Rider-built bike jumps

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Our communities enjoy a very active lifestyle and our townships are home to amazing outdoor facilities and spaces to exercise and play.

Rider-built jumps are not only a dilemma for our community, where some people love them and others loathe them, they are also a complex, region-wide issue.

There’s a range of considerations that have been further complicated through the COVID-19 pandemic, including the mental health of our young people. We want to balance those considerations, with looking after our environment and being fair to all in our community.

While we’re very keen to support getting kids outdoors and active, getting their hands dirty and enabling them to be creative with building bike jumps, we want to support them to do so while also being safe. Our alternative is to channel their energy towards existing bike jumps and get their help to make them both fun and safe.

While we understand that it may seem like harmless fun to build a few dirt jumps in a park, reserve, bushland or empty grassed area, these jumps are a concern for both community safety and our environment.

Get involved - bike park maintenance / revamp project

Bike Park maintenance sessions 

Council has set up a way for clubs and community members to do maintenance work on our bike parks. We’d love to see the energy that’s currently channelled into rider-built jumps going towards our existing bike parks instead. The Surf Coast Mountain Bike (MTB) Club is on board, and a maintenance session will be held at Spring Valley Bike Park on Sunday 10 October 2021 (pending COVID-19 restrictions). There are also sessions at the awesome Anglesea Bike Park, so contact the Park Committee via www.angleseabikepark.com.au to find out how you can get involved. For more information on doing maintenance works at our bike parks, contact the Recreation Planning Team at: info@surfcoast.vic.gov.au, or 5261 0600.

Bike Park revamp – Bob Pettitt Reserve

Council will be revamping the bike park at Bob Pettitt Reserve and you can get involved. We know the current park isn’t meeting the needs of young riders and will be designing and building a new layout. We want people who have an interest in the bike park to give us feedback during the design process. We’ll be starting soon so we’re keen for riders and parents to register to be involved, which you can do by emailing or phoning Council’s Recreation Planning Team at: info@surfcoast.vic.gov.au or 5261 0600.

Why can’t people build jumps in parks and reserves?

Everyone’s safety is our responsibility

As a Council, we need to make sure that anything built on Council land is safe – for both the users and passers-by. When community members build their own jumps, we can’t ensure that what has been built is safe – either in the design or construction.

While some of these jumps are relatively small and might appear to be low risk, regardless of size, there is always the possibility of serious injury, and no one wants to see a young person get unnecessarily hurt doing what they enjoy.

While most accidents on these jumps usually result in abrasions, or perhaps a broken bone, there is a real risk of a much worse outcome, such as brain damage and loss of mobility with devastating lifelong impacts for the individual and their families and friends, especially when a jump is not structurally sound.

These outcomes can, do, and have happened, therefore Council has an obligation to ensure the safety of our community, including our young people, which is why Council has for many years removed such jumps built on Council and Crown managed land.

Caring for our environment

We need to be particularly careful of damage to the natural environment. When dirt jumps are built by riders, it often causes damage to trees and plants, grassed surfaces, garden beds, mulched areas and tree roots, due to the digging required to remove the dirt.

Sometimes the jumps are built in our conservation areas, causing damage to endangered plant species. It’s important that we ensure our natural environment, beautiful landscapes and opens spaces are being taken care of. Construction of tracks may result in damage to bushland including areas with endangered ecological communities, threatened species or Aboriginal heritage value. And just because “no one was using the bush” does not mean its biodiversity and intrinsic environmental value are not important to our community.

What the whole community want

While an open space may seem like a good place to build jumps, residents with properties that surround that open space may not like the idea of having something built so close to their homes or they may have legitimate concerns that their properties will be affected, for example by changes to drainage. When Council builds something, we talk to all those who will be affected by it, including those living close by, to ensure that everyone’s feedback is considered.

Removal of rider-built jumps

For the reasons outlined above, rider-built jumps in parks and reserves will be removed by Council staff when required. 

Why has Council just now decided to remove jumps?

Council acknowledges that building jumps in parks and reserves has occurred for many years, and Council has also, for many years, regularly removed these jumps. It’s actually a common practice for Councils across the country.

What has changed of late is the amount and scale of the jumps, which has escalated. It seems that COVID-19 has meant children in the Surf Coast Shire are looking for an outlet outside of home schooling and cancellation of regular sports. The building of jumps shows us that kids loves bikes, the outdoors and getting their hands dirty.

However, jumps created have become larger with more risky elements to negotiate on the bike, and as such Council has an obligation to respond and manage this risk, we don’t want to see anyone get hurt, especially if it can be avoided.

Why is a rider-built dirt jump not acceptable when Council has a skate park and BMX track with jumps?

While there will always be some level of risk involved in any skate or BMX facility, Council can manage this by having facilities professionally designed and built, and regularly checking and maintaining them.

There are documented standards for building skate and BMX facilities with the aim of minimising risk of serious injuries for users; noting that these facilities have features that are jumps or promote jumping. When a facility is built in accordance with standards and regularly inspected and maintained, the risk of injury and liability is mitigated and managed. Importantly, Council has an obligation to ensure it is not negligent. Providing facilities that meet accepted standards and keeping them in good condition helps ensure we are not negligent regarding things that are built on land we are responsible for.

A well-intentioned rider-built jump doesn’t follow a professional design and construction process and presents a risk to the safety of users and passers-by, which isn’t acceptable.

If people choose to ride these jumps, isn’t it at their own risk, not Council’s?

While Council acknowledges to some extent we are all responsible for our own actions, there is clear legal precedents and clear advice that Council, as land manager for these areas, has a responsibility to manage the risks and failure to do so would be considered negligent, and potentially see Council held legally and financially liable for an injury.

Peer pressure can and does push people, particularly young people, to try and do things that are beyond their capacity, the result of which can be serious injury.

Unfortunately, when people do get hurt many seek compensation and want someone to be held liable even if the person was a willing participant and aware of the risks.

It is extremely difficult to justify using rate payer’s money to pay compensation for an injury that occurred on Council land or property when Council is aware that the risk existed and failed to do something about it.

At the end of the day Council endeavours to keep members of our community safe and well where possible.

How are bike jump locations rehabilitated?

Rehabilitation works undertaken by Council may include:

  • Planting and mulching to mitigate environmental impacts
  • Installing signage to tell people why jumps can’t be built there
  • Removing jumps, rocks, debris and rubbish
  • Installing temporary fencing to protect the space and support its rehabilitation
  • Using logs or branches to block tracks and cleared areas to allow the bush to regenerate.

Rider-built jumps – can they be supported?

Council staff will be working with local community experts, industry organisations and other Councils to investigate best practice in management of rider-built jumps, the potential to develop future guidelines for safe jumps, and also investigate stewardship or management arrangements / agreements. If there’s a way in which rider-built jumps can happen safely and be well managed, we’ll do our best to help.

Where else can I ride my bike?

Surf Coast Shire acknowledges and thanks Greater Shepparton City Council, City of Whittlesea and Lake Macquarie City Council for their contribution of information.