By John Horscroft of Ride Sheffield
Where do you ride? For many of us, it’s Wildlife Trust, national park, Forestry Commission or National Trust land that constitutes our riding landscape. Equally, it could be under local authority or private ownership. Whatever, the people who look after our wild spaces are generally keen to talk to different user groups in order to manage the landscape for the good of all. Building influence is a slow process, so here a few tips to help you on your way.
1. Go to meetings – The National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and other conservation bodies often create stakeholder groups who meet on a regular basis to discuss the management of an area. There are many reasons to attend these, not least to prove to land managers and other users that mountain bikers do care about where they ride. It’s a chance to form alliances, offer help and discover more about where you ride. If no such group exists, seek out the appropriate land-manager and suggest they form one.
2. Learn about where you ride. What are the conservation priorities? What is the cultural history? What are the endangered species and where are their habitats? This gives a different perspective, ensuring you see an area not just as a place to ride. It also allows you to challenge common misconceptions about mountain bikers being swivel-eyed, adrenaline-fueled loons. Case study
3. Offer to help – budgets are tight and staff cut to the bone. When it comes to rights of way, who better to look after them than mountain bikers, many of whom are used to picking up a spade and fettling a trail? Case study
4. Try not to be completely MTB focused. See things from the point of view of other user groups and you’ll be surprised what alliances you can build as a result. The least-popular members of any stakeholder group are always those who only bang on about their own interests.
5. Compromise – when different user groups discuss an issue, it will inevitably mean compromise on all sides. This doesn’t mean anyone’s ‘lost’ the argument, it means everyone’s had to give a bit of ground – this ensures everyone will support the solution. Case study
6. Code of conduct – You can assume that at some point, you’ll be asked to produce a code of conduct. Keep it short, don’t preach and focus on the positive. Case study