Mountain Biking - Here to stay, but...

This in effect answered the question regarding concern over use of certain tracks and paths after they were in use and had been advertised.. In answer to the question of Policy, the following was stated

"The formal powers the Park Authority has are those given to it by Parliament as a result of primary legislation, in this case the Land reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The options to “restrict or prevent access to a particular area are very limited indeed - for example, if we wanted to restrict access for more than few days to a particular area we would need to seek Ministerial approval on a case by case basis and this is very unlikely to be granted for a sustained period. To date we have never sought such approval. Inst cad the emphasis is on good planning and management and on responsible behaviour by both users and by land managers as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It is important to note that there are some powers available - for example, Scottish Natural Heritage do have powers to erect signs to protect the natural heritage. Good quality guidance that has been developed through appropriate consultation also helps to encourage responsible access. A good example of this is at a site like Loch Davan where you will find signs and visitor information that advises people not to take canoes onto the Loch at any time of the year in order to protect the wildlife of the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve.

"In general terms we think this system, based on responsible behaviour works very well indeed. But we now think it would be helpful if we provided some guidance about best practice and agreed a policy position about how the Park Authority can help raise standards. We would do this by adding to our Outdoor Access Strategy for the Cairngorms. In the future I also think that SNH should consider incorporating what people should do if they are promoting access opportunities in any revision of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and we will raise that issue with them."

And commenting on the offending web site:

"Overall, the website is oriented at club members and does not have a particularly high profile. There are a number of suggested route options but most of the ones I saw were very good indeed. Many, for example, are based on minor roads and estate tracks. I would be surprised if the site was influencing such a large number of people to follow routes that were so unsustainable as to give significant cause for concern."

Murray also suggested he would make direct contact with Club to see how he might assist them to reflect on their responsibilities in promoting some of the routes listed. NEMT would certainly support such an approach. He also suggested the NEMT might want to make direct contact to express any concerns we have. To date we still have to follow this through.

Interestingly, the promotion of paths for a variety of uses, including mountain biking, was the subject a meeting of the Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum. The emphasis of the meeting appears to have been in favour of promotion whilst accepting that, "the promotion of paths and routes is a potentially contentious area. On the one hand we are aware that some land managers feel uncomfortable about other people promoting paths or routes over their land without their knowledge, involvement or consent. This can be particularly problematic when a route is suggested that causes significant problems or annoyance. On the other hand, the rights of responsible access in Scotland are extensive and do not prevent anyone from promoting routes who wish to do so"

CNPA's OAS Policy 10: Developing appropriate visitor information about outdoor access opportunities statement on the subject can be viewed in this article in NEMT's web edition of this Journal.

It is clear mountain biking is a potentially contentious activity, but it is one that is here to stay. Dialogue with the Authorities, the Land Owners and those we feel are behaving unreasonably whilst exercising their right of access is initially the way forward.

Alistiar Beeley, NEMT General Council

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