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Mountain biking damage

From Ruth F

Sunday, 8 October 2017

I live in Heptonstall and walk the woodland paths a lot, and I'm seeing increasing amounts of damage to paths from excessive mountain biking use, especially in the last two years.  Some places the bikers have dismantled sections of wall and made new paths that are solely steep mountain bike runs.  Then a group of men on bikes will meet there and descend the path over and over in a morning or afternoon, carrying their bikes back up and taking another run.  The damage this does is awful.

Today I was on a path at Slack which was fine a few days ago but looks like at least a dozen bikers went over it today, and half of it is now 2 to 3 ins deep in mud with only bike tracks going through it.

Several paths are taking a lot of damage, rocks that help hold them together are being knocked out by bikers using them as jump points, and deep mud pits have appeared below rocks and steep sections.  And a lot of the paths simply aren't safe for biking, with steep drops to one side, slippery and rocky, and no room for bikers and walkers to pass each other.

Add to this that somewhat over half the bikers are rude to walkers, expect you to jump out of the way so they can pass, get abusive if you don't ... and this by far isn't just the young ones.  (I will add that maybe 30 - 40% are actually very nice and considerate.)

I've been told that it is actually illegal to mountain bike on a lot of these paths, but I don't know how to find out if this is the case or how to get something done, like at least some signage saying where it's dangerous and where it's not allowed, and perhaps reminders to be polite to walkers where it is allowed.  Does anyone know who to contact?

I'm actually often feeling tearful about the damage to some of these paths.  It's vulnerable ground and takes damage very easily, and it makes me really sad to see possibly irreparable damage being done.

From Tim B

Sunday, 8 October 2017

This is a concern that seems to get raised every now and then, particularly when the weather gets wetter and the paths get muddier.  It seems to me that most paths recover when drier weather comes and the paths are beaten flat again.  Shame about the rudeness, there is usually no need, most bikers I know try to 'share with care'.

It isn't illegal to cycle on a footpath, but it is a civil offence for which the landowner can sue if they wish (I don't think this ever happens though)

From Julie C

Monday, 9 October 2017

This doesn't seem like a small seasonal problem, it feels like it is a, maybe thoughtless, part of the over exploitation of the area. The bikers not only destroy paths that the admirable volunteers from CROWS spend days fixing up, but in cutting new ones down the hillsides they have a huge impact on the run off from stormy weather. It doesn't take long to gouge out the thin topsoil and cover that helps keep vegetation on the hillsides. I think this is a problem to take seriously. 

From Rachel Z

Monday, 9 October 2017

I agree that this is an upsetting and frustrating problem, especially for people that care about the local environment. 

Everyone should be able to use the public footpaths, but not in a way that causes thoughtless damage or hinders other people's enjoyment of them.

I am not sure if mountain biking is illegal on some of the paths or not, but it might be useful to report the problem on the CROWS (Community Rights of Way Service) website. The address is: crows-coop.co.uk, and if you go to 'contact us' you can report a problem with a footpath or bridle path.

I think that people could be encouraged to behave more responsibly.

From Janina Holubecki

Thursday, 19 October 2017

This week, mountain bike damage to local woodland prompted me to send an email to the National Trust (Yorkshire Region). This is what it said:

I recently drove past a big group of about 15? mountain bikers who had stopped on the last (sharp) bend going up to Pecket Well from Hebden Bridge. On my return journey, I decided to investigate - and was not surprised to see that they had been lifting their bikes over the low wall into the woodland - where there is no footpath, let alone bridleway - and then biking down the incredibly steep slope, causing a lot of damage to the woodland floor on the way.

If they lost control and couldn't stop, they would crash onto the well-used bridleway at the side of Pecket Well Clough, which passes along the bottom of this slope. This could be very dangerous for users of the bridleway.

I think that this woodland belongs to the National Trust. If this is the case then, as its custodians, I would like to know what, if anything, the NT plan to do about the situation. I do appreciate that it is difficult to police woodlands and resources are scarce, but I would at least like to know that you do not, in principle, support this activity - and that you intend to put up some signs to this effect! 

Conversely, if you are happy for mountain bikers to abuse your woodland in this way - as well as to continue to damage footpaths that are also on NT land around Hardcastle Crags - then I (and no doubt many other NT members) would like to hear your reasoning.

From Pedro de Wit

Friday, 20 October 2017

We can all agree that it is wrong to be rude to each other so let not waste any words on that.

With regards of the impact of mountain biking on the environment lets just say that if you compare mountain biking to other forms of recreation, not to mention the massive impact from environmental disasters like oil spills, the impact from mountain bikes is about as close to zero as you can get. 

I have found one scientific study online that compares  erosion from hikers, horses, motorscycles, and off-road bikes on trails under quasi-
experimental conditions (Wilson and Seney, 1994).

One hundred passes of each use type were applied to 108 trail sample plots, simulated low level rainfall was applied and sediment and water runoff collected and used as the correlate for trail erosion. 

Only horses caused significantly more sediment yield, under both wet and dry conditions. The authors concluded that mountain bikes caused no more erosional damage to trails than hikers.

Of course this study did not take place in Hebden Bridge and the weather conditions here might be different but I think that also around here we can safely conclude that the damage caused by mountain bikers is not significant and has long lasting detrimental effects to the environment.

Furthermore we need to remember that every activity we do outside is likely to have some impact on the environment. Hiking, horse riding, rock climbing etc etc 

So should we not accept any damage to the environment and all stay indoors? Or is it acceptable to cause some damage? But how much is some? Is it fine for walkers to trample the trails when the ground is soggy? Do we need a weight limit for hikers or maybe a shoe size limit?

I don't know the answers but I do know that mountain biking is a fantastic activity. I do also believe that most mountain bikers are polite to walkers and don't set out to cause permanent damage to the environment. Mountain bikers enjoy the trails and the landscape in much the same way as hikers, horse riders and others and I can't see any problem with this.

From Avril O

Friday, 20 October 2017

Ruth’s original post seems to raise two separate, though very relevant issues with regard to Mountain bike activity. Firstly, whether mountain bike damage actually causes excessive environmental damage in comparison to other activities and secondly whether the activity is carried out legally. 

If the findings of the study that Pedro refers to is generalisable to this area (and apologies for not taking the time to find/read it) then it is difficult to raise objections on the grounds of environmental protection (providing that cycling is confined to bridleways) However, Ruth, Rachel and Janina all mention the important point of law and conduct which seems to have been generally disregarded in this discussion. Although the act of cycling off a road/bridleway is not illegal activity under criminal law, it is unlawful under civil law.

As Tim points out, landowners probably don’t bother to take action,  but this doesn’t legitimise the activity or make it more acceptable. Living above Hardcastle Crags, I have seen an increase in mountain biking  over the last few years which causes me some concern. My husband has been verbally abused when asking cyclists not to ride on footpaths. I frequently encounter cyclists on the lane to our home (a bridleway) who refuse to pull in and give way to motor vehicles. Driving at night is hazardous as their head torches often dazzle and impair vision.

I’ve become accustomed to the shouting and swearing as they pass my home whilst having a group conversation. I watch them as they deliberately ride down neighbours footpaths at all times of year (lambing time included) and laugh when challenged. Of course not all mountain bikers behave in this way, but I am encountering increasing numbers who do.

I have mentioned the issue informally, with employees of the NT and they tell me that they have also met with abuse to the extent that they give up trying. However, I agree with Janina that more should be done to prevent what is ostensibly abuse of footpaths and the wider environment. Mountain biking may be a fantastic activity but that in itself isn’t just cause to violate the rights of others. 

From Caroline M

Saturday, 21 October 2017

 I’m sure it was not intended, but the comment about cyclists refusing to give way to motor vehicles on a bridleway is worrying if it gives the impression that drivers expect cyclists (or walkers) to give way. Sadly that is the attitude of some drivers on bridleways and other roads and tracks round here.

I expect what was meant was that drivers have at least as much responsibility to give way to cyclists and pedestrians. On a track or narrow road, any driver sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to be driving invariably slows right down and moves to the side for cyclists and pedestrians. Also if it is night time, they dip their headlights as they recognise that pedestrians and cyclists might be dazzled. 

On the wider thing, the law seems to be that cyclists should give way to pedestrians and horse riders on bridleways (Countryside Act 1968, s30), but that law has nothing to say about how cyclists should treat motor vehicles on bridleways (motor vehicles legally on bridleways would be exercising private rights). I understand the Road Traffic Act 1988 does apply to all users (i.e. drivers, cyclists, walkers) where the public have access, including all public rights of way, and it applies whether or not users are exercising public or private rights. 

Anyway someone said that the most decent approach would be to prepare to give way to the one with least momentum - so cars give way to pedestrians and cyclists, cyclists give way to pedestrians, big/fast pedestrians give way to smaller/slower ones - it's just courtesy and the exact opposite of a brutal might is right idea, that would also hopefully resolve concerns mentioned above about cycling.    

From John Baker

Sunday, 22 October 2017

A sense of proportion is required. 

The area in question is a piece of uncultivated woodland and a few muddy tracks do not amount to an environmental catastrophe.

There must be thousands of miles of footpath in the Pennines, much of which is in poor condition for a variety of reasons, often from overuse by walkers, animals, farm vehicles, or through neglect. But it's only ever the mud created by cyclists that gets the complaints on these boards.

Of course, the transport mode that causes the *real* environmental catastrophe is driving, and the destruction of countryside, wildlife habitats, air and water quality the associated infrastructure causes. Not to mention the five deaths per day, in this country, caused by drivers.

My point? If your own lifestyle depends on driving around our town and our valley, but you still complain about some mountain bikers in the woods, then there's an unpleasant word for that.

On a final note:

"I frequently encounter cy clists on the lane to our home (a bridleway) who refuse to pull in and give way to motor vehicles."

I think this says it all really about the sense of entitlement some drivers have to our highways and byways, whilst having the nerve to complain about cyclists in the woods.

From Lucy Ohare

Monday, 23 October 2017

 I live in  Heptonstall and have noticed more mountain bikers careering down paths in the last few years. At first I assumed they were lost and perhaps taking a short cut home? Now I see they are mostly younger males, covered in mud, crashing down paths. What for? Why aren't they in their bedrooms playing games where they belong?

These bikes do churn up paths, but then so do walkers to some extent. What alarms me is when I am walking up a wet, slippery narrow path and see a couple of blokes gripping their handlebars, eyes bulging, heading straight for me.

From Kez Armitage

Monday, 23 October 2017

Avril O said "I frequently encounter cyclists on the lane to our home who refuse to pull in and give way to motor vehicles" to which John Baker replied "I think this says it all really about the sense of entitlement some drivers have to our highways and byways"

Not necessarily. Motor vehicles are generally faster than bicycles, and surely it's just common courtesy to pull in to let a faster vehicle pass by on a single track road. Last year I was up in Dentdale on such a road behind a lone cyclist for at least three miles. He knew I was there, but resolutely refused to pull in. Never did I think that I had a greater 'sense of entitlement' to the road, but it's a little bit irritating to have to crawl along at 15mph and less when the road would have been quite safe at twice that speed or even more. 

I have to say, it's not just cyclists. I regularly travel over Widdop Road to Nelson and Colne, and frequently get stuck behind slow moving cars. Some will pull in to let you pass, but most seem totally oblivious to a car behind them. Do people use rear view mirrors these days! 

I wonder if it's time to resurrect this wonderful  public information film from 1973.    

From Caroline M

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Suggesting people would give way to the faster vehicle can – sometimes, but only sometimes – be reasonable.  There can be a problem that some drivers tailgate and drive in a way that shows little if any idea of what the limit is or what is a safe speed for the conditions.  

An even bigger problem is that some drive in the expectation that slower road/ track/ path (whatever) users should give way, and that is dangerous as well as discourteous, and those drivers would do well to think on law on careless and dangerous driving.  To put it as politely as possible, it is absurd that some drivers expect pedestrians/ cyclists/ horse riders to either tolerate vehicles coming past dangerously close and fast, or expect them to not be on the roads/tracks; yet both do happen round here.   

The same applies to cyclists meeting walkers where it’s narrow.  Anyway, as mentioned before, any driver who has the skill and knowledge to be fit to be driving, knows all this, and always sufficiently slows and gives space to pedestrians/ cyclists etc.   

From Richard Peters

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

I work for Crows but I am replying in a personal capacity. Bikers can use bridleways, Crows have recently waymarked them all and they have surfaces that will easily cope with biking. 

There are many footpaths that have surfaces that will cope with bikers. My concern is the paths that run mainly through woodland and moorland where the path surfaces can’t cope with either heavy foot traffic or bikers. Crows spends quite a lot of time repairing these but it sometimes seems a fruitless task (that’s why the approaches to stoodley pike have now been flagged).

My other concern is a small group of mountain bikers who are ignoring all routes and causing a lot of damage, especially in woodland. These are the people that are getting mountain bikers a bad name and it’s really not fair. 

I don’t know what the solution is but I would welcome a bit of a quiet dialogue with mountain bikers to see if there are areas of common interest. 

Email CROWS through the website if you are interested 

From Zilla Brown

Friday, 27 October 2017

It seems there is a sense of entitlement amongst a lot of cyclists that they should and can ride where ever they wish to go, and to  abuse  any body who objects - indeed a right  to ride any where without any thought of trespass across agricultural or woodland. Saying who ever disagrees prevents them from their right to be fit, or that it is a small matter compared to oil spills at sea is spurious,  let's not try to evade the issue and stick to the point. You don’t need to be a scientist to see  the evidence with one's own eyes.

The problem occurs because the many trails and green lanes are not perceived as enough amusement so footpaths are used. As we all know whilst walkers marks on a footpath might leave dappled impressions in muddy ground, cyclists tires leave continuous ruts. So when water enters these depressions, where otherwise it might be held as puddles normally, on hillsides where there are cycle ruts the tendency is to create long channels that encourage the faster drainage and free  flow of water especially downhill. 

Because of better communications certain footpaths become instantly popular, the area is being overexploited, leading to ever greater numbers using and publicising them. The result is that there are now many areas of footpaths above Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd where excessive cycling has led to v shaped small ditches about 6-7-8 inches deep in the middle of former footpaths, making it very difficult to continue walking there. Whilst not blaming cyclists for exacerbating flooding, it is disingenuous of them to deny this type of wear as they know very well it is hard to avoid when repeatedly riding the same narrow footpaths.

From John Baker

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Zilla makes some perceptive points about mountain biking in the Calder Valley.

"It seems there is a sense of entitlement amongst a lot of cyclists that they should and can ride where ever they wish to go"

Yes. There's a local saying which I'll censor slightly for decency: "Ride where you like but don't be a pratt about it". You can call it "a sense of entitlement" or you can just call it "people enjoying the countryside". 

"the many trails and green lanes are not perceived as enough amusement so footpaths are used." 

This is true too. But it's also true that the bridleway system is fragmented and piecemeal; that it doesn't always take a rider where they need to go, or that to get from one bridleway to another, you might have to use a path.

"Because of better communications certain footpaths become instantly popular" 

I fear this is true too. Local riders consider it bad form to publish GPS trails of their rides on social media. However, I'm sure it happens.

Our Right of Way system is outdated. In the early 20th Century, ramblers rightly fought for access rights using tactics such as trespassing and civil disobedience (the Kinder Scout trespass springs to mind), and as a result, a network of public footpaths was created. These tactics are celebrated as examples of ordinary people standing up to vested interests and archaic laws.

It saddens me somewhat that people who benefit from those hard-won rights wish to deny them to other users of the countryside.

Scotland has already done away with the footpath/bridleway system and walkers and cyclists alike have the right to roam anywhere. I have no doubt it will happen in England sooner or later.

Yes - bicycle tyres leave ruts in soft ground. Yes - I can see that, in certain places at certain times of year, this makes walking more difficult. But, it's the countryside. There's mud. There are puddles. And rocks. And fallen trees. And bulls. And styles. And barbed-wire fences. Most of this is not due to cyclists of course.

So I do not wish to deny the problem, but it must be considered in the context of other forms of transport, and other leisure pursuits, and the environmental effects they create. It you hate cyclist for causing ruts on a footpath, then you must really hate golf, the M62, etc etc.

Cyclists are a sociological out-group, viewed with contempt and suspicion by non-cyclists, meaning they are frequently held to higher standards of behaviour than users of other transport modes, and other leisure pursuits. This is absolutely endemic in the mainstream media and in the national discourse about cycling. I seek merely to point this out and to restore a little balance.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 9 November 2017

John Baker says: ‘Cyclists are a sociological out-group, viewed with contempt and suspicion by non-cyclists, meaning they are frequently held to higher standards of behaviour than users of other transport modes, and other leisure pursuits.’

Wrong way round. It’s because too many cyclists fall below the standards of considerate behaviour expected by one human being of another that they are unpopular. Or to put it another way, too many cyclists appear to have their own standards of behaviour that bear little relation to those of anyone else.

From John Baker

Thursday, 9 November 2017

I'm afraid you're making my point for me, Graham. 

Such claims abut cyclist behaviour have no rational or statistical basis; they are a mixture of prejudice and confirmation bias.

It would be a pity if this thoughtful debate were to be brought down to such a level.

From Tim B

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Graham, it seems to me that some cyclists don't always follow the rules of the road as they are in a highly risky position sharing close road space with potentially lethal vehicles.  

It certainly gets the adrenaline flowing.  Particularly when cut up by drivers who are distracted by phones or passengers, rushing trying to get to work on time or deliver an unreasonable amount of parcels in too short a time or just not paying due attention to other road users.

So perhaps if all road users showed more care to each other, standards would improve all round.  The blame game does not get us further; the discussion needs to grow up.

From Graham Barker

Friday, 10 November 2017

I’d remind John and Tim that the title of this thread is Mountain biking damage. Perhaps I should have made it clearer that my comment was made primarily in that context, though the behaviour of many cyclists when among pedestrians leaves a lot to be desired.

As to John’s rather lofty dismissal of anything he doesn’t define as ‘thoughtful’ - therein lies the perpetuation of the conflict.

From Mo Ludlam - Hebden Bridge Walkers Action

Friday, 17 November 2017

The footpath network comprise a series of footpaths developed over centuries. They are routes that took ordinary people to other settlements, to their work or across land to specific destinations. Access to open country was hard fought and finally won in 2000. This allows open access to mountain, moor, heath and down. The development of the two are not connected. 

Mountain bikers are allowed to ride on bridleways, green lanes and byways. They should not be cycling on footpaths. 

Around here there are many footpaths through woodland where the path has a significant depth of leaf mould. It is there that mountain bikers do the most damage. There are paths in the Crags for example that are now almost impassible for walkers.

CROWS (Community Rights of Way Service) do a great job in repairing our local footpaths. I don't see any bikers willing to step forward to repair the damage they cause. Isn't it about time they did?

From Mark H

Saturday, 18 November 2017

 If you want to get mountain bikers to help, tell them you have titanium spades and GPS enabled hardtail wheelbarrows. It's the only language they understand.

And while you're on - 

- how about not blocking all the parking on Church Lane, and other sites, on weekend mornings with your vans and estates? Out with the bike, off for a spin up tracks and over moors, then back to load the vehicle and away. No real help for local businesses and a net drain on our ecosystem services. No help for those who need to use a vehicle to get to Sunday services at the church.

So where is the best place for a motorist to leave their vehicle while they are wizzing around the district?

From Andy M

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Re: input to the local economy: there has been recent research to suggest that MTB users spend more than walkers and horse riders when visiting an area and, as the National Parks and Scotland will tell you, the passtime/sport is  a major, all year round income generator. 

From Ruth F

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Mo, thank you for joining this discussion.  Please could you direct us to the legislation that says mountain bikers are not allowed to use these paths?

Once we are clear on this then we have a real basis to ask CROWS, or the local authority, or somebody, to at least make this clear with signage, so that when a walker needs to challenge destructive biking activity there is something clear and tangible to point to.

From Caroline M

Sunday, 19 November 2017

On the law about cycling on footpaths, my understanding is that there is no legislation saying you cannot cycle on a footpath. Iit’s just that there is no law giving you rights to do so at least in most cases. That is why cycling on a footpath would be civil trespass against the landowner not by itself a criminal act.  

Another complication for signs etc. is that cyclists and horse riders might have acquired rights to use some paths recorded as footpaths, and also some paths recorded as footapths may be misrecorded anyway - I understand the law on that can get a bit complicated.

From Andy M

Sunday, 19 November 2017

CyclingUK view here


HebWeb Forum: Mountain bikes on footpaths (March 2016)

HebWeb Forum: Mountain bikes on public footpaths (Feb-Aug 2014)