Mountain Biking - What's that all about then?

Index: Outdoor Politics and Environment: Mountain Biking - What's that all about then?
By A Hiker on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 10:32 am


By A hiker/biker/skier/boarder/climber on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 11:49 am

It's about having fun in the outdoors. Just like hiking.

Or have I missed another round of moron infestation on this site?

By Foot Jockey on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 03:44 pm

S'funny. I thought it was about tearing along footpaths at 30mph and moaning when walkers didn't jump out of your way without any warning or requests. It's about time bikes had bells on them again so they can signal their intentions. But that would just be too uncool for so-called 'mountain' bikers, wouldn't it?

By Agent Provocateur on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 05:41 pm

Personally I just have really squeaky brakes so that all those bumblers can hear me sneaking up behind them!

Way cooler than sausage jockeys suggestion of a bell!!

By winthrop on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 06:05 pm

My walking stick works wonders in the spokes of a recklessly riden bike, luckily only used twice.

By Muriel Kray on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 07:51 am

I knew these w***y things had to have a use......

By Muriel Kray on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 07:54 am

Oh no. How insensitive and non PC of me. I thought old Winthorp said walking pole. No problem with walking sticks though.

By captain paranoia on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 06:35 pm

A Hiker: you are Jenny, and I claim my £5 reward...

Yes, there are ignorant cyclists/walkers/climbers/motorists/whatever
Unfortunately, there are f*ckwits in all walks of life.

I recently added 'mountain biking' to my list of activities, (following the write-off of my road bike by a f*ckwit motorist), maybe I am not typical. It strikes me that the walker/MTB animosity is purely a matter of attitude. I find that the kiddie-rags, such as MTB-UK are more concerned with 'attitude' than anything else, rather like snowboarding a few years ago. They believe that they are 'radical, off-the-wall dudes', and that an antagonistic attitude to everyone else is essential to their 'performance'. This is a typically insecure cliquey behaviour, which is equally apparent in some of the postings on this site.

I find that by being courteous and friendly to other outdoor users, I avoid any antagonism. A friendly 'hello' as you carefully pass people works wonders. By doing this, maybe I'm trying to offset the effects of the morons, and reduce the antagonism. Let's share the outdoors we love with consideration.

As for erosion, well, the ground pressure on a bike is probably similar to a walker, and the tyres roll. I have to admit that MTB can be more damaging, but only when really 'going for it'. This requires sharp braking, inevitably causing the wheels to lock and skid. It's the skidding that causes damage. But, it's nothing compared to 4WD (sorry, tolerance breaks down here: get off your arses and use your own motive power), cows or horses. To ban bikes (as in Dartmoor), whilst still allowing horses makes no sense, and to me seems to be a political move in response to antagonism. One of my favourite rides in Dorset runs down the Purbeck ridge to Corfe, and you can easily tell which fields have had cows in, and which sheep. Your arse tells you, long after the grass has re-grown. And cycling in Surrey shows just how much damage horses do to sand or mud paths.

So, a plea for consideration on all sides. Walkers: do you step aside on narrow paths for other walkers? Okay, so how hard is it for you to do the same for cyclists? And cyclists, do you slow down to negotiate trees, rocks or sharp corners? Okay, so why not treat walkers the same. Oh and a friendly greeting or thanks for their consideration as you go doesn't damage your 'cred'. You can be bigger than that.

By A Hiker on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 06:56 pm

Wow Cap' (Sir) - you sound like my dad ..

(IMHO :Good stuff tho! - Well said)

-P.S you dont get the £5

By sutty on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 08:21 pm

If everyone was like captain paranoia everything would be OK. In my youth I used to ride over the top from Hayfield to edale on a road bike with hostelling gear on, walking the rough bits and going steady on the rest. This morning a youth who must have been late teens nearly wiped me out on the pavement as I left the bank. He then weaved in and out of people on a pelican crossing before riding off along the pavement. No bell or audible sound of aproach. A cycle is a VERY quiet means of approach so you need to have a bell on to let people know you are there. I think if mountain bikes had smoother tyres it would slow them down on footpaths.

By Howard on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 07:39 pm

There does seem to be an unfortunate tendency to have a go at mountain bikers in this forum. Even more unfortunately this would seem to be a reflection of the ill-informed anti-cycling attitudes of the British population as much as anything. For example, people moan that some passing MTB rider is a risk to life and limb then think nothing of zooming past a cyclist in their car on some narrow country road at 3 times the speed. (Belive me averaging even over 10 MPH on a mountain bike can be hard work).

In 1998 only 2 pedestrians died after being in collision with a cyclist (DETR). This includes collisions on the highway where the pedestrian stepped into a cyclists path (3 cyclists were also killed in such circumstances). If you want to find a worthy target for a lecture on safety try the average driver, 80% of whom habitually speed and who, in a typical year kill around 1000 pedestrians and 180 cyclists. In comparison, MTB riders are highly unlikely to kill or seriously injure other trail users.

The real problem, it seems, is just the usual selfishness shown by people in the UK. (Ie. the landowners want no one, the ramblers just want access for walkers, whilst cyclists, climbers, horse riders, parapenters etc all feel that, as they contribute as much to the CAP and other subsidies supporting the rural economy as anyone else, they too have some sort of moral right to enjoy the countryside).

Most of the points raised against MTB riders are either simply demonstrations of ignorance and prejudice or petty. Yes, I have a bell on my mountain bike and I use it , despite the fact that my experience shows that many walkers (especially organised groups of 'ramblers') on hearing a bell do not allow you to pass but instead spread out and impeed your passage so as to make some sort of point. (If they really felt that their safety was at risk one would think that they would step aside pretty smartish!. Look at you local pedestrian zone when access is open for similar behaviour- pedestrians are pretty quick to move aside for delivery vehicles etc. but seldom if ever move aside for a cyclist).

MTB's can cause erosion if deliberately skidded. However, this is recognised as bad practice and the sign of an unskilled rider. Otherwise, whilst tyre tracks may catch the eye as they are continuous, evidence is that they do not cause more erosion than feet. Fact is that on trails used by horse riders there is evidence that MTB's reduce erosion by rolling in the divots raised by hooves.

Much of my mountain biking has been of a 'from my own front door' variety. Far more environmentally friendly that the usual drive to start, drive to pick up point, drive home activity associate with walking. Mountain bikers are not, in general, some type of alien species. I ride a mountain bike. I also hillwalk, scramble, winter walk (including Mont Blanc) and climb (so far upto E2). I see all of these as being of equal legitimacy and try to be intelligent enough to recognise that the actions of the few should not be used to foster prejudice against the majority or the individual. Every time I meet someone in Brasher boots and red socks I treat them with respect and sometimes this is rewarded. It would seem that some other contributers to this column would do well to adopt a similar attitude to those fellow human beings they meet who happen to be riding mountain bikes.

Mountain Biking, Whats all that about? Take it from me, being able to ride 70 or more miles, on road and off, with stamina sapping climbs, technical rocky paths and exhilarating downhill sections is probably THE way to enjoy the outdoors.

By sutty on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 10:13 pm

You are just being awkward now howard, nobody said anything really against MTBs. Live and let live seems to be the concensus and yes I do give cyclists a wide berth having been one and wishing to be one again but the attitude of some motorists puts me off. I have no objection to cyclists on footpaths AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT GOING FAST. You said that we dont get out of your way in pedestrian areas. Why should we, if you want to ride through them do so at walking pace or the same as a powered wheelchair and you will have no problems weaving through . If you try to barge past me and frighten people you deserve to be stopped and charged with dangerous riding. It may seem funny to you but not to the infirm who CANNOT step out of the way.

By Carolyn on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 02:38 pm

I wish what you said was true! Unfortunately, there are many walkers out there who rant at anyone on a bike, however considerate the rider is. Ring the bell, and you get "What d'ya expect me to do, get out your way?"; say a cheery "Hello" instead, and get "Haven't you got a bell?".
And, honestly, that's when you've slowed down to walking pace, and you're not about to mow them down.
But, ho-hum, I'll keep trying to be nice to them, anyway.....

By captain paranoia on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 04:57 pm

People have said things against MTBs in this thread, and in others. However tongue-in-cheek the comments may be, there is clearly some true feeling behind them; "tearing along at 30mph...", "My walking stick works wonders in the spokes..." etc.

My experience and feelings are similar to Howard's. I don't drive, so cycling is my means of transport. I have to put up with idiot, ignorant drivers putting my life in danger on a daily basis. It sounds like this is what stops Sutty from returning to cycling.

The paramount thing to consider when using any form of motion is SAFETY. This applies whether you are driving, walking, cycling, climbing, skiing, flying, diving, surfing, etc. Absolute speed is not the issue. You must be in a position to avoid hazards which may confront you. So, if you barrel past walkers at 30mph on an MTB, as long as you give adequate clearance, there is no problem. This clearance is such that the line you take is one that the walker cannot reach by the time you pass them. You now have to make some assumptions; are they going to continue in their current direction? Are they going to walk into your path? Are they going to run into your path? Are they going to run into your path and put their walking stick into your spokes? Are they going to pull out a shotgun and blast away at you? Do you have room to manoeuvre out of their way if they go bonkers and run in front of you?

Consider the analogy of skiing; there, the internationally accepted behaviour is that it is the responsibility of the skier higher up the slope to accommodate actions of a lower skier; therefore, you take a path that will ensure you do not collide.

Antagonism starts when someone enters your 'comfort zone', and you perceive this as a threat. They might not see it as a threat. This is true of cyclists and motorists; I get angry when a car comes too close to me. The driver feels perfectly safe and in control, I feel my life is being threatened as surely as if someone were pointing a gun (or a tonne of metal travelling at 40mph) at my head. Likewise, if I cycle past a walker at what I think is a perfectly safe distance, they might think it is too close. So I err on the side of caution.

I'll say it again: you must be in a position to avoid hazards which may confront you.

Accidents happen when people ignore this rule.
Antagonism starts when people ignore this rule.

P.S. There is a bloke in Bournemouth who is notorious for hurtling around in his electric wheelchair. My mum witnessed him nearly trash £1000 worth of musical instruments due to his deliberate bad behaviour. See? morons in all walks of life, but that doesn't mean that everyone is a moron.

By captain paranoia on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 05:18 pm

Well said, Carolyn. If we keep trying to be nice, maybe we'll spread the word ("and the world will become a good, and happy place, and no-one will have to be nailed to anything"). Only by sharing experiences can sectarian divides be overcome. Break down the us/them boundaries.

Sadly, even if you use a cheerful greeting, it can work against you; one horsewoman in Surrey responded to our friendly 'good morning' by going for her whip! Fortunately, she thought better of it, but scowled at us as if we were scum. And we weren't even moving, or blocking the path....ho hum....

By Howard on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:25 pm

Wow!, so people really use discussion boards to discuss things, sort of empowering isn't it? (Then again you could just use them to flirt and gossip- for some reason this forum has not yet plumbed the depths explored by the 'rockchat' site! Only joking of course).

Dear sutty, whilst sort of agreeing with you and not even trying to condone illegal cycling in pedestrian areas, one of the points I was trying to make seems to have passed you by. People moan constantly about the 'danger' posed by cycling on footpaths etc. Statistics show that this danger is greatly overstated. In addition, the way pedestrians behave when cyclists are around suggests that people really know this all along. When a 'pedestrian' area is open to delivery vehicles and cyclists, as many are at certain times of the day, pedestrians take great care to step to one side for delivery vehicles, even though they 'don't have to', because they know that if they don't they stand a good chance of being run down. Cyclists are not perceived to be a real threat (although they can be very annoying) so pedestrians don't bother to move aside from them. This is largely because experience has taught them that cyclists are very good at taking avoiding action. This behaviour is well documented in research, some of which is available on the DETR website.

As an additional discussion point, much hostility simply seems to arise from the perception that cyclists are breaking 'rules'. For example, cycling on footpaths. Whilst I practically never cycle on a footway in town and believe that cycles belong on the roads, I feel that the situation is very different out in the countryside.

Across the country many 'footpaths' were until recently either green lanes or bridleways. In the 1950's local parish authorities were given the responsibility of recording rights of way. However, many were dominated by farming and landowning interests. The consequence of this was that many bridleways were recorded as footpaths or not recorded at all. Look on almost any OS map and you will see sections of bridleways isolated by sections of footpath, these show old parish boundaries. The current situation is that moves are afoot to draw up a definitive map for the whole of the UK and any path whose status is not challenged will be recorded as currently listed. Therefore, many ancient country paths that would have been open to cyclists and horseriders will become 'footpaths' due to the self interest of a generation of farmers and landowners. I would argue that morally, cyclists and horseriders should have access to such routes even if legally they are 'footpaths'. In fact they should use them as a declaration of their personal rights and freedoms. After all, without the illegal actions of walkers in the 30's (Kinder Scout and all that), even walkers would be banned from the hills by the landowners.

Of course all trail users should act with the safety of others in mind. This almost goes without saying.

As a footnote, it is interesting to note that cyclists are legally given access to bridleways on an 'as seen' basis. If you break your leg because a style or footpah is in a dangerous state, or injure your horse on a bridleway because it is of a standard lower than is generally accepted for such a path, then you might well have a case against the landowner. A cyclist has no such right. Further, whilst many think that cycling on country footpaths is illegal in the same way as cycling on a footpath in the town, the reality is much greyer. The 1835 act used to prosecute cycling on 'footpaths' applies only to 'footways set along side a road for the use of pedestrians'. In the country this act does not generally apply as most 'footpaths' are not footways. Local orders may apply but these are not based on the 1835 act.

Hope the above is enlightening to somone. What with more tolerance and more understanding we will make the world a better place yet!

By Walter Raleigh on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 07:53 am

Mmm pedestrians. I live in a "new town" where the enlightened town planners put cycle tracks between the road and the pavement. Pedestrians are so stupid they walk anywhere they please. Not funny to come down a hill, no intersections, building up speed for the next rise to find a toddler and mum wandering from side to side across the cycle path.

By captain paranoia on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 06:25 pm

Excellent post, Howard, keep it coming.

My friend has the analogy for cars which is 'priority to the oldest car', i.e. I don't care if I crash my old clunker, but you might be upset to scratch your shiny new motor. This applies in any 'confrontation of strength'/bullying; juggernaut/van, van/car, car/cyclist. When it comes to cyclist/pedestrian, it's not clear who has the right of might, but pedestrians know they aren't going to be much more badly hurt than the cyclist, and so they feel that they can wander out in front of you, and you will stop ('cos otherwise, it's gonna hurt!).

Cycle tracks? My experience is that they are mostly ill-conceived, with little consultation with cylists' groups, and are mostly only placed so that the local authority meets its required cycle lane yardage.

By Howard on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 06:55 pm

Dear Walter,
If your new town is Milton Keynes you might be interested to know that a detailed piece of research done couple of years ago shows that cyclists are nearly 3 times as likley to be killed or seriously injured using the network of 'off road' cycle paths then they are when using the roads. This is because almost 80% of 'accidents' involving cars and cyclists occur at junctions. Only around 7% are of the 'run down from behind' type. As off-road cycle paths just create loads of new junctions where the cyclist loses the priority they would have on the main road, this is hardly surprising.

At the end of the day are all pedestrians and it must be up to us cyclists, given that we are likley to be travelling faster than pedestrians, to make an allowance for the errors they might make. Similarly, motor vehicles should be driven in a way that makes an allowance for the errors of all vulnerable road users. For example, just blowing ones horn at children playing is not enough, try slowing down instead!

Pedestrians on cycle paths may be an unwelcome hazard but walking on a cycle path is not illegal, even if there is a footpath right next to it. Not surprisingly, it is illegal for a cyclist to cross over onto the footpath section in order to pass them!

Anyway, for anyone concerned by the irreversible loss of our bridleways and green lanes, why not question your local authority as to what they are doing to reclaim all those lost paths. Perhaps all mountain bikers should join or at least support the British Horse Society. This fine organisation is just about the only one working to ensure old green lanes and bridleways are not lost forever.

By the way, I would not advocate using country footpaths at whim, only those that should be designated as bridleways or green lanes or link up significant sections of bridleway. It should be possible to walk on 'cycle free' country footpaths, just as it should be possible to cycle off road without encountering massive 4 wheel drives fitted with bull bars churning up the path. Problem is that only around 10% of paths are legally open to mountain bikes and horseriders, so these user groups are almost forced to take to footpaths, especially given the inaccurate recording of rights of way. In addition, the great majority of the footpath network is not at all suitable for cycling on, being too steep, too rocky, to narrow, etc.

I often wonder why so many ramblers seem to love walking on flat and pretty boring paths that are far more suited to cycling. Walking something like the Snowden Horseshoe is fabulous, wandering across the wastes of somewhere like the North Yorkshire Moors is often only just tolerable on a bike, never mind walking!

OK. I'm off now before someone gets upset. It would seem that whatever you do someone will take offence. I have been amazed to see the venom raised on the Rocktalk site by topics as seemingly innocent as using a top rope to prevent you killing or injuring yourself whilst enjoying a bit of rock climbing. And always remember the words of the late great Frank Zappa;
'The only people you can ever get to agree with you are those who already agree with you.'

Bye all.

By Tony G on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 08:22 am

Howard : Y'da man - Yet another excellent post.

By Walter Raleigh on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 08:32 am

Howard: Stevenage actually, but I guess brain dead lemming pedestrians are the same all over. Interesting about the junctions. It is awkward having to give way at every junction, and yet the highway code says that motorists must give way to pedestrians when turning into a side street!

By J Walker on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 09:30 am

Yeah, and how many do that?

By Walter Raleigh on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 09:36 am

J Walker: Well since you asked none what so ever. But it is the law! Oh yeah so is having a tax disc, and it is illegal to park on the pavement, or on double yellows - even if your hazards are flashing! or parking in the disabled spaces or...


By sutty on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 11:35 am

Sir walter, most motorists don't have a copy of the highway code never mind read it. A lorry driver lives two doors from me and he swore blind that the give way to pedestrians was rubbish one day in the pub. I bet him a fiver and got my copy the next time I saw him. Got my fiver, grudgingly.

By captain paranoia on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 12:31 pm

Sutty: he's a truck driver; everyone knows truck drivers don't have to abide by the highway code. Right of might, remember!

Howard: my experience agrees completely with your stats on 'off-road' cycle accidents. Converting pavements into 'cycleways' has got to rank as one of the dumbest moves ever:

- you cycle past numerous driveways where cars are likely to pull out, so you have to go slower;
- the pavement goes up/down for each driveway, and has been dug up six times by cable cowboys, and isn't a road surface, making it very uncomfortable and dangerous in some cases;
- you have to stop at every T-junction, when the last thing you want to do as a cyclist is lose all that momentum for nothing;
- drivers aren't expecting to have to look too hard on the pavement before turning left (as none of them know that they don't have right of way, of course).

Hey, what a welcome change! This site has livened up again!

By Carolyn on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 01:20 pm

Yes, couldn't agree more. Footpath/cyclepath combinations are generally hopeless. I'll stick to the road meself.
But what about the 'cycle lanes' painted on the road. Round here, they all disappear when the road gets a bit narrow....... very logical! Or they suddenly appear in the middle of two lanes of traffic. Or how about the really ridiculous ones where you're walled in by an extra curb, that doesn't give you room to pedal? Anyone would think they'd been designed by car drivers......
And another stunning piece of design is our local, huge out of town shopping centre! It's got cycle paths all round it....... but no bike racks anywhere!

By Walter on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 01:31 pm

Sound like London. No M/clcle parking bays, clamp down on parking on the pavement and NOT ALLOWED to use parking meters!!!

By QUIET COACH on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 03:32 pm

Inconsiderate car drivers, I bet they're the one that still use their bloody mobiles in the quiet coach when they actually use the train.

By sutty on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 04:39 pm

cold drinks for the dunking of offending phones in are handy, no complaints as the fine for illegal use is more than the cost of phone. Dont smash it, thats criminal damage.

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