Not covered in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Unauthorised trail building in parts of Scotland is troubling to rural estates and farmers, according to a new campaign.

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Scottish Land & Estates have started an initiative called ‘Care for the Countryside‘ which warns of safety issues being caused by self-built unauthorised mountain bike trails.

According to the campaign, the past decade or so’s boom in mountain biking – brought about by the growth of trail centres as well as Scotland’s open access laws – has also brought about an attendant boom in the unauthorised building of trails and jumps on rural estates and farmland.

Farming UK: “They are often created with limited knowledge of how this might affect other users, the potential environmental damage and the range of mountain bikers who might use the trail. As well as potentially proving dangerous for riders, unauthorised trails present a liability for businesses and landowners who are duty-bound to risk assess the trail and develop a management strategy. This could involve removing any inappropriately dangerous obstacles from their land once discovered. Without following a due process, farmers and landowners could face the risk of being held liable should an accident occur. Building trails, even if it is only using hand tools, is not covered in either the Land Reform Act or the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – and cannot be considered as responsible access.”

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Karen Ramoo from Scottish Land & Estates: “Mountain biking’s popularity brings with it associated issues for farms and estates, however. We have witnessed a significant increase in riders constructing their own unauthorised trails and we are concerned that these trails are not fit for purpose and can present a real danger to riders and to other access takers. A landowner could be liable if a trail was discovered and they didn’t apply an appropriate management to the trail, leading to a rider or other access taker sustaining an injury. It can also present a real problem in terms of caring for trees, land and biodiversity.”

Graeme McLean from Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland: “We want to encourage new and experienced participants to enjoy trails but also ensure riders are acting responsibly – caring for their surroundings and also minimising the danger to themselves. Constructing unauthorised trails, obstacles and jumps on someone else’s land is illegal and brings dangers to riders, others who access the land and could potentially damage trees, flora, fauna and disturb wildlife.

“We understand there needs to be improved information and guidance for both mountain bikers and landowners on how they can work together to minimise this issue. We are part of a sub-group of the National Access Forum who will be developing this guidance and it will be released in 2018. We hope we can find models where mountain bikers can work with landowners to create appropriate trails in the appropriate locations.”