The sharing of national parks trails between mountain bikers, hikers and joggers, has often been a contentious issue but new Griffith University research has found that’s not always the case in Queensland.

Professor Catherine Pickering, of Griffith’s School of Environment, and PhD student Sebastian Rossi, surveyed 153 mountain bikers in three southeast national parks during popular times and found some interesting results, published in the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism.

In targeting Tewantin, Mapleton and Nerang national parks, the researchers found out who goes riding, why and how they get on with other users. What they found was:

  • Nearly all of the mountain bikers were university educated males between 25 and 55 years old.
  • Riderslike to go riding regularly; usually with a friend, sometimes for short rides, but other times they are out riding for more than 2 hours.
  • Riders are motivated by the desire for exercise, enjoying nature and the outdoors, but also the adventure and challenge of riding.
  • Riders tend to have very positive environmental values — appreciating nature in its own right, not just for what it can do for humans.
  • Riders had positive perceptions about other riders.
  • Riders found sharing their trails with hikers and runners often made for a more pleasant experience in the park.

DSCN1815“This contrasts with other research that has found conflict between hikers and mountain bike riders in parks,” Professor Pickering said.
“Perhaps it’s the laidback Queensland approach, perhaps it’s some well-designed trails, perhaps it’s those who don’t want to share trails go elsewhere, but it seems there is not a lot of conflict in these parks.

“Mountain biking is very popular in Australia, including in southeast Queensland, and this is hardly surprising with great weather and great parks to go riding in.”
One of the few listed reasons for problems with other users was the potential for collisions or injury, with only 18 out of 156 riders concerned about this risk.

Their concerns were mainly with other mountain bike riders, horse riders or dog walkers, with only one rider concerned about collision or injury with hikers. In contrast, other mountain bike riders in the USA were much more likely to be concerned about hiker’s behaviour, including hikers being rude and discourteous.

Professor Pickering said this information was critical for the Queensland Government, which is managing the three parks studied, as well as local government when promoting mountain biking in city parks.