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Another Voice: No mountain bikes for the Outer Harbor

By Larry Beahan

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is airing its plan for the 30-acre section of the Outer Harbor from the Bell Slip to Terminal B. The repurposing of Terminal B for indoor meeting space with ample parking makes good sense. The fencing off of badly contaminated areas and remediation of less contaminated ones for conversion to a grassy meadow for public congregation are excellent uses of this prime waterfront.

The dedication of half of the thirty acres to the extreme sports of mountain biking and bicycle motocross, to benefit the tiny population of bicycle riders who enjoy these extreme sports, makes little sense. The Outer Harbor welcomes two “Slow Roll” events for 1,000 ordinary bicyclists. The waterfront trail provides access to lake vistas for all bicyclists. A ferry devoted to bicycles gets them to the Outer Harbor expeditiously.

The proposed mountain bike trail is an 18-inch wide, one-way dirt track through 15 acres of woods and meadows. If these acres were not taken over by bicycles, wandering them on foot would provide a delightful opportunity to get closer to nature. But with mountain bikers hurtling down them at breakneck speeds any enjoyment of nature is out. Beside the danger of collision, these bikes with their big, nubby tires make a muddy catastrophe out of the trail.

Denying pedestrians the use of these natural areas and keeping bikes off of these vulnerable trails in wet weather will be a daunting task, splashing through mud puddles adds relish to the sport. Mountain bikers are subject to frequent injuries and when they encounter pedestrians, the risk is multiplied.

In addition to this trail, ECHDC proposes a bike park for the performance of tricks on bikes. A bike park is composed of earth, concrete and wooden obstacles that allow skilled performers to jump, flip, and balance on beams. Highly trained athletes compete in this extreme sport at the Olympics. But they are not amateurs trying tricks unsupervised and without first aiders in attendance.

I worked for five years as a lifeguard in the Buffalo city pools. Kids were in danger of drowning, falling on concrete and injuring themselves on diving boards. But we had a crew of trained lifeguards to supervise the action and provide first aid. I spent 14 years as a Kissing Bridge ski patroller where we expected injuries every day but we minimized them by supervising the action and we provided first aid when injuries occurred.

This proposed mountain bike trail and bike-trick park deny access to prime natural waterfront for most of us, while they invite injury to the few who would indulge in this extreme sport and it burdens the city with considerable liability.

Larry Beahan is secretary of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

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