Why hikers should not share bike trail

Bukit Timah Mountain Biking Trail.

SINGAPORE - Mr Ng Eng Juan laments that a trail being upgraded at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will thereafter be closed to hikers, and reserved for the exclusive use of cyclists ("Don't exclude hikers from Bukit Timah reserve trail"; last Monday).

The trail which Mr Ng is referring to is indeed a mountain biking-only trail, and has been so for a long time.

There are clear signs at all its entry points advising this.

The revamp of the trail has nothing to do with its closure to hikers and other recreational users.

As we understand, the ongoing works are aimed at preventing trail degradation and soil erosion, issues which have affected the mountain biking trail for a while.

We believe that trail sharing as advocated by Mr Ng can be explored as it will allow mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners, nature photographers and other recreational users to maximise the use of nature trails in land scarce Singapore.

However, issues such as safety, potential user conflicts, right of way and so on need to be worked out and this will ensure that everyone enjoys using the limited trails we have. 

In our assessment, the Bukit Timah mountain bike trail is not a good candidate for trail sharing for the following reasons:

Most sections are of single-track width, which allow for only one party to pass; this means that the other party has to give way and wait;

It has many dangerous blind corners;

There are "technically challenging" sections (rocky and steep drop-offs, for example) where accidents between a mountain biker and a hiker can happen;

It is not easy for a mountain biker travelling at a higher speed to anticipate the movement (or intention) of a hiker in his path.

There are only a few trails designated for mountain biking in Singapore, while there are many other trails for hikers and runners.

It may interest Mr Ng to know that the lovely MacRitchie trails, as well as many other nature trails around the island, are open to all recreational users except mountain bikers.

Calvin Chin
Mountain Bike Association (Singapore)

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