A report from Belfast Council has recommended closing all trails on Cavehill citing the recent, high-profile death of a pedestrian in London and an incident with a scrambler in Colin Glen.
Also mentioned were mountain bikers reaching speeds of 50km/h in the forest and the incident last summer where a trail saboteur was caught on the trails using trail cameras and given a Police caution.
The report states: “The dangerous nature of this activity on this site has been highlighted as a serious public safety issue and would draw Members attention to two recent, high profile incidents involving the death of a walker in Colin Glen Forest Park in a collision with a scrambler and also the death of a pedestrian knocked down by a cyclist in London.”
The proposal will come before the council’s People and Communities Committee on Tuesday and it has understandably provoked an angry reaction from local riders.
Riders have been using the trails for thirty years under a bye law that states: “A person shall not ride any bicycle in a manner which is unsafe or likely to cause damage to the park or give reasonable cause for annoyance or alarm to other persons in the park.”
The report details 15 years of attempts by the council to find a solution that suits all land users but it concludes by recommending a “high-profile enforcement blitz” in conjunction with the local Police.
Brian McClure, a regular on the trails, told the BBC: “We are absolutely aghast. It was the mountain bikers who originally approached the council asking for help to counteract incidents of sabotage which had been going on and now the whole thing has been turned on its head.”
“Mountain biking has been part of life in Cave Hill Country Park for years, and we have worked hard to make sure it can co-exist with all other park users.”
Ben Reid, Dirt team manager, said on Instagram: “For many including myself growing up it was the only accessible ‘real’ mountain that I could get to because I could cycle there. I’ve been fortunate enough to make mountain biking my career and at least some of that is owed to having access to riding Cave Hill. Belfast council decide what it is that you want from future generations.. is it vandals or active young sports people?”
The whole incident stinks to us of the council using two tragic deaths as a convenient excuse to rid themselves of a thorny problem. Local mountain bikers are hoping to attend the meeting to put their point across this evening and hopefully the council will see sense. We’ll update you when we know more.