6. Track and Access Management
6.1 The most controversial part of any policy implementation will be the decisions regarding access to individual areas and tracks. Assuming there is no statutory provision preventing mountain bike access, decisions will generally be made on the basis of existing or expected social and physical impacts. Broadly there are three choices of action.
- accept the impacts and allow access
- manage or mitigate the impacts and allow access
- remove the causes of the impacts (e.g., mountain bikers) by preventing access.
This policy gives emphasis to the second option though inevitably implementation will involve the other two options as well, subject to the characteristics of each location.
6.2 A track database is a necessary tool in making decisions on mountain bike access. As part of this work a database for tracks managed by the Regional Council has been initiated. An example of how this information could be used is given in Appendix 1.
6.3 A decision process which allows a step-wise assessment of each access issue is a second requirement on which good access decisions depend. The Department of Conservation has developed a decision process which is included for further consideration (refer Figure 2).
6.4 While some of the existing social impacts can be addressed by attention to track design and by application of the Off Road Code, some cannot. In particular, the mere presence of mountain bikes in the more isolated back country settings is a modification to the recreation environment which is difficult to mitigate. It is appropriate that in the more remote areas the need to maintain the "character" of the area may preclude the presence of mountain bikes, though their use in such areas is generally self-limiting.
6.5 In the absence of full and detailed analysis of all existing tracks, interim decisions may still need to be made on the use of some tracks within the Region. These decisions should be made in accordance with these principles and policies and should be reviewed in the light of new information as it arises.
6.6 At a site level the available management options include one or more of the following:
- promote dual use
- sign the track
- user education
- track modifications
- promote use on other tracks
- one way traffic
- seasonal bans or open days
- build a separate track
- track ban
The last of these has been favoured by most agencies in the past. The direction being promoted in this draft policy is to favour the first three in particular, with the use of other methods where appropriate, and as resources allow.
6.7 A full understanding of track design options to improve rider enjoyment and reduce impacts will be necessary where tracks are available for mountain bike use. Unless riders are the predominant users track modifications should not disadvantage walkers. Possible track design and management options include:
- improve drainage
- reinforce track shoulder or make track wider
- cut and maintain vegetation which impairs vision on corners
- harden track surface
- build steps right to track edge
- smooth corners to allow easy turning
- provide turn outs to allow easy passing
- provide run-outs or modify gradients to reduce the likelihood of skidding
- place barriers where speed needs to be reduced
- remove or mitigate hazards
- provide information which encourages appropriate use along the track.
6.8 In some situations it may be necessary to apply the authority available to land management agencies to enforce track management decisions or to respond to serious safety issues. Appropriate bylaws would be required to allow this. Recognising the costs and practical difficulties of enforcement, use of this option should in general be a last resort after other options have been attempted.
Mountain bike tracks are appropriately designed, managed and identified.
Establish a programme to determine appropriate mountain bike use, and management of existing tracks, using a standardised decision making process (General).
Carry out an assessment of mountain bike access in consultation with trail users and the local community where appropriate (General).
Consider all track user groups in the assessment of mountain bike access, and any special values such groups place on particular tracks (General).
Specify track standards, signage and other means for implementing mountain bike access decisions, and seek to integrate this work into existing programmes (General).