The Cavehill has become too dangerous for walkers, families and nature enthusiasts, according to Workers Party representative in the Castle area of north Belfast, Gemma Weir.
“This is not a new problem”, she said, “but it is getting worse”. “Mountain bikers have turned this local public amenity into an unofficial downhill race track”.
“Mountain biking down the Cavehill and through the Cavehill Country Park is putting people increasingly at risk and causing serious damage to the environment. Now it is also being widely advertised as a mountain bike downhill venue”, Gemma claims.
Refusal to endorse bylaws “This issue goes back to at least 2002 but still Belfast City Council refuses to fully enforce its own byelaw which prohibits riding a bike in a way which is unsafe or likely to cause damage to the park, cause annoyance or harm to people in the park.- a perfect description of high speed, downhill mountain biking”, she said
Despite the publication of a specialist report over ten years ago a number of councillors continue to argue against making the Cavehill safe for the quarter of a million visitors who use it every year. That report concluded that the Cavehill “… does not allow for sustainable multiple uses by pedestrians and mountain bikers at the same time and conflicts between these users is inevitable.’
But a decade later the byelaws are not being enforced, decisions are not being taken, the risk of injury and damage to the environment is increasing and Cavehill is being advertised throughout the world as a mountain bike venue*
Real and present danger “It is beyond belief that the City Council and a number of councillors continue to drag their feet on this issue. There is a real and present danger that people may get injured – including the mountain bikers – and that habitats and the environment will suffer irreparable damage.
Belfast City Council in its own leaflets describes Cavehill as an area containing “…natural and historical features…. livestock, picnic areas, woodland areas and species rich greenland ”, but are doing nothing to prevent damage to those amenities or ensure the safety of those using them.” said Gemma.