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Banning other groups is not the answer

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 16 February 2010

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[1]. 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.


Robin Rainton

[1] 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.”

ido09s's picture

I dont agree with banning bushwalkers from the parts that riding is currently banned from, BUT, how often have you seen a bushwalker on the banned sections anyway? especially the first bit of single trail.

I can guarantee you that the number of 'illegal' bushwalkers on thee parts would far out weigh the number of possible illegal MTBer's

Lets also be realistic, a fair bit of that single trail is actually quite dangerous to bushwalkers, but is quite safe on bikes, so it possibly in Council's best interest's of 'safety' to ban the bushwalkers.....

In the end someone is going to be upset..... and, although biased, i feel it is far better to upset the minority that the majority

daveh's picture

Agreed, it is not going to do this cause any good to get other groups offside. The solution is not to ban walkers from these sections (which is unworkable and almost impossible to police) but to designate these as mountain bike tracks with a warning to other users to ensure that they are aware tro to remove (or at least reduce) the council's responsibility for the non-existent threat that they now perceive to be real. Having said that, the argument about punishing the majority for the few is still valid and unfairly treats mountain bikers.

hawkeye's picture

The track record appears to be that there have been no recorded incidents of collisions, and the risk points where sight lines are limited and traffic noise could mask the approach of a bike travelling at speed encompass only a very few of the many corners of all the singletrack sections.

Surely these few points of risk could be managed by means other than a ban on bikes OR walkers.

And how are they going to ban peds from the Cootamundra Reserve playground on up to Allambie Heights PS? Completely impractical.

Of far greater concern is the message this sends by implication to other groups we are trying to work with. If this solution goes through, the're going to start to wonder "Maybe there really is a risk" when we all know that it is completely immaterial on properly constructed tracks. It makes our bids for access to selected narrow trails in NP areas almost impossible.

Maybe that is the intended outcome? (Now I'm getting into conspiracy theories! - rolls eyes )

I have friends who walk the northeastern singletrack near their home. This outcome would be only marginally less unfair than the bike ban.

herzog's picture

I agree with the trail being there to share sentiment.

The risks are being severely overestimated by the council. I wonder if they realise that most riding on tight, sight limited singletrack is done at speeds below 15kph. A decent XC jogger can sustain that speed.

Walkers are at a far greater risk every time they cross a road.

Morgan's picture

In my times at Manly Dam I have only seen people with dogs, and joggers, along the MTB track. I have never seen a "bushwalker", and I don't believe I ever would, as the trail is not particularly appealing. I've gone bush walking in the area and I enjoyed the lower (walker only) trails and Bantry Bay much more than I would the MTB singletrack.

To alienate walkers is to alienate the locals who I would think make up the majority of pedestrian traffic in the area. A veerrrrrrry bad idea in anyone's book.

I agree with shared access. The locals know what the score is, the riders know what the score is. That's why there's bloody well been no bike-walker accidents ever.

Council, just go back to the way it was before. Simple.

cambowambo's picture

Tomorrow's Manly Daily

First a f*#k up, followed by a reactive backflip - which also happens to be a f*#k up.

Well done Robin for *not* supporting this.

The concept of us verses them is simply wrong - we've managed to get along with pedestrians on this track for years, the only real problem here is how Warringah Council manages their paperwork!

mudgee's picture

The story as it stands...

1. Most mountain bikers do not want to ban walkers from the track.

2. Mountain Bikers are quite happy to share the track with walkers.

3. The track has previously been reviewed by council as being suitable as a multi-use trail. Safety upgrades have recently been made for this purpose

4. Council are concerned that the PoM does not specifically allow mountain biking on these trails.

5. As Rob points out the PoM allows mountain biking in carparks, firetrails and other designated areas. (incidently this includes Eva's track...but i suggest we let that slide)

6. Council have clearly designated the track a 'bike track' on their website, printed material and on signage at the picnic area.

Therefore no changes to the PoM need to be made, walkers and bikers can both use the trail and the whole exercise has been another farce.

Responsibility probably rests with whoever turned the conversation about "supporting younger people's involvement in trail maintenance and regeneration just like we do for BushCare" (i.e. reinstating trail maintenance days) into "how can we stop mountain biking at the dam"

For the second time in a week, a whole lot of the community's time was wasted because of councillors pushing their own agendas rather than providing for community needs. (wasting a whole lot more than 12 ranger-days of wages p.a. that seems to be blocking the involvement of a new demographic of eager community volunteers)

It seems that ill considered executive decisions by the mayor and his 'administrative staff' that are disowned by the remaining councillors are one of the 'efficencies' associated with only meeting once a month. Unfortunatley it also seriously undermines the funadamental principles of democratic decision making in local government.

If you are worried about Council's handling of this incident it may be worth contacting Council's Internal Obudsman to express concern about the probity and accountability issues surrounding recent action. In particular the failure of council to apply its own award winning community consultation processes in reaching its decision

The ombudsman's job is to ensure that "all Council’s dealings with the community are fair, transparent and accountable"

RichWhetton's picture

Banning bush walkers instead smells a little of divide and conquer to me (I know - a bit conspiracy theory) but lets not buy in to this.

nrthrnben's picture

so its not all doom and gloom. Its actually very "manly" thing to do and humiliating to say the least.

After speaking with the mayor yesterday and asking some pre prepared questions, I think he is looking at it from the point of view of:

The mountain bike track is majority riders, so instead of banning riders, lets ban walkers. This is not so bad as they have a plethora of other walking tracks to walk on.

Having said that, i feel that as manly dam has worked as a multi use track for so long with no significant problem, it should keep that title, but also be improved with mountain bike's having right of way(like some nz trails), as walkers are by far the minority and have many other tracks it seems like the fair way to go.

Manly dam should be made an example of how a trail that has majority mountain bike use can also have walkers, not the other way around.

I do however think that unless they can change the POM overnight, banning walkers for the short term, would have been, and is the now smartest decision from the councils perspective..and i guess from a keep the majority happy perspective also.

Rob...Great work once again with the manly daily, your comments are always mature and well thought out.

hawkeye's picture

The message any ban of one group at the expense of the other at Manly Dam sends to those we are trying to work with in new areas we are wanting to gain access to (eg, national parks) would potentially be disastrous. We'd win this battle but easily risk losing the war.

It MUST be shared access for both riders AND walkers. Sure we grumble at each other a bit, but what family doesn't squabble at least a little?

There is just NO reason it needs to be anything less. The track record demonstrates conclusively that we can get on with each other perfectly safely.

marhleet's picture

there was more danger and increased level of damage from bike riders going anti-clock wise against the 'known' norm of travel.
why was that not a sign-posted issue.
(but then, walkers should go anti-clockwise, they'd see the bikes coming, sneaky stealth missiles they are, always sneaking up on us slow folks)
(shh, snigger)

Little-Ditty's picture

My mother always taught me as a child to share what I have. The single track at Manly Dam should be no different. I can't see how everyone can't share the trail equally, provided there are signs that tell all users there are others who use the trail and that everyone is out there at their own risk.

Toddy's picture

Email just received ;

Dear Scott,

Thank you for your email. I fully understand your objections and concerns to the closure of the track sections at Manly Dam.

What many people don't realise is that the elected Council had nothing to do with the decision. I personally brought the issue up at last Tuesday's Council meeting. The safety board working on all areas of the community made the decision based on safety, liability and the law.

Moving forward, after much researching and communicating, it looks as though we may have found a way to reverse this decision at the Council meeting on the 23rd of February in favour of all mountain bikers!

I ask you to remain patient until then.

Kind regards,

Cr Bob Giltinan J.P

Yetiman's picture

At the end of the day walkers have numerous tracks around Manly Dam to walk.
They don't need access to this particular single track.
Mountain Bikers pretty much have one option.
Why not keep the walkers to their own 'already' dedicated tracks
and the Mountain Bikers can keep their circuit as for the past decade or so.

philberesford's picture
if they realise that most riding on tight, sight limited singletrack is done at speeds below 15kph. A decent XC jogger can sustain that speed.

True true. About 18 months ago I went around with a friend whos bike was out of action so he decided to run whilst I rode. He actually beat me by about 20secs. Funny thing was, during his run he almost trod on a Brown Snake whilst approaching the big flat rock on the single track. I'd say walking the trail would have more conflict with the natural wildlife than it would with other user groups.

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