Sorry hikers, this trail is for bikers only

Tan Tam Mei, The New Paper AsiaOne 10 Mar 16;

Last year NParks proposed to create a hikers trail adjacent to an existing Mountain Bike trail at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. However NParks realised that this was not feasible, as hikers and bikers kept getting into accidents.

Installations for a separate hiking trail alongside the Bukit Timah Mountain Biking Trail will be removed this week.

This is after several accidents along the trail where cyclists would crash while avoiding stray hikers or collide into the concrete bollards that demarcate the separate trails.

The decision is a U-turn on the National Parks' (NParks) plans - announced in July last year - to create an adjacent hiking trail to separate hikers and cyclists.

In a statement to The New Paper on Monday, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation, said that based on feedback and "observations on the ground", initial plans for an adjacent hiking trail were not feasible, and the trail would remain for mountain biking only.

He said that an adjacent hiking trail would require several intersections where cyclists and hikers would meet, and explained that the bollards had been placed to demarcate the trails.

Said Mr Wong: "These intersections and bollards pose safety concerns. We are aware that there have already been a few accidents at these junctions resulting from bikers trying to avoid hikers who have trespassed on the trail."

The hiking trail was created because NParks noticed more hikers using the biking trail. This was after the closure of several hiking trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in 2014 for repair works.

Mr Wong also clarified that while the hiking trail was never officially opened, an initial section of the trail had been put in place to gather feedback.

The removal of the bollards and hiking trail installations will start this week.

NParks will also put up more signs and station staff to remind the public not to hike along the biking trail.

Hikers who trespass on the trail could face a warning or a fine of up to $2,000.

Mr Wong said that existing hiking trails at the reserve will reopen later this year.

Avid cyclist Ivan Tan estimates he has witnessed at least nine accidents happen because of the bollards and stray hikers.


FRACTURED ARM

One accident over two weeks ago where a biker crashed into the bollards left the rider with a fractured arm, said Mr Tan, a 42-year-old who works in sales and rides along the trail thrice a week.

"It was one of the more serious cases. He looked like a novice but if the bollards weren't there, the injury might have been less severe," he said.

According to mountain bikers TNP spoke to, another cyclist broke his arm on Saturday morning after allegedly trying to avoid a hiker on the biking trail.

Mountain bike skills instructor Wilson Low, 33, said: "It's good that the decision was reversed by NParks before anything more serious happened."

Mountain Bike Association Singapore secretary Jason Lim, 41, said that removing the bollards and the hiking trail "will reduce the safety hazards".

He added that "injuries could have been avoided" if NParks had consulted the mountain biking community before introducing the hiking trail.

Mr Lim also noted that the incident highlighted the need for improved communication between government agencies and community stakeholders.

"Despite this misstep, we're glad NParks corrected it," he said.

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