Mountain bikers should not be given more country park trails

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 September, 2009, 12:00am

I refer to the letter from Paul Mak ('Plea for trails', September 10) proposing the opening up of more trails for cycling in the country parks.

Your correspondent bemoans the authorities for having 'adopted a restrictive attitude towards this healthy exercise, by banning cycling in our beautiful country parks and just allowing a few cycling trails'.

I agree that our country parks are beautiful but have serious doubts that mountain biking is compatible with keeping them beautiful. My observations are that the passage of bikes on unpaved hill trails causes scarring by erosion, rutting and widening of trails to the detriment of the hiking experience, flora and fauna. Bikers often use trails signposted as not open to them and form new unauthorised trails to maximise their thrills by cutting through vegetation and wooded areas.

There have even been deliberate acts of vandalism to remove country park barriers and signposts to access unauthorised trails.

The frequent pleas, by the very vocal mountain biking fraternity, to open new trails may in fact merely be legitimising the current deplorable situation in the country parks which the authorities appear unable or unwilling to control.

There is also the matter that mountain bikers - often travelling at high speed along steep winding trails - are an obvious threat to hikers' safety. Do mountain bikers have third party insurance? I doubt it. Must there be a serious accident before effective action is taken?

The opening of any new trails in the country parks to mountain bikers should be resolutely rejected, and indeed there is a good case to close those trails already in use and have the damage repaired. The bikers could assist with the latter.

I am not, however, unsympathetic to mountain biking but suggest the best solution to protect the country parks would be to fence off a less sensitive area of hillside for bikers' exclusive use. Trails of varying degrees of severity could be formed and screened off by landscaping and planting. The facility could be properly managed (possibly by bikers themselves?) and all costs should be met by the bikers.

Doug Miller, Tai Po