the traveler with strength, beauty, and rugged culture.
I visited the Dolomites as a cyclist drawn not only by the challenge of the mountains but also by the seemingly pristine, almost storybook surroundings. While this impression was mostly confirmed on arrival I was shocked to see (and hear) the degree to which the serenity was shattered by noise and traffic particularly from hordes of motorcycles. In the U.S. the battle between motorized and human powered recreation is fought mostly off highway because on the pavement the laws are enforced with some uniformity. This seems to be missing in Italy. I don’t pretend to know all the socio-cultural reasons for this but I’m thinking that catering to one group of tourists while disappointing and alienating all others is a poor long term strategy.
So you’ve hammered on about the evil motorcyclists, what about the tourers who plod along?
I could sit here and argue the toss but you won’t accomplish anything as they have as much right to be on the road as anyone else.
Matt, Please tell us about these tourers who plod along. What about them? Your comment makes zero sense as you don’t give reasons to support what you say. -Dan
It makes perfect sense, you have slung every motorcyclist into one group, the “Sports bike lunatics” who’s role it is to go as fast as possible while causing as much mayhem and noise as possible in the process. When I have been around Europe on the motorbike I have seen 2 groups of riders, the sports bike riders and the tourers, not every biker goes to Europe in a blood thirsty pack aiming to go as fast as possible everywhere.
The impression I get is you want all motorcycles banned from the Dolomites and it will not be accomplished as they have a legal right to use the road like everyone else. The only solution is heavier speed policing.
Thanks Matt, You are right, I am not putting every motorcyclist into the same category. However, due to the huge numbers that are making the negative impact, it is easy to say, “Motorcyles are a problem”. Because, this is true. The very fact that you see these other comments, that the locals are really beginning to have issue with the situation and that any visit to the Dolomites will prove this. Like any sport, a few users who break the rules can ruin it for everyone.
I also see the two types of users when I am out. I can vividly remember a lot of times I have been riding along and seen a motorbike tourer silently roll by, even wave, or chat with me on a pass. No problem.
But there is a far more common issue here and that cannot be denied.
And you are right – Heavier speed control and noise ordinances that are enforced might solve the problem. My real problem is almost more with the Italian authorities for not doing anything about the issue. They make their typical half ass efforts that the locals just laugh and shake their heads at.
I appreciate you commenting because we, as cyclists or other outdoor people, need to also hear from motorcyclists who are frustrated with these same issues.
The tourers are for sure not the problem, motorbike ‘touring’ always existed. And as Dan wrote, among them you find also nice people.
But starting 5 years ago this changed dramatically. When among all those bikers, the big bounch is wearing track clothing, they are for sure not riding on the Dolomites roads for the stunning views!
I’m sure, if you are a ‘tourer’ you also see on the roads some dangerous maneuvers by the ‘speedy’ ones. Fines are not the definitive solution. It’s just a temporary ‘adrenaline’ kick for your wallet. Maybe you ‘tourers’ should start to educate the sport bike riders. If just 10% starts to listen it would be already a success.
I have come from Colorado 4 times to the Dolomites to bicycle up these legendary roads and since my first trip in 2005 until my last trip this September. I have noticed a couple of things :
1. NO POLICE!
2. A Bolder and More Disrespectful Lack of regard for the Safety of anyone other than themselves.
3.There seems to be absoulutely no concept that a couple centimeters error in their line can instantly Kill a Cyclist!
4.The safety gear ( Body Armour) is making the Moto GP wannabes feel immune to the clear Danger on these narrow roads,
5. There are still many RESPECTFUL and SAFE moto riders but the X GAMES Hang TEN EXTREME have decided to rule the passes.
6. It has become intollerable to enjoy the incredible experiance of riding these beautiful mountains ,The Noise and Speed and Inches of Clearance these idiots give us is not acceptable.
It would be AWESOME and So EXTREME DUDE if we as cyclist could as groups walk up to the Beer Garden Cigarette Fest atop these Passes lean over and scream our LOUDEST MOTORCYCLE IMPRESSIONS RIGHT IN THEIR FUCKING EARS!
When Cyclist start Dying and Stop Coming the Euros will be slowing down but probably not the MOTARDS!
If it were just noise and pollution issues that concerns other road users I would suggest patience, and a touch of caution in what you wish for, as it wont be very long before silent killers are sweeping around bends… Electric motorcycles.
Then perhaps people will realise that noise also carries important safety considerations, be safe, be heard. And the handling aspect, as a high reving engine allows significanly more control over rear wheel traction in both braking and accelleration. Its not done intentionally to scare or intimidate people, just so you folks know, thats just an added bonus.
It seems to me that humans are the problem here, irresponsible riders. I am a biker. I rode over Passo Tonale, Gavia and Stelvio a couple of months ago. I’m scared by bikers and a constant vigilance is needed on rear view mirrors as packs would come sweeping up behind and overtake in stupid reckless fashion that endangers me, on my motorcycle. Interestingly perhaps I’ve always found its ‘tail end charlie’ you need to be most concerned about, generally the least skilled, following his mates, struggling to keep up and not be left behind, taking needless risks. I witnessed 3 accidents and incidences involving bikes in that one day. Ambulances running back and forth and later I read that one involved the death of a biker. There is always attrition working in your favour I guess (joke). Motorcycles are not the problem, the irresponsible youth in control are the problem. I know its shakey territory but as the US gun lobby likes to say, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
I believe it’s about respect. Respecting others and their choices in life. Not everyone wants to walk, pushbike or climb, in the same way some people don’t want to ride motorbikes, base jump, skydive, own guns or eat sushi with a jewish homosexual in a middle eastern country with chopsticks. Pick your prejudice, plenty to choose from. Respect and tolerance of others is an important part of lifes delicate fabric. That said, there are some bikers out there with no repect or tolerance of others. They are the problem to address. Not motorcycles, you may as well have a go at caravans, cars and recreation vehicles
To mashup a couple of great quotes,let he who is without sin cast the first stone, the meek shall inherit the earth, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, and any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Just sayin’.
Very good post. I live in the Alps and am more and more concerned by the excessive number of motorbikes on our roads, which causes noise and pollution. I came to the Dolomites last year and nowhere else have I seen so many motorbikes. I want everybody to enjoy the mountains but something needs to be done
We bring groups of cyclists to the Dolomites from the USA every summer – the Sella Ronda day is a wonderful event! The problem with the motorcycles is worse every year. The noise is deafening and they are using very powerful machines for sport, taking many unnecessary risks and definitely cause a lot of fear. Let them ride but regulate the time that they can ride, that would be ideal.
This problem is not isolated to the Dolomites. The motorcyclists take over the Dolomites, Italian Alps and French Alps during the summer.
It’s particularly bad in Italy where the motor bike is revered. This summer in the Dolomites I witnessed so many incredibly deadly moves on the bike that I could hardly sleep at night. I witnessed one accident occuring directly behind me when I needed to brake and turn left into my hotel. At the same time two bikes were just starting to overtake me and crashed into one another.
Has anyone proposed a solution? I don’t think ‘cyclists days’ like the Sellaronda day are the solution. The thousands of cyclists that the day attracts is equally as dangerous.
Thanks to the Cycling Guides who commented; Connie, Coreen and Julie. It seems this problem is increasing most everywhere. Where there is good road riding tends to be good for motorbikes as well. Have you seen anything that has worked to slow these guys down or put some control into the situation? I am curious as to what your clients have said about it and if the problem is big enough for you to consider other destination options? Of course every road rider who comes to Europe is going to want to ride the big, famous passes of the Dolomites and Alps so you must offer them. But, do you have to actually deal with this problem for your business? Or is it still simply an annoyance?
The motorcycles definitely impact WHEN I offer trips to these destinations. I won’t do it in the middle of the summer when the problem is worse. Spring and fall can still be bad in places and clients have commented on the issue. The best place to go to avoid the majority of the motorcycles and still get in great climbing is the Pyrenees. So, right now it’s like the traffic patterns, know when to avoid certain times of day, certain days and certain seasons.
Sadly, the key line in your post that will make a difference, so I have to focus on it is, “The best place to go to avoid the majority of the motorcycles and still get in great climbing is the Pyrenees”. This is what the powers that be need to see. Better this than a headline that reads, “Cycling tour group taken out by out of control motorbike”.
Please continue to spread the word about this post and ask that people comment, we need the comments, not just traffic. It would be great to get your guests to provide their thoughts.
Thanks again Julie,
I definitely agree that the motorcycle traffic has created a Dolomites avoidance schedule for cycling tours. It used to just be August that you had to steer clear of, but September now is equally as bad. It seems like the window for safe usability continues to shrink.
Julie, you point out an important thing!
Sellaronda Bikedays is not the solution. Now there is even the discussion to organize 1 Sellaronda Bike Day each month with the goal being to organize 1 day each week.
Isn’t that nonsense? Environmentally friendly vehicles need to have their one day to ride safe around the Dolomites. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?
And at the end these days are even NOT environmentally friendly. How many cars packed with bicycles are around on these given days (with an average of 16.000 cyclists on the Sellaronda loop) to reach the starting point of the Sellaronda?
We reached such a point that in the near future the region will start to charge a fee for motorized vehicles riding the Passes. From statistics this will not stop people to drive on them because marketing rules: If you give a value to something, you need to go and look at it! And I can already see cars and motorbikes drivers claim the right to drive the roads before cyclists as they paid and cyclists didn’t.
Mi fa molto piacere vedere che il problema è stato sollevato, speriamo che siano in molti a parlarne.
Personalmente cerco di essere una persona tollerante, ma non posso esserlo quando vedo mortificare il territorio che tanto amo.
Esercito la professione di guida alpina, e vivo questo “disturbo da rumore” già da alcuni anni. Ormai molte salite le evito perchè, oltre al fastidio personale, mi vergogno ad accompagnare i veri amanti della montagna lungo percorsi incessantemente disturbati dal rombo dei motori.
Mi auguro di cuore che chi ne ha il potere intervenga e prenda i provvedimenti necessari. BASTA CON LE MOTO.
I have to say that I agree with you Dan (and friends).
I love the Dolomites, where I live, but I can’t belive we are not able to find a way to improve more the “quality of tourism”, not only the numbers…
I was hoping that the Unesco status was something good to change this problem and first of all it was the right moment start a big project about the transport in the Dolomites, improving the public transport with limits for cars and motorbikes…
As Igor wrote “we are at a point of no return” and motorbikes are just the point of the iceberg: imagine the Dolomites with the roads temporary closed to traffic in high season, with an efficient system of buses, lifts and trains; no more parkings full of cars at the passes, no more noise and pollution…
Yes, I know, it’s hard to realize it, but at least we can start to try!
I agree 100% that the fast motor cycling has become a serious problem in the Dolomites. All too often when I have been enjoying the Dolomites on my bicycle, have there been near-misses with motor cyclist riding beyond their abilities, over the speed limit and more that what is sensible. So often they run wide on turns and cause dangerous situations. The noise levels have also become more and more unpleasant and this due to the type of biker that is being attracted to the region. This needs to be brought back in line so that everyone can enjoy the wonders of the Dolomites.
The only solution, in my view is to rigorously enforce the law by policing speed, dangerous driving / riding and anti-social behavior. When ever I have seen police in the dolomites, it has always been in the towns, never out on the mountain passes and it is on the mountain passes where the motor-cycling offenses are taking place, not in the towns. In the towns they seem to slow down, either because they think they will be caught or because they perceive that they are a danger in those environments. By having larger numbers of police units out on the roads, this will act as a deterrent and if the motor cycling community feels that their freedom to break the law has been curtailed they will go somewhere else, leaving the sensible bike riders to enjoy the area for the right reasons.
Balance can be restored.
Balance will be restored if the police take decisive action and enforce the law where it is being broken.
If this happens, then the message will be clear… don’t go to the Dolomites if you want to go fast. Go to the Dolomites if you want to have a fantastic time in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Ashley and I just plain don’t visit the Dolomites in the summer. I’ll go in the spring or fall, but forget about it in the summer. It’s a shame, because it would be nice not to freeze…
As for what to do? I hate to say it as a religious speeder on normal roads, but my budding old age tells me – there are some places where it isn’t appropriate or safe. A World UNESCO Heritage site one of nature’s great churches and should be treated as such. Keep the noise and speed down, cast your eyes skyward and make those reverential ooh and aahs. It’s just respectful. That’s not even taking the bike riders into account. It’s a shame that it’s even an issue.
I guess better enforcement is the way to go…plus stiffer penalties within the Dolomites. The penalties in a UNESCO World Heritage site should differ from a normal area…in my opinion.
I have no problems with motorcycle riders who are smart and know what they are doing. The problem is that so many of these riders are not experienced and are causing dangers to other people and themselves.
I was riding bicycles with a friend and descending the Pordoi, when a german motorcyclist coming up the hill, shot into the wrong side of the road causing my friend to crash. His bicycle was destroyed and his nose and finger were broken. The motorcyclist was obviously inexperienced as when he got flustered, his reaction (as he said afterwards) was to shoot to the far outside, which was the side of oncoming traffic!
There needs to be some kind of control, or there will be far worse accidents as more and more inexperienced riders go to the area!
Reading all comments, all agree that there must be more serious speed controls. But … remember, this is ITALY!!! And we have:
– local police
They are, in italian called ‘vigili urbani’ that are responsible just in their own municipality area
then there are the:
– Polizia Stradale
As an Italian citizen, I really don’t know why we have two categories that just play the cat and mouse game. If we wait for them to start doing their job, it’s sad to say that some people need to give up their lives. Unless they get pressure from somewhere else, and here is where we need to make some noise!
You make some good points Igor. I must say the majority of the problem motos I see have German or Austrian license plates. Not all, but the majority. These people seem to “go crazy” a bit in Italy and it will take the business owners and regional government to demand the authorities police this activity heavily until these folks get the message that the “Dolomites International Raceway” has been closed to them. Nobody wants to prevent someone from enjoying the mountain roads, as long as they do it in a respectful way that minimizes the impact on the others. They need to save the racing for the race track!
Two places we find this particularly offensive, Passo Sella and Passo Stelvio, though there are others as plenty of others have noted. It’s a simple lack of respect, the “me first” attitude of far too many moto pilots. We’ve altered our tour schedule to avoid Stelvio on Sundays when things are especially bad and our Dolomites schedule to arrive a bit earlier in the season when things have not yet reached a fever pitch. There’s no question obnoxious moto pilots WILL slowly but surely destroy the the economy of the area in the summer if this is allowed to continue. I believe only constant law enforcement will have any affect – photo cameras for speeding tickets, eye-in-sky for lane/passing violations, etc. A season or two of fines and possibly confiscation of vehicles for the worst offenders may reduce the problem enough so that everyone can again enjoy these amazing mountains. Mille Grazie for trying to do something!
I’m sorry, I can’t read all of your comments, it’s too much…
I only want to say that I’m a trail runner and a mountain lover… but – incredible – I’m a biker too! The point is that not all the motorbikes are the same, and not all the riders are the same.
I love riding on mountains, and obviously Dolomites are the best from this point of view too. But my motorbike is NOT a noisy one, even if it’s powerful and fast. And even if I really love speed (ok, I said that) I simply slow down if I see people, cyclists or any other moving stuff…
In my opinion the question is not about riding or not, but about the way you do that… as happens in many other things in life.
Those motorcyclists do NOT belong in that splendid nature !! They don’t come to enjoy the nature or views but to testdrive and to kill !!
As a cyclist I hate them, as a former motorcyclist I cannot understand why they don’t respect the mountains !
When I was in the Dolomites in July 2011, I saw these low-to-the ground stock-car vehicles. I was riding my bike down from Valparola. There were about 15-20 cars in total. They seemed to be a tourist group from northern europe, perhaps that was their activity for the day or afternoon. Many of them passed safely and cautiously, they were courteous. But three of them sped by me with inches to spare down the winding road, with a seeming death wish for me and for themselves. “Idiots,” I thought to myself. They weren’t there to enjoy the scenery, they were there for the sport of riding the vehicles. Such sport should be confined to closed courses where the only harm they can do is to themselves, not innocent users of the road these crazed drivers happen to be abusing.
I have no problems with sharing the road with cars, touring motorbikes, busses, construction trucks, horses or motorbikes. My frustration comes from people who make dangerous decisions and put their “fun” ahead of safety. Not every motorbiker uses a loud machine and uses both sides of the road while they descend. And not every motorbiker is out of control. I am strictly referring to the people who lack courtesy, foresight and rules of the road to create a safe and enjoyable environment for them and the people the share the road with.
I agree with Igor that a toll for roads is not a solution to make the area safer, it is a means for subsidizing the government budget. It might even hurt the local businesses. But it will not calm the roads. (Although, if having tolls enables the region to put more police on the roads, then maybe that is a good option.) I also agree with Igor that some motorbike tourists may stay in hotels outside the dolomites if they are cheaper, hence not contributing to the economy like the tourists who come for the outdoor sports of hiking/cycling/climbing. The active outdoor enthusiasts are more likely to stay in the region longer and contribute to the local economy more. And I also agree, if people go to to the Dolomites and have so many scares and interruptions from the reckless motorbikers, people will stop coming, no matter how beautiful. Maybe they come once, but won’t come back again, and they’ll tell their friends.
The main thing to focus on is that the Dolomites are a UNESCO site. Hence, the only way to protect the area is to establish speed limits (and enforce them!) and noise ordinances (and enforce them!). If the police have to have signs that they are controlling traffic, have them set up 1000 spots where they check the speed via a computerized radar, this will be an effective way to deter speeding – two weeks after the offenders get home they get a ticket. I don’t know if Austrians/Germans are still required to pay an Italian speeding ticket, but I would hope that is the case. (Three ways to pay for that: 1) use a private company that puts up the money to set up & maintain the radars and split ticket fees 50/50 with them, 2) use money from a toll to access the Dolomites, 3) go on a ticketing spree which raises funds, then utilize the generated fees to pay for the radars, installation & maintenance.)
Rules by themselves do not change patterns. It is the ENFORCEMENT (or lack thereof) that changes patterns. If police start ticketing EVERYONE who disobey the traffic speed & noise rules, people will know, hear of it, tell their friends.
There are some days, from April to October, where during my training I just meet a few motorbikers on the road.
This are for sure the onces that go around touring and don’t have the need of speed in their veins.
This days are the:
That’s the reason that I’ve always this idea in my mind that the only way to control speed is to put some kind of garden sprinklers on each switchback of the Dolomites roads. I know a diabolic idea!
The ironic thing is that there have been many articles in the local (Veneto Region) newspaper about locals who are fed up with gran fondos, races, and other cycling events that require road closures. The owners of bars, shops, etc. on the passes say they are losing revenue because motorized traffic can’t reach their businesses. They seem to have no qualms with pollution, noise, and danger, as long as those euro keep coming in.
Sadly, that pretty much sums up the world these days. Hail the almighty coin and the hell with everything else.
Another interesting detail to all foreign people that don’t live here and reading this just think:”How stupid are they, it would be so easy to resolve”
What makes it hard to resolve is also the way of thinking of the local government. As example, years ago each weekend there were dead motorbikers on the roads. The most common reason for death was strangling. Yes right! Motorbikers that took the turns at a higher speed crashed and slid under the guard rail. If they were lucky, there was a flowering green meadow on the other side of the road. The ones that passed away got stuck with their helmet between road and guard rail.
When you crash in a turn, and you are able to slide on the other side and out of the road … there must be some speed!
Ok the local government didn’t start to enforce the controls but starting 2009 spend a huge amount of money on the following project:
Video in italian language
That’s also a reason why the local government want to charge with a toll the Dolomites roads. They need money for the road safety and to be able to cover all roads around with this guardrails.
Igor, Nothing in Italy is surprising anymore. In many ways, and according to Italian trends, this makes perfect sense.
A little important thing about Unesco and the Dolomites: remember that not all the Dolomites are a Unesco site, but only the natural parks, where there are no roads, lifts and passes http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1237/multiple=1&unique_number=1609
Of course if you are inside one this parks, in a remote area of the Dolomites, and the noise of motorbikes arrives…
Dan, the internet is a great way to reach out to people worldwide and create awareness of the problem and get people talking about the problem. But if you want to create political pressure, you go to the local businesses to make the case. Get the hotels to write letters of support for this (you mentioned that they don’t get many motorcycle tourists staying). Get other local businesses (bike shops, outdoor tourism companies, perhaps restaurants) to write letters of support for this. Maybe some area residents who live along the road and listen to the motor sounds.
We here on your page support you, from what I’m reading. But we cannot effect change where you live because we do not live there. The best thing that we, the readers/visitors can do, is write similar letters of support. Or, we can just stop coming to the Dolomites and go elsewhere, but might not be the best course of action.
The best way to create change is to create pressure, so that the people who have the power to make changes, have nowhere else to go but to go with you.
You make great points. But truthfully, I am not the person to do this. I don’t have the time or energy to take the issue beyond this venue. And, I highly doubt a foreigner is the right person for the job. If you have ever tried to get anything done in Italy with any form of bureaucracy, you will know that it is a system that typically leads nowhere. My hope in writing this is that it will bring about awareness of the issue and hopefully something will trickle down to create change. I believe that change will come from the real locals living within the Dolomites putting pressure on local authorities. But it is a very old mountain culture and they are looking out to maintain tourism revenue, getting them to do something as a unified group is like herding cats. This is what I often hear anytime the subject of change to anything that has been around a while is brought up. Everything but the motorbikes move very slowly around here.
Lidia, much of what you wrote have already been done. A lot of articles appeared on local newspapers during the last summer seasons. But nothing changed.
That’s why it’s time our guests need to publicly say what the think about all this. Generally motorbikes bring business to the whole area, but government, tourist offices etc. need to hear how many other people are upset about all this noise around the Dolomites roads. Only this way they will start to take some position.
Someone, or some group, must take ownership of this mission. Without a leader who is driving this mission forward, we are just people talking on an online blog. The people who need to receive this message (probably) aren’t reading this blog.
A newspaper article is not a powerful action to create change. It is simply something that raises awareness and starts conversations. Frankly, this blog is just the same. However, besides putting some words to the internet world, no one is driving the change. Hope can go a long way, but hope alone cannot make a big impact, action makes an impact.
I appreciate it, Dan, that you are putting the situation out there and the problems faced on the roads of the Dolomites. This article creates awareness. But what is the action?
In NYC, we have a transportation advocacy group who seeks out unsafe practices or inadequate regulations and speaks for the people of NYC with the government to effect change. They have many campaigns and projects that achieve their overall mission. http://www.transalt.org/campaigns This advocacy group is very large and well funded and connected locally. But they started small, with taking aim at government for regulations that weren’t right for everyone. They got mass appeal and now they have the support of millions of New Yorkers. I’m not saying that the Dolomites needs an organization anywhere near as large, but to effect change, you need a politically savvy, connected person(s) who can:
– get the support of businesses, with letters of support, perhaps meetings with the government
– work with police to get the counts of accidents (small to large) to create a track record, to document locations, speeds, statistics. One way to start the documentation process of actual numbers of offenders, places of greatest risk, etc. is getting together locally to determine watching locations. Then as the season starts, sit with a camera and speed meter and count offenders. Can be even a short time. At least you’d have data and visible proof. People respond to statistics and visuals.
– get the individuals who are harmed (frightened or hit or deafened) to take action like http://www.transalt.org/takeaction/legislation So for example, they provide a pre-written, pre-adressed letter, you go to the website. You put in your information (name, address/country, phone, email) and then click “submit” and with that, an email is generated that goes to the office of the specified politicians or government agency, with the specific message of the request. If they get flooded with messages (if they don’t have email, maybe the letters get sent to someone’s email who has a printer and can mail/deliver the letters to the government office.
– Lastly, another big thing to put pressure is to have a public meeting in front of their office. Bring the man whose father died in the motorbike crash while he was cycling. Invite all the press. Have the man talk about the pain of losing his father and how it could have been avoided. Demand action from the person whose office you are standing in front of. Hearing his name on the nightly news on RAI will put a lot of pressure on him to deliver regulations and enforcement.
The UNESCO status might be of help, so maybe there is some world-wide preservation group that has funding and knowledge of working with local politicians.
2 more things:
Maybe the appeal of revenue from the traffic fines would help get additional police enforcing rules along the roads. NYC budget depends heavily on the numbers of tickets that are written by NYPD. Each police officer has a 10-20 ticket/month quota, and there are 34,500 officers in NYC. Each ticket is between $85-$400. You do the math. http://transalt.org/newsroom/magazine/2011/Summer/10
I appreciate that people from the buildings of Manhattan and people from the mountains of Dolomites are as different as people can be. I am not saying that what works here works in the Dolomites. And I’m not saying that I know much about Dolomites government. Heck, I only know a little about NYC government. But those were some ideas for action to help your cause. They would require work. But if you say, the Dolomites are at a point of no return, then something must be done. What is the best course of action? And who is the right group to do it?
Totally appreciate your time and thoughts on this. I think we are seeing who should spearhead this project. I think I know some guys in Alta Badia with hotels where you could stay. What is needed is someone with the time and energy to take this to the real frontlines.
Dan, haha. Energy I have A LOT. Time I have none. I support this cause. If you need me to fill out one of those forms and put my name & signature on it to support laws and enforcement, I’ll do that.
There is a time and place for everything and motocross do not belong on the road…..touring bikes yes, fast cars yes but no harleys or motocross
Ciao Michael – fast cars driven by obnoxious idiots are even worse! We changed our day on Passo Stelvio from Sunday after too many boy-racers from Switzerland risked their own and others lives by using this famous pass as their personal racetrack.
I fully agree and it’s always the same… a lack of respect for others and for nature,… For a lot of them, the Dolomits, the Alps,… just one race track. Last summer I would ride (by bike) from Sölden (Austria) to Bolzano (It) and I stopped after the downhill of the Timmelsjoch, because it was really crazy and very dangerous. Some of them were taking the serpentines as it was a highway. Police at every corner is not possible, toll stations on the most important “passo’s”?… For me it’s an attitude that we have to change and that takes many years, but it’s clear that it is going the wrong direction now! So a very good idea to open that discussion!
As I mentioned already, it’s not only a problem of the Dolomites…
I’m a Mountain Guide working and living for the most time in the Dolomites,in the tiny village of Arabba. I don’t know where to start talking from..too many (right) things have been said here.I think it’ll be impossible to close the mountain passes…and ask for money to ride accross the mountain passes is not a solution.People will pay (look at the big parking lot at 2000 meters at the bottom of Tre Cime.it’s always full and very expensive),sadly the government wouldn’t clean the polluted air nor reduce all noises that cars and bikes produce with the income.
What can be done? I would be drastic: no more cars nor motorbikes on the road in the high season from the morning to afternoon,and a very good bus system so that everybody can go hike,stop at the restaurant they like…but it’s not the right solution. But,what about something like this?
We all have to give people a real alternative to move around these beautiful mountains,that little by little they are looking like those odd metropolis skyscrapers of the Dolomites Unesco logo.
Thanks for bringing to light a real issue for the future of the Dolomites. I too am a professional cycle guide who has been bringing groups of cyclists to the Dolomites for the past 12 years. During this time I’ve noticed not only an increase in the numbers of motos on the roads but also in their level of aggressive riding. Only luck and constant defensive riding on our parts have so far avoided nasty accidents with motorcycles. However, there have been way too many close calls. It’s obviously become a problem for the hotel/tourism infrastructure in the Dolomites but up till now they’ve seemed unable or unwilling to really come to grips with it. I schedule my groups as early as possible in the season and pray for good weather, coming later than early July would mean truly impossible conditions on the roads with the sheer numbers of motos. Maybe an accurate study of which type of groups bring the most business to the Dolomites without damaging the delicate ecological balance (although all of us contribute to the problem) would allow local administrations to come up with a plan. Michil Costa is a guy who moves public opinion and is committed to cycling and to the Dolomites. It’s a start, your web posting is another step. Buon lavoro!
Everything has been said, but I agree with the enforcement of speed limits and noise violations. It will reduce instances of infraction & raise revenue for local government. It’s good & fair for everyone.
Personally, I ride a cross bike, so I can avoid these scenarios.
I’m from Las Vegas and visited the Dolomites last fall. I stayed near Corvara and spent a week cycling around the area. I have to say that while I have nothing against motorcycles (in fact I would love to come back and tour the area on one) the sheer number of motorcycles combined with the way they are ridden – is ridiculous. On each of my rides, and all day long, motorcycles were passing on the wrong side of the road, and many times around blind turns or switchbacks. In one week, I rode by two head-on accidents involving a car and a motorcycle. One was a fatality.
Something does need to be done about abuse of privilege. I have been to other mountain ranges in the world and the Dolomites are at the top in many categories. I have promoted the place to many friends since returning, but to be honest, I warn them of the dangerous traffic, especially of the idiotic judgment displayed by MOST of the guys on motorcycles. Please address this situation soon.
Mike W. (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
I spent two weeks in Badia in late summer. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I really loved cycling all the great passes and enjoying the people and the culture. But the motorcycles, they represent the downside. I believe I can say that at no point did i ever get away from the continual presence on these machines. I would stop at a point to enjoy the view, and could always hear the varoom of the cycles. And the groups were at times really large. Even on Passo Erbe I was continually passed by group after large group of motorcycles.
One day while cycling the Sellaronda I was climbing a hill and heard the deafening roar approaching. While going around a curve to the right I suddenly saw four motorcycles racing toward me taking up the entire road. I bailed out across the road to the left onto the shoulder to avoid death. They did not even slow down as they raced on by. That group consisted of about twenty cycles, but I’m not sure of the number as I was crashing into the boulders along side the road.
To have such a beautiful area spoiled by the callousness of one type of user is really a crime. A UNESCO site really deserves better. This should not be a race course. There should not be immense groups of motorcycles roaring through the mountains. Motorcycles should not be allowed into the area if they make too much noise. The area should be enjoyed by everyone who visits and should not be spoiled by one group that usually does not even stay in the area.
Please act now to preserve the area and allow all users to enjoy experiencing the fabulous Dolomites. Then I would want to return.
“High-speed through the present, and flying blind towards the future”; this seems to be the main stream for tourism in the ladin valleys. Masses of people, noise and kitsch become a permanent guest.
One gets accustomed to noise, to bad looking landscapes, to natural devastation, we seem to need everything in an extra large version, in order to surprise ourselves and to surprise our guests.
Though I do believe that with some courage we could open a new chapter in the Dolomites tourism, a chapter made out of culture, wellbeing, silence and bikes. More determination, less bikers and more nature, we cannot simply let our future happen, we need to guide it.
Thanks for commenting Michil. Your line, “High-speed through the present, and flying blind towards the future” seems to apply to so much these days. While we don’t have thousands of experiences being related here on this post, I do think it is an accurate representation of what so many experience when they visit the Dolomites.
The big question is “What Now”. Here in these comments the challenge has come from a past visitor – that we must take this issue to a new level, not just complain amongst like minded people on a website that no authority will consider. You are a local concerned about all of this, Igor is the same – what do you think needs to happen to truly bring about change? And this question is for Igor as well.
But finally, what is the reality of the situation?
“What do you think needs to happen to truly bring about change?”
First and only, locals need to change and go together in one direction. Until locals don’t know what kind of tourism they want for the future, politics and government will take advantage of this situation and take time.
To make locals realize that the noise on the roads reached an unsupportable peak guests need to write at the single guesthouses/hotels that they are not coming anymore because of this problem. In that case the change can start!
I published your story in my blog, Italian Cycling Journal, and the comments left there are as follows as of today:
-Require a vignette for motos from abroad. Maybe €100 for up to 5 days.
-I cycled the Dolomites in October last year A little chilly but I figured there would not be as many motorcycles. There were a few moto clubs flying by but it really wasn’t to bad.
-The noise and exhaust I can deal with (I just focus on positive things instead). Only problem I’ve had was climbing Il Giau from Selva di Cadore- I was hugging the right edge of the road climbing alongside a cliff face. The cliff face obscured anyone coming downhill from seeing the road ahead around the curve. An assassin on a sport bike coming downhill decided to cut all the way across the opposite lane through the blind curve and came within inches of smashing into me head-on at probably 100 kph. The less of these suicidal types on the roads the better.
-I was in the Dolomites in August. It was probably the peak of tourist season. There were motor cyclists and cyclists from all over Europe. Seemed like a lot of Austrians, Germans and English.
I rode up Passo di Giau from San Vito Caldore through Cortina, and over to Falzerego and back. I had no problems with motos. SR 51 was worse than the passes, and still wasn’t that bad, even in the rain from Cortina back to San Vito.
Wow, what a nice area to ride.
Motos and drivers in Italy seem much more aware of cyclists than here in the US.
My own personal thoughts on this, having cycled in the Dolomites, is to focus on safety first, noise second. The communities have to work together to educate, “This isn’t an area to bring your bikes to race.” This means ticketing, being proactive in sending communications to the bike tour companies, bike clubs, etc, about respecting laws and the environment. Engaging the motorcycling community for support is another idea to pursue. Motorcyclists will only stop behaving badly when they understand that there is serious law enforcement….and eventually once they understand the region is serious they will either respect the laws or move on somewhere else.
Dan, thanks for raising this issue.
The first thing I want to say is that I definitely do NOT want this issue to come to a head when someone is injured or dies. We need to raise the safety issue and keep it in the forefront until behaviour changes. Passing laws and enforcing them is one thing, and I think we also need to research and engage the various motorcycle clubs around Europe on this issue. While some riders will always be jerks, more awareness can only be helpful.
In the meantime, those of us guiding need to prepare our clients for the noise and quantity of motos. Safe and aware riding on our part also plays a part. And lest us non-motorized types think all is lost, there are still many a climb in the Dolomites that isn’t overrun by motos. We’ve had some great days climbing empty passes even in the middle of summer 2011…
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I have read all of the above comments and would like to offer what I think is a perspective not yet represented – one from someone who has never visited the Dolomites but is in the midst of researching a 2012 trip (Sidebar note: During this process I have relied heavily on this blog, as well as those of Igor and Alex, for research – thanks to all of you. I intend to contact each of you soon with questions, but I thought you might find it less annoying if I first did a lot of digging myself).
As background, I am a longtime climber (starting in 1974) and began cycling in 1983. I lived in Boulder, Colorado, USA in the late 70’s to early 80’s, a place brimming with hard-core climbers and cyclists, so it was easy to be swept up in a new sport. (Before I knew what a criterium was, a mutual friend introduced me to a skinny young kid – five years later I heard he became a Giro legend in a snowstorm on the Gavia and won the GC as a result.) I mention all of this because I suspect you can then imagine why the Dolomites have always been a dream destination for me, both for climbing and cycling. Regrettably, until this year, I have not taken the opportunity to make a trip happen.
You can probably also guess the feeling I experienced in my gut when I recently discovered what might best be described as the Dolomite’s dirty little secret: hordes of overpowered and poorly-handled motorbikes on the area’s iconic passes. After the nausea had settled – not disappeared, mind you – I recalled a much-anticipated visit I once had to Key West, Florida several decades ago. I had been on an Ernest Hemingway kick, devouring much of what the legendary author had written, and found myself near one of his famous haunts, Key West. With much excitement, I detoured south and rolled across the Overseas Highway into town. Forty years too late. Trinket shops and parrot-head hats had invaded and whatever had once drawn Papa Hemingway to the place was long, long gone. And within twenty-four hours, I was too.
The bottom line is this: Discovery of the motorbike problem is giving me real pause; I’m questioning if I want to endure another Key West fiasco; if I can tolerate spending the kind of funds required to properly visit for a somewhat spoiled – if not outright ruined — experience. And I can’t be the only potential visitor with these thoughts.
So, do I have anything to contribute towards a practical solution? I would echo Lidia’s suggestion that an organized, coherent response from a politically savvy group will have the most effect. Individuals earnestly protesting are good, but a unified voice, I think, will achieve the best results. Creating a grass-roots campaign called Save the Dolomites (the name alone implies urgent action is required) with a clear mission statement and a well-planned strategy for tackling the motorbike problem will bring legitimacy to the effort. I’d join a group like that and send in annual dues to assist an effort to protect a place I hold dear, and I’ve never even been there.
I offer three potential tenets to consider:
Parity for all users. No single user group gets preferential treatment, whether awarded by regulation or seized outright by aggressive behavior. Motorbikes cannot justify excessive speed or poor bike control that endangers other users as a legitimate use. If the principle motivation and attraction for motorbikes is to use the roads as the equivalent of racetracks, then they should be restricted to that sort of use only on select days where the roads are motorbike-only, such as the Sellaronda Bike Days currently in place for cyclists. That is parity.
Compliance. All users of all groups must abide by the rules and regulations in place that are directed towards their use. Significant fines and/or bike confiscation should be implemented, well-advertised and ruthlessly enforced until the behavior shows consistent change.
Empathy for Other Users. In some ways, this is really the crux of the issue and is very difficult to legislate. It can be argued that empathy for others really starts in the sandbox, where most of us learned to coexist with our fellow playmates – to share toys or the particular square meter of sand we sat upon. The best examples of sharing are the “motorbike tourers” Dan has described, who, upon overtaking him on a pass, slowed down, passed with plenty of room for both parties, and gave a wave of the hand, as if to say, “Hi, isn’t this place amazing?” I do that all the time on the Carriage Paths we have in Acadia. I purposely wait until late afternoon to ride so I can go hard, but if I do encounter any other users I slow to a crawl and give them a wide berth so I don’t startle them when I pass. It isn’t hard – for a thinking person, anyway – to see the older couple up ahead taking a leisurely sunset walk and instantly know that at that moment they are soaking up the beauty and solitude of this special place called Acadia. Only an idiot would dismiss their right to peacefully enjoy the place and bomb by them with inches to spare. That’s why Parity and Compliance have to be instituted, and, apparently in the case of motorbikes, in a heavy-handed way.
How could change be affected? I’d start with forming a group, arm it with verifiable data to prove its position — and then make a hell of a racket. Encourage UNESCO to find some grad students in need of a thesis subject to study the effects of motorbikes on the sites that fall within its designation – the results may be startling. Poll area residents and business and pass the results along to key journalists in high-profile publications that might shine a spotlight on the issue. The powers that be – at least in my experience – only respond to heat, and the type with the highest likelihood to singe is in the form of unwanted attention on their ineffectiveness to confront basic issues like safety and economic viability.
If I do make it to the Dolomites, for what it’s worth, I’d be willing to donate a rest day to help in any way I can.
Wow, Jeff – thank you so much for the thoughts and time to put this all together.
I think your comment is very important – someone who has never been here and is now considering not coming. In my opinion, this is the most powerful tool we have, to say no.
Also, your three ideas are also well thought through. But there is one major variable, and this is something that comes from living here – it is Italy. Change comes about absurdly slowly, motorbikes are king, and the police are anything but what you would expect them to be if you come from the US or a Germanic country. But, the Italians have been very effective at dealing with some things, drunk driving is something they cracked down on and seemingly solved, and the smoking in businesses law. For these they led the way.
First they need to hear about these issues, and they need to hear about it from the locals, the bottom line must be at stake, and they need to have pressure applied from all sorts of user groups.
Our next step is to take this to some authorities and more locals. We’ll see what happens.
Oh and Jeff, I should mention… if you do decide to visit the Dolomites, be sure to check in with either myself or Igor, we’ll tune you in to the roads where the motorbikes don’t go. Check in anytime. -Dan
Undoubtly, we have lost all sense of measure. Is it really necessary to bring snow on top via helicopter? Where is the sense of it all? Where will this all lead?
I had not seen or heard about this. It truly is Disneyland. Speechless.
I traveled to the Dolomites last summer for a biking trip. I have biked in southern France and the Riccione area of the Italian Adriatic coast. My prior experiences were great – patient, respectful drivers. The Dolomites were a different story. The motos were terrifying. They acted as though it was a closed course, devoted only to them. They passed within inches without even the least bit of concern for anyone on a bike. The Dolomites are awesome but not worth being terrorized by the motos. Next trip will be back to France.
Thanks Karen, Exactly what needs to be said and heard here. Appreciate your time. Happy New Year!
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I’m from the Netherlands, where most of the countryside is flat. Curves we have. Because of the mountains and hills, a lot of Dutch motorbikers spend a few days a year in the Dolomites. Not only there, you wil find them allover in Europ where there are hils, mountains and curves. So, it wil be only a short periode in year that you wil find a little percentage Duch motorbikers there. The most of them you will find there in june, when the highest passess are just open. Very shortly after that you will no see that mutch of them (Dutch)anymore, because of the summer holidays they spend with their family in other countrys, by car. My point here is that if you meet those motorbikers, they are not allover and not for a long time. I agree, as a “tourer” or “cruiser” that there is a problem with the “racers”. There is a world wide competition between those two. We where with 8 persons in the Dolomites in 2010. One in the group had a racer. But to be part of the group he had to slow down a lot. Every day we heard him say that it only looked slow, but was not realy. The tourers could ride easy 350 km a day in the mountains without being realy tired. This he had never experienced before. He alsso had seen so very, very, very mutch of the unbelieveble nature and, he had smelled the air, the woods, the gras. That, even with the big Harleys in the group. We our selves experienced what you all here above feel and see, but i am shure most of those stupid motorbikers are German and Austrian. The Italians where a small number in the total. And they did not like them allso. The biggest croud we saw at the Sell Ronda. And i know why, because those crazy racers could drive all day short distances with as many curves as they wanted and on every corners a bar. So the biggest problem is the Germans and Austrians, who ride racers and who can go there every weekend between june and oktober. And also (even we had “loud pipes”, the sound of the racers is a crime it selve. Very hard (only hard) and contstant at very high tones. The toures dont make that sound and the cruisers will have a loud pipe, but because of the slower movement and the fact the hardley have to use gearing, it is more constant a rumble. Allso a few of us where almost put of the road. I do not see how you could stop all motorbikers of coming there, whil only a litlle group in percentages is the problem. The issue about the hotels is a stupid one and very coloured. Every year we want to go to the Dolmites, we need a hotel. The Dolomites a completely packed with hotels. And all are packed with motorbikers who pay between 30,- and 80,- euro a night half board. Easely. We noticed that 2 hotels in 500 meter distance, with the same amound of rooms, the same luxery, the same what ever, could differ a lot in prices. But all of them, and it are in my email posts about 60 allready, advertise as motorbike friendly, motorbike welcome, bikers: the hotel for you, etc., etc. Complete with roadbooks, garages, cleaning places, a lot of personal guides (the manager or cook of the hotel!), etc. So I do not know what part of the Dolomites the businessman live, who a lot of you noticed, but not in Val Gardena, Arabba, Tenna, Selva, or you name it. Everywhere countles many hotels are calling for the motorbikers. And they are everywhere. No biker will drive from a part outside of the Dolites, just to be cheap. The one reason is the distance: to far away and to long drive. The second is they do not care. The bikers all eaut and drink a lot more than most tourists, so the are well seen gasts. I beleve that it is a realy important tourist group for them. So now you have the problem that you want to shut out a huge group cruising and touring motorbikers, because of the shit a small group couses. And because of some emotions on top of it, it is easy to find arguments, but coloured. My suggestion is to make a fist and ban the racers not realy, but controle them, very hard. Therefore. I agree, you need the police. But they are as coloured as few of you, because they think that everything with two weels and an engin in between, is the same. I have a lot more to say, but will leave it to this by now. In the Netherlands we have a saying: do not throw away the baby when throwing away the bathwater. Difficult to explane in English maybe, but try.
Exactly. It is ridiculous and narrow minded to try to remove a whole user group because of a small number of people. It is the same in climbing and hill walking. When people go up a hill dressed in flip flops and high heels and have to get rescued costing tens of thousands of euros, does the population say “bank hill walking because people are irresponsible” No of course not.
These days most touring riders are middle aged professional people with families. They do not want to race, they want to tour. Those same people also ski and snowboard, and walking hills and climb. This is live and let live, stop trying to shut out one user group because it doesnt fit with what you want ie stop being so selfish.
Today new from the Bolzano province is that starting this spring motorized vehicles will need to pay to drive up the Stelvio.
I am sure it isn’t meant to keep anyone away, only to raise funds for someone/something. Hopefully police presence, speed monitoring and sound checks. But, I doubt it. What do you think?
They wrote that the founds will be reinvested in road works. For sure not for police presence and speed monitoring.
But Willem pointed out an important thing saying that most of the Speedy-Gonzales out there are from nearby countries like Austria or South-Germany. In fact they are the ones that are maybe not every weekend on the Dolomites roads, but at least once a month for sure. With a toll, all the fun would become pretty expensive. Who knows!
Another fact is, why aren’t the Italians among this group of motorcyclists? We have in Italy the so called driving licence with penalty points and there are not many Italians that like to risk their licence points for fun.
But how much can a toll be? They already have money invested in the bike, fuel, the gear, and free time, now they must go ride the big Stelvio with their manly engine. Or wait, it costs something, okay, then maybe they’ll ALL come to the Dolomites. I don’t think a toll will do anything other than raise money for the region.
Update April 28, 2012. Each of the major tourism offices around the Dolomite’s Sellaronda as well as Sudtirol tourism were contacted about this issue. All but Alta Badia failed to comment. Alta Badia asked, “What motorcycle problem?”
What about identifying the really popular hotels for bicycles and leaving note cards in them, pre-paid, pre-adressed. If a guest has a bad experience with motorbikes on the road, they can send in a note. Right now, if someone has a bad experience, they just don’t come back. But there is another person that goes for the first time. So it kind of balances out. If no ones tells them it’s a problem, they don’t know it’s a problem. I presume the people in those offices are not cyclists.
Credo di amare, come pochi, la montagna e in particolare le dolomiti le quali, non ha torto, sono ritenute le più belle montagne del mondo.
Faccio questa premessa per far capire quanto possa essere sensibile al problema che si riscontra sulle dolomiti, traffico, rumore inquinamento ecc…
Però non ritengo assolutamente giusto che i turisti, motorizzati o no, debbano pagare questi problemi. Sono anni che sento parlare di limitare il traffico alle moto, che i passi dolomitici devono essere a pagamento, molte zone (Alpe di siusi, cinque torri) chiuse quasi del tutto al traffico (sei obbligato a prendere la funivia/seggiovia) ecc.
Non ci scordiamo che sono stati i vari paesi della regione a incrementare e richiamare il turismo, in tantissimi anni che frequento le valli ho visto crescere a dismisura strutture alberghiere, qualunque locale è stato ristrutturato e poi affittato, ho visto infliggere ferite orrende ai boschi per creare sempre più piste da sci e i cannoni per la neve sono presenti quasi ovunque. Era assurdo pensare che dopo tutto questo non si pagasse qualcosa in termini di “qualità di vita” cominciamo col costruire meno piste da sci, meno alberghi e solo in seguito ma molto in seguito interveniamo sul turista che tra le altrte cose è una fonte inesauribile di benessere per tutta la regione.
The different ladin speaking municipalities now realised that the motorbike-massacre on the Dolomites roads cannot go ahead this way and will meet to start to work on a plan to reduce all the noise on the Dolomites roads.
Italian article: http://altoadige.gelocal.it/cronaca/2012/07/21/news/fronte-dei-sindaci-contro-le-moto-che-si-sfidano-sui-passi-dolomitici-1.5432213
So now it’s official. Starting 2013 motorized vehicles need to pay if they want to ride the Passo Stelvio.
Will Dolomites passes follow in 2014?
This last summer was my first spent climbing some of the walls in the Dolomites. Nowhere is the issue of these motorcycles more apparent than up high where there should be no sound but the wind and jingling of climbing gear. Yet here, the roar of motorcycles is a nearly nonstop irritant. They are so loud it is often impossible to hear one’s partner. Numerous friends came for both climbing and cycling and all made the same comment, “This is disgusting”.
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It has been a while since the last post on this topic but the problem still exists. I spent few days in the Dolomite region and after I read most of the posts I can say nothing has changed. At least not to better. The first two days I was cycling. First day it was shocking. I felt like raped on those roads. But I am happy. I survived. On the other side Sella Ronda bike day was beautiful. Pure pleasure. But the same day I received another shock. I took a stroll with my family from La Villa to San Cassiano. We walked on the path near the water, where the traffic is forbidden at least by the signs. We were almost hit by the motocross bike ridden by the young guy, dressed like a terminator. It was the guy from the region because I saw him before with a friend near the house in La Villa.
I believe in the UNESCO World Heritage Site it should be the opposite.
Let the motorized have three days in a year and the cyclists, runners and all the others have the rest of the year. And it is obviously an illusion that the government will take care about the problem. We should do it by ourselves. I don’t live in Italy but I would come to protest. Let few hundreds or thousands cyclists occupy the roads in this beautiful place on Earth. And if the locals support us…
The other solution would be that the bikers and the cars drive in the convoys led by the police. Slow and by the rules! By the time table. Twice or three times per day. With fee. The public transport on the other side should be therefore free of charge.
This is our first time to the Dolomites and while we were amazed by the outstanding beauty of the area, we were very annoyed about the constant noise of motorbikes. We did some hikes high into the mountains but could still here them!! We also saw them driving very dangerously!
We think that the noise detracts from the beauty of the area and could result in hikers and climbers not wanting to visit the area!
Mi scuso per scrivere questo messaggio in lingua italiana, e non so se verrà pubblicato. In ogni modo, io ci provo.
Potrei scriverlo in inglese, ma la mia padronanza della lingua è limitata, e forse non riuscirei ad esprimere al meglio ciò che voglio dire.
Esercito da molto tempo la professione di guida alpina, e durante la stagione estiva mi trovo quasi tutti i giorni sulle nostre splendide montagne, che a mio avviso dovrebbero essere un luogo di pace e tranquillità.
Purtroppo però, con l’arrivo di orde di motociclisti irrispettosi del nostro bel territorio, è sempre più difficile godere del silenzio che contribuisce a rendere speciale l’ambiente montano.
Il rombo delle moto, spesso lanciate a grande velocità sulle nostre strade, che diventano dei veri e propri circuiti, si ode in ogni dove.
Che io stia arrampicando sui Lastoni di Formin, o salendo lungo la nascosta parete ovest della Tofana di Rozes, il fastidioso, continuo rumore dei motori rappresenta un continuo disturbo a quella che dovrebbe essere una piacevole giornata tra il silenzio dei monti.
Per non parlare poi dei rischi che si corrono percorrendo i Passi dolomitici quando i “valorosi” centauri sfrecciano indiavolati tra i tornanti.
E se ciò non bastasse, anche le macchine sportive si raggruppano per esibirsi sul asfalto. Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, tutte in fila per far vedere di cosa sono capaci!
Ma come, mi chiedono spesso i clienti, non è questo un sito UNESCO? Non dovrebbe essere questo un luogo protetto, dove poter godere non solo di splendidi panorami, ma anche del sapore vero della montagna? E la Polizia? Non c’è forse in Italia un imite delle emissioni sonore in Db per le marmitte dei motoveicoli?
Tutto questo è davvero avvilente. Viviamo in un ambiente unico al mondo, ed invece che esserne orgogliosi e fieri lo stiamo distruggendo giorno per giorno per un po’ di denaro.
Per concluder, voglio segnalare che sul mio sito, tempo fa, scrissi un post sull’argomento, riportando la lettera di un turista sconfortato dal malanno delle moto. Se volete dare un’occhiata e magari un parere a cinque stelle (non lo dico per il mio sito, ma per raccogliere pareri che manifestino il disappunto sulle moto), questo è il link al post: https://www.guidedolomiti.com/varie/moto-sui-passi-delle-dolomiti/
Guida Alpina di Cortina d’Ampezzo
I went to the Dolomites last summer and was equally appalled to find such a beautiful place trashed by a continuous screaming sound from motorcycle exhaust pipes. The motorcycle massacre was absolutely relentless and we could hear them 5km away even when walking in the high trails almost anywhere across the alps. We came there to find a peaceful place and clean air and found a 24/7 motorcycle race track with tremendous noise and air pollution. My observation as an ex rider myself is that 90% of the motorcycles encountered had after market / modified exhaust pipes with sound levels and emissions largely exceeding regulatory requirements. Of course no police check point were to be seen for the whole 2 weeks I spent across the Italian alps. We couldn’t really enjoy our trip because of this mess and don’t think I’ll be back anytime soon; the whole thing grew on us and made us very uneasy. I cannot understand how residents cope with this perpetual acoustic carnage. This low end approach to tourism is short sighted and bad business; it has a profound impact on the environment and on residents quality of life, and is a major turn off for many high spending tourists who come here to find pristine nature and peace.