The Peak District National Park – one of the UK’s busiest national parks – has recruited a network of bike-riding rangers to help walkers and growing numbers of mountain bikers share rights of way without conflict.
The Peak District National Park has seen an increase in the number of riders using its trails, said Martyn Sharp, a Pennine Way ranger and driving force behind the new network. The arrival of bike rangers – who ride out on weekends and bank holidays – is designed to nip in the bud any potential conflict between park user groups.
A total of 20 full-time staff are overseeing a network of 150 hi-vis volunteers, who are able to advise mountain bikers on trail conditions, assist with mechanical problems and navigation, and offer first aid if needed.
Though Sharp stressed that friction between walkers, cyclists and others (such as fell runners and horse riders) is minimal, he said the issue needs to be addressed – especially as the park opens up more facilities and pathways for cyclists.
“Because of the amount of people from different user groups in this National Park, it is very busy, so to say there’s no conflict I would be sticking my head in the sand,” he said.
“We’re opening up trails and tunnels – and I know it’s more family orientated – but all the time things are happening and hopefully there are going to be new links to bridleways. It’s another way for the Peak District National Park to be able to talk to all user groups.”
Examples of inconsiderate behaviour include mountain bikers speeding past walkers without warning or, conversely, hikers airing frustration at cyclists as they pass.
Geoff Cole, rights of way officer for the Derbyshire area of the Ramblers Association, agreed that there is little conflict but said, “There are thoughtless cyclists and there are thoughtless walkers, and the problem with the bikes is they are very quiet, particularly if they are being ridden at speed, and if you get a lot of ramblers together they’re very good at chatting and missing the fact that something else is going on around them.
“I think there’s a good case to have somebody who helps both sides see the other side’s point of view.”