Friday, 13 January 2012
The relentless rise in illicit mountain biking activity is set to cause significant and increasing damage to some of our favourite places in times to come and has already done so. There seems to be a total absence of responsible authority prepared to intervene to stop or limit the harm being caused. We pay more money each year to public servants who inside the system cannot act with the necessary speed or perhaps just don’t want to or don’t care enough. We saw this with off-road vehicles in the national park where an appalling level of erosion was caused over several years while a Ranger Service which should have been doing something about it was utterly stalled. Officers around here think they can put an A4 notice up on a tree and congratulate themselves that they’ve addressed the problem. Until recently they resisted even doing that.What I wonder is the point of the public employing people who simply do not do the job the public requires. The concessionary bridleway is meant to be closed at this time of year but the bikers ignore the notice resulting in disgustingly slippery footpaths which the bikers presumably enjoy. They then move onto more informal footpaths that they have never had a right to be on at all eroding and rutting them. All the signs are that the people involved are obsessives who do not see the possibility that there could be an alternative view to theirs and that they will never be moved from their conviction that they are pursuing a valid cause. There is some kind of political motivation behind them.
Much of the concern in relation to mountain biking has been focused on illicit riding on footpaths. We know that mountain biking groups believe they should be able to use any route that walkers can use. They have this in their policies and have put in a recent petition to parliament to that effect.
I’ve always made it clear that bicycles are allowed on bridleways. They have been for more than 40 years. This does not mean that there can never be problems even on bridleways. On and around Blacka several bridleway sites are problematic and some are a disgrace; this blog has raised the issue before.
The bridleway going down towards Totley is what remains of the route used from the fourteenth century by the premonstratensian canons of Beauchief Abbey who kept animals up on the pasture land at Blacka. Use of this in recent times by mountain bikers and horse riders, but mainly the former, has led to significant widening of the old route. This has been raised several times over a number of years with Sheffield Wildlife Trust but to no avail. When we suggested action they said they would monitor the widening but their starting point was after the track had already and obviously been widened. They’ve now forgotten they said that action would be taken. The picture shows the widening with marked indications of the width as it was up to about 5 years ago. If it is permissible to ride your bike on a bridleway the public should expect that you keep to the bridleway and not extend it to several feet (or even yards) to the side.
Rob has mentioned that the bikers of Ride Sheffield are involving themselves in repairing the bridleway going down from Devils Elbow. This needs watching as some groups of bikers increasingly see this as their route and a downhill speeding one as well. SWT of course want the bikers to be on their side.
Another concern raised by Rob has been about the resurfacing of paths and tracks. Apparently tarmac is being used in Greno Woods, presumably this is ‘road planings’ taken from road surfaces where new tarmac is to be laid. If the current plan of the well paid managers is to do nothing to stop mountain biking until the condition of the routes becomes worse than unacceptable and then cover them with offensively inappropriate material then we’ve been right about them all along. They are worse than useless.