Keep mountain bikers off our footpaths

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The other day I came across a mountain biker at a path junction in Pecket Well Clough.

She was making a decision between cycling down a footpath and cycling down a bridleway. She did the ‘right thing’ and I complimented her on her choice.

We then got into a discussion about mountain bikers using footpaths - and she astounded me by saying that some mountain biking friends of hers had been told by someone from Calderdale Council that it was OK to cycle on footpaths!

I said this was unlikely to be true. But if it is, then it is quite simply unacceptable. I realise that it is extremely difficult to enforce the law regarding the use of footpaths by MTBs, but the council should be getting the message out there that bridleways can be used by bikes but footpaths are ONLY for walkers. It isn’t as if there is a dearth of bridleways in Calderdale. Quite the opposite - bikers are really spoilt for choice.

The main problem with mountain bikes on footpaths, as you will well know, is that whereas bridleways usually have causey stones, pitching or some other hardwearing surface, footpaths usually do not.

Whereas walkers generally place their feet randomly on a path, bikers will all tend to steer their wheels down the same line. This has resulted (especially after the 2012 cloudbursts) in some very badly damaged footpaths around Hebden Bridge.

I have come across a group of about six mountain bikers using a steep footpath near Midgehole as a kind of bikers’ “helter-skelter”! They were not using it to travel from one place to another - but were instead rocketing down it and then dragging their bikes uphill to go back down it, again and again. This is an unsurfaced path through deciduous woodland - and I hardly need to tell you what kind of damage was being done, even after fairly dry weather. When I challenged them, I was told that it was “much better in the mud” after it had rained!

There is also a public safety issue when this sort of activity is carried out on steep footpaths. And yet I frequently encounter tyre tracks on the most unlikely of footpaths - near steep drops and often on routes with many stiles and steps. Please could you release a statement that could be published in the media - well before the Tour comes to Yorkshire! - to explain why MTBs should stick to bridleways? And how about some special waymark discs printed with “Bridleway - MTBs welcome” and “Footpath - no MTBs please”?

Janina Holubecki