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A Quality Future for Mountaineers and Hill-Walkers

Mountain Biking Policy

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established a right of responsible access in Scotland for walkers, bikers, horse riders and canoeists. NEMT see a significant increase in the use of mountain bikes, with possible conflict with those taking pedestrian access. A policy is needed because of:

  • damage to sensitive upland soils such as peat and sands, and to constructed footpaths
  • poor biker behaviour by a minority, e.g. forcing other users to get out of the way
  • unchecked, the situation may worsen because of:
    • further developments in bike technology
    • promotion of biking for its health benefits.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code expresses users' rights and responsibilities. Its three principles are:

  • Respect the interests of other people
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions

Caring for the environment implies not damaging the ground surface. Respecting other people implies not annoying other users. In the hills, bikers who act responsibly, have as much right to be there as other users. Many walkers also use bikes, including to access remoter areas.

Guided mountain biking and bike hire provide local jobs and encourage people to get outdoors. NEMT supports these businesses, provided their guides and clients cause no environmental damage, and conform to socially polite behaviour.

NEMT does not want byelaws to deal with bad behaviour by bikers (or walkers and campers). NEMT will encourage cycling organisations to emphasise responsible behaviour and to promote respect for other users.

Routes chosen by bikers require careful thought, as some trails pose more problems than others. Riding on estate tracks (such as the track up to Derry Lodge), on purpose-built bike trails and on suitably constructed paths (such as Mount Keen) is OK. NEMT supports the construction of suitable tracks, particularly in forests and at specially constructed centres. Within forests, and possibly elsewhere, NEMT favours zoning in areas of high use, to reduce conflict between users.

It is not OK to cycle on sensitive habitats, or on footpaths that are liable to damage from long-term bike use. NEMT will campaign against the construction of new tracks in upland areas outwith forests, in the same way that it is against the construction of new footpaths in these areas.

Electric bikes can make matters worse as they enable riders to cover more ground. NEMT wish their use to be restricted to purpose-built trails and tracks used by other motor vehicles, including Land Rover tracks.

We hope that all users can enjoy Scotland's special countryside.

Actions for 2021

  1. Collect good photographs of biking-caused damage in the Cairngorms, and, with this evidence, suggest to the Park Authority that they adopt some measures based on education rather than restrictions such as asking cyclists to avoid specific vulnerable and/or crowded areas.
  2. We endorse the Code of Conduct, prepared by Cycling UK in 2012 (reproduced below). NEMT will publicise this in the next issue of Mountain Views, and on the NEMT website.


March 2021

Cycling UK Mountain biking code of conduct

With mountain biking an extremely popular past time for many thousands of cyclists, it's important for us all to remember and respect all other users of the countryside whilst enjoying our vast network of trails. Here we highlight a few key points to remember when you are out and about.

Ride Responsibly
Show respect for all other users, and take care of the environment.
Leave No Trace
Practice low-impact cycling to protect trails and avoid wet and muddy trails. Keep to the line of existing trails, avoid skidding and take your litter home.
Control Your Bike
Stay focussed, check your speed, and think about other people.
Always Give Way
Let people know you are there. Pass wide and slow, particularly with horse-riders and approach with caution on blind corners and descents. Remember - Be Nice, Say Hi!
Avoid Disturbing Animals
Farm, pet and wild animals are startled by sudden noise, be considerate.
Always Plan Ahead
Know your bike, your equipment, your ability and the area, and wear appropriate safety gear, and helmet.

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Page last updated: 22-jan-24