Western Cape trail systems stand firm against rogue riding

On the 3rd of December AmaRider hosted its fifth Trail Management workshop at Delvera, outside Stellenbosch and one of the major topics of conversation, writes Meurant Botha, was rogue riding. 

On the 3rd of December, Amarider hosted its fifth Trail Management workshop at Delvera outside Stellenbosch. As with previous workshops held in Hilton, Karkloof, Cradle of Humankind and Mankele, the workshop was well attended by over twenty representatives from trail systems around the Western Cape, as well as reps from the CapeEpic, Wines2Whales, Dirtopia and Pedal Power Association.

Rogue riding was the hot topic on the agenda, after trail systems have had to accept the closure of three properties in as many months due to riders not adhering to the rules and regulations of the respective sites. The most worrying incident, however, was one where a registered club member verbally abused a landowner, causing the closure of the Kliprug section of the Tygerberg trails.

There seems to be a growing culture of entitlement amongst the riding fraternity and this should be very worrying to both trail managers and event organisers. Riders forget that access is always a privilege, never a right.

The Delvera workshop attendees unanimously agreed on an integrated blacklist system – whereby riders who receive warnings on one trail system or event, would be placed on a database managed by AmaRider. A second warning from the same or other trail system, or event, will immediately institute a blanket ban from all trails or events that form part of the network. The network includes most of the Cape’s major events and trails, so it will be a lonely place for any blacklisted mountain bike enthusiast.

The ruling may seem harsh, but landowners are fed-up and AmaRider will also be working on rolling out the system to include the rest of the country.

Also discussed was the Trespass Act of 1959, a nice ‘short and sweet’ piece of legislation that can easily be enforced and have a transgressor in court in no time. Considering that many riders are not only trespassing, but in many cases bypassing pay points, further elevates the gravity of the transgression as it now includes theft.

The workshop highlighted two issues that riders should take note of:

1)   Riders must urgently review historic permissions with their landowners. In many cases these permissions were granted to friends before trail systems were formalised on the properties. Confirm your access status ASAP!

2)   Riders must be especially cautious of GPS based activities like Strava and rather remove any trace of illegal activity from the internet. Your online alias is not as anonymous as you think!

 A further worrying trend is that of riders embarking on adventures that include hiking trails that, although not signposted as such, were definitely not intended for mountain bike access. CapeNature, who manages almost all hiking trails in the Hottentots Holland, Jonkershoek and Limietberg (Paarl/Wellington) Reserves, has confirmed that these trails are definitely out of bounds to riders.

There is no way that landowners can be expected to post ‘no cycling’ warnings on every trail or route so the onus must be on the rider to determine the legality of access in each situation. With more than 100 routes and trails in the Western Cape there is more than enough legal riding keep you busy without having to trespass. Should you wish to venture outside of the formalised trails environment, make sure to investigate, and ask for permission. We certainly don’t want to eliminate the spirit of exploration that comes with mountain biking, but we cannot endorse a free-for-all riding culture at the expense of the privacy of private land owners or the efforts of conservation agencies.

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