New Swinley Forest bike trails to stop insurance claims
December 19, 2012
New mountain biking trails through Swinley Forest are being built to stop insurance claims against the Crown Estate.
A packed public meeting heard John Deakin, chief forester, explain the undefined network of unofficial trails that has developed over the past 20 years at Swinley had led to claims from injured bikers.
He said that over the past two years there had been a number of serious accidents in the forest, some of which had resulted in significant insurance claims against the Crown Estate.
He told the 60 mountain bikers at the meeting, the estate was currently facing a £50,000 out-of-court settlement to an injured rider.
Ben Pinnick, a mountain biker and former racer, organised the meeting at Bracknell & Wokingham College on Monday, December 3.
He said: “It was a very good turnout and John was quite open in saying there were cases of liability from the proliferation of uncontrolled trails.
“Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport and in today’s society there are a lot of ambulance-chasing lawyers. They had no choice but to act or to close it. The meeting was very good at allaying fears and providing an explanation.”
Last month, the Crown Estate announced biking on unofficial tracks would end in March with the opening of three separate trails suitable for different levels of riders.
It said unrestricted biking was damaging wildlife in the forest, which is a Nature England designated Special Protection Area (SPA).
At the meeting Mr Deakin said three species of nesting birds – the Dartford warbler, the woodlark and the nightjar – were at risk between March and August.
The 24km network is being built by Back on Track MTB Solutions to international mountain biking standards and will turn the forest into a centre of excellence for biking.
In a statement after the meeting, Mr Deakin said: “I was delighted to attend the meeting, providing the welcome opportunity for The Crown Estate to talk to the mountain bike community regarding our plans for the new cycle networks in Swinley Forest.
“The Crown Estate’s aim is to create a centre of excellence and the involvement of the mountain bike community is key to achieving this.
“Following The Crown Estate’s review of mountain biking in Swinley Forest, the negative environmental impact on the SPA from the current use of the area was a major consideration in plans to create the new network.
“Also, as a responsible landowner, the Crown Estate felt it needed to be able to adequately ensure it was able to exercise a duty of care in the event of a claim from people cycling in Swinley Forest and the new network will provide this.
“The official routes will also enable the estate to manage the trails in a way that is sustainable to all stakeholders.”