Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dialogue with mountain bikers and upgrading works for 17-year old Bukit Timah Mountain Biking trail

"Makeover for mountain bike trail at Bt Timah," by Grace Chua. The Straits Times, 12 Mar 2013.

AN AGEING, fast-eroding mountain-biking trail at Bukit Timah may soon get a facelift to make it smoother and safer.

The National Parks Board (NParks) put out a tender for upgrading works to the 17-year-old, 7.5km route, which loops around the outer edge of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The tender, which closed last month, attracted three bids between $398,009 and $497,830, but has not been awarded.

It details plans to improve trail drainage, remove chunks of tree trunks and re-route sections, among other measures.

The project will take about three months from the time the contract is awarded, and be done in sections while the rest of the biking-only trail remains open.

The mountain-biking community here is growing, and some 500 to 700 cyclists trundle through the trail on weekends, said NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah. Such intense use, along with Singapore's heavy downpours, increases erosion.

"We aim to improve rider safety and experience, and make the trail attractive for responsible mountain-bikers of all competency levels," Mr Wong said.

NParks decided to upgrade the trail after a dialogue with members of the mountain-biking community. It also plans to invite them to trail-building and trail maintenance sessions, he said.

Avid mountain-biker Calvin Chin, 39, said the Bukit Timah trail is one of the most popular and accessible in Singapore. Others are at Tampines, Chestnut, Kent Ridge and Pulau Ubin.

Last year, NParks caught a group of bikers entering an illegal trail further north, closed off to recreational use because it passes through ecologically sensitive forest.

"We understand there are sound reasons behind why they don't want us to ride there," said Mr Chin, a supply chain manager and member of a community group that met NParks last year to advocate for bike-trail users. "But there are a lot more mountain-bikers, and trails are jam-packed."

Improving the Bukit Timah trail would help, as would adding new trails, he said.

Riders have started doing volunteer maintenance at other trails, such as the one at Kent Ridge.

"We hope that the provision of better mountain-bike facilities will help to discourage usage of non-designated trails," said Nature Society vertebrate study group chair Tony O'Dempsey.

But Nature Society president Shawn Lum said nature reserve visitors in general need to change their mindset, from that of "customers" to "co-owners", and not wander down closed paths, to let the forest regenerate.

Bukit Timah resident Vinita Ramani Mohan, 34, who lives close to the nature reserve, complained of noise from bikers there late at night, at around 10pm or 11pm.

"I would like to see bikers be a little more considerate to the nocturnal wildlife in the reserves and cease biking at night," she said. caiwj@sph.com.sg

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new trail isn't quite finished yet but based on work so far it is brilliant. Great job Nparks and whoever the contractor is!