Banning other groups is not the answer
And the saga (or is that farce - make your own mind up) continues...
It came to my attention last night that the Mayor's solution to the current Manly Dam debarcle is to ban walkers from the mountain bike track. See his release below. This is not a good idea though, as I explained in a mail (this was sent to all the elected officials early yesterday evening):
Dear elected officials,
While you might think from a cycling advocacy point of view this would be good news, my heart sank when I saw this release.
In all the years of campaigning for fair access for bike riders our message has been, "The trail is there to share". This is true. There are very, very few situations where this is not the case (certain staircases or bridges cannot be safely ridden, certain steep downhill trails are not safe for walkers, etc.), but the majority of bush trails are suitable for both walkers and bike riders alike. Given it's benign nature this is particularly true of the Manly Dam circuit. The incident records (or lack thereof!) prove this.
It would be hypocritical of me to promote this motion and say I fully supported it. It would be indecent of me to ask you, as elected officials to pass any motion to ban walkers unless it was as a last resort and I believed it was the only way forward to keep trails open for riders.
Truly, if I did believe this was the only sensible action I would be asking for support, because to be fair, and as you know, there are many other trails available to bush walkers in the reserve and elsewhere in the area, but there is only this one circuit available to cyclists locally.
At this time though, I believe there is a much fairer alternative. That is quite aside from the fact that even if one were to ban walkers as the Mayor has suggested, this would not appease the reserve management, who believe that the PoM still suggests that cyclists should not ride the full circuit. In their eyes, both groups would now be excluded!
The alternative I believe should be focused on was one I hinted at on Saturday, (and, I might add, that has been picked up by several other people) regarding the wording of the PoM and the 'other designated areas' for cycling. I managed to speak with reserve management today who were open to suggestions of using that wording to allow riders to use the existing circuit. I put it to you again then, that the way forward is thus:
- Forget any more 'bans'. This will not help anyone, least of all council and definitely not any user group.
- Speak with reserve management and clarify exactly what sort of motion they would require in order to re-open the existing track, having it entered into their list of 'other designated areas' and thus in-keeping with the PoM.
- In order to manage risk any such motion should probably also include provision for mandatory warning signs at all trail entrances. Such signs to read something like, "WARNING! Shared trail. Bikes give way to walkers. All users continue at their own risk!"
I am under the impression the 'other designated areas' assignment needs nothing more than council motion and could be made effective immediately it is voted on. Such a move would return the status quo that existed prior to Feb 12. A win for all sides I believe. I urge you to introduce such a motion at your Feb 23 meeting. Please do not wait longer!
By all means, then continue to look at and review the PoM, but do so in the knowledge all users can continue in harmony as they have done for so many years.
 The Mayor's release, issued yesterday (which I urged him to immdiately withdraw or ammend) reads:
Urgency Motion on Manly Dam and Bike Riders
The Mayor of Warringah, Michael Regan, is seeking an urgent review of the Plan of Management for Manly Warringah War Memorial Park to address the issue of bike riding around Manly Dam.
Pending that review, in order to address safety concerns, Mayor Regan will also seek Council’s support for an interim ban on bushwalking on three sections of track.
A temporary ban on bike riders was announced on Friday February 12, after Council staff raised serious concerns about safety along the sections of track shared by bike riders and bushwalkers.
The sections of track are very narrow with some blind corners and it has come to Council’s attention that the Plan of Management for the area does not technically approve bike riding along a total of 2.17km.
Councillors were briefed on the issue on Tuesday February 2 and staff carried out site visits last week before deciding to close sections of the track to bike riders, primarily for safety reasons.
The Mayor will now move an Urgency Motion at Council’s extraordinary meeting on Tuesday February 23, requiring an urgent review of the Plan of Management and seeking to allow bike riding on the sections of track that have been closed.
“I understand the safety concerns associated with having bushwalkers and bike riders sharing narrow stretches of bush track. As such, my Urgency Motion will seek debate on the option of temporarily banning bushwalking and reinstating bike riders on the three sections of track in question,” said Warringah Mayor Michael Regan.
“By doing this, we can overcome the safety risks until the Plan of Management can be reviewed and, subject to Council’s endorsement, this review will work out the appropriate balance between bike riding, bush preservation and walkers.”