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July 01, 2011

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Jon Sparks

Hi, I'll definitely track down a copy of this. I'll be very interested in what you say about illegal trails.
Did you by any chance see a piece I wrote for Cycle magazine earlier this year about MTBs and erosion?
The general conclusion is that riding (at least XC trail riding) does not overall cause more erosion than walking. More specifically, current Rights of Way system may exacerbate erosion and other problems by confining bikes to bridleways, which may or may not be best suited, while barring access to footpaths which may be better in many ways.

Seb Rogers

Hi Jon, I don't subscribe to Cycle, so I'm afraid I missed that. As you're obviously aware, the issue is complicated. From the point of view of land managers erosion isn't the issue; the problem is conflict with other trail users. From that point of view it makes some sense to segregate (for example) bikes and walkers to some extent, even when the segregation is based on definitive maps drawn up in the '50s rather than suitability for purpose.
I've seen this first hand locally, where increasing use by both bikes and walkers has caused erosion issues, but the land managers' response has been to enforce existing ROW laws... which effectively concentrates most users on the most eroded trails and does nothing to address the problem.
One of the issues is that changing a trail's legal status (from, say, footpath to bridleway) is a long, drawn out and very costly process. The best thing to do would be to change existing legislation to make such alterations quicker, easier and less costly. It'd surely be cheaper in the long run than trying to repair the erosion caused by boots, hooves and tyres on over-used honeypot routes.

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