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WORCA concerned by dirt bikes on trails

Crash, close calls add up to safety issue says president

The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association is concerned about the recent number of dirt bike sightings on trails, as well as run-ins and close-calls between cyclists and motorcycle riders.

WORCA President Grant Lamont has nearly been hit twice this summer, most recently on Whip Me Snip Me. Several other members of the club have also had near misses, and at least one member was hit by a motorcyclists badly enough his helmet was broken and his injuries caused him to miss two weeks of work. The dirt biker in that case left the scene shortly afterwards.

With dirt bikers becoming a safety issue, and issues of erosion on local cycling trails, WORCA is looking at ways it can reassert control over the trails.

"It’s not all dirt bikers, as usual it’s just a few bad eggs that are wrecking things for everybody," said Lamont. "It’s gotten to the point where it’s a safety issue, the (dirt bikers) can’t hear anything over their engines and they’re going way too fast. If the municipality can’t do anything, our members will look to us to do something which we have limited finances for. We can’t afford to erect barricades on every trail so they can’t get over them, but that’s what has to happen.

"They’re not motorcycle trails. If dirt bikers want trails, they’ll have to build their own."

Lamont would like to see the municipality enforce rules against motor vehicles on local recreational trails, which he says will be hard as most of the bikes are unlicensed. He also hopes the word will get out among dirt bikers that mountain bike trails are not theirs to use.

"It’s not like they don’t have places they can ride. The can get into the Soo Valley, Green Lake, Callaghan, Brandywine, gravel pits – they don’t have to use our trails," he said. "Right now Squamish has turned into a nightmare with the bikes, even though they tried to have a dialogue with the dirt bikers about it, and I don’t want to see Whistler go the same way."

Lamont says any enforcement wouldn’t include trail builders, who often use trials motorbikes to get to their work areas.

According to Keith Bennett, general manager of parks and recreation, local parks bylaws prohibit the use of motorized bikes on municipal land and riders found on trails can receive $100 fines.

On local Crown Land, all riders are required to have a license and a licensed vehicle, but some categories of dirt bikes cannot be licensed. In addition, when a trail is specifically designated for non-motorized use by the province, such as the Flank Trial and Comfortably Numb, provincial fines can be applied.

"We do keep our eyes open for dirt bikes, and if we get a lot of reports in a particular area we will take steps," said Bennett, adding that dirt bikes were a huge problem a few years ago but that the number of reports dropped significantly when the Green River Riding Club opened their motocross track near Pemberton.

"In the past police have gone out to these areas and fined people. They also ran into issues in the past with underage riders as well."

Despite attempts to keep dirt bikes off local trails – such as the installation of cattle fences and obstacles designed to keep bikes out – some riders who are determined will find other ways onto the trails. The fences on the Flank Trail and Municipal Trail have been damaged by dirt bikers trying to squeeze through, or physically dragging their bikes under the barrier.

"We could end up with a situation where mountain bikers will have to physically pick up their bikes to get over a barrier onto the trail, but we hope it won’t come to that," said Bennett. "Most of the areas are well signed, so it shouldn’t be any mystery to the riders. It may be time to start enforcing the bylaws again."