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Mountain bikers furious over dismantling of ‘historical’ trail features in North Vancouver

Last Updated Jun 30, 2019 at 11:32 pm PDT

File photo of mountain biker. (iStock Photo)

The district says it will immediately begin to dismantle and remove five teeter-totter bike stunts from trails

Decision comes after a county in Ontario was found liable for a biker's injury in their jurisdiction

A petition has been launched to save the see-saws

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The District of North Vancouver says it will immediately begin to dismantle and remove five teeter-totter bike stunts from the North Shore trails.

This follows a ruling where an Ontario court held Bruce County liable after a man was seriously hurt when he fell from a similar stunt in a bike skills park. The man broke his neck and is now quadriplegic.

The North Shore Mountain Bike Association president, Cooper Quinn, says the ruling shouldn’t really apply to District trails as the legal obligations for riders to personally take precautions is much lower on recreational trails than in something like a skills park.

“Really, that case has kind of reverberated through the entire Canadian recreation world. It’s potentially precedent-setting on the duty of care and how recreation is managed,” he says.

“One of the things that’s really important with how recreation is managed in B.C under the provincial regulations and the Occupiers Liability Act is that there’s an inherent assumption of risk whenever you’re recreating anywhere.”

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He says he believes DNV and search and rescue workers pull out about four times more injured hikers than mountain bikers off the trails in any given year.

Quinn says the stunts are considered historical and harken back to the early days of freeride mountain biking, a style born on the North Shore in the early 90s that has since spread worldwide.

“It’s a circus stunt or a parlour trick off in the woods, right? But it’s not, I think. The teeter-totter on Ladies is the first one in the world, and features like that really started an entire movement of mountain biking that has shaped the entire sport across the world as we know it,” he says.

While Quinn says the NSMBA works closely with the District and generally things go smoothly, he’s disappointed in this decision and the surprisingly short timeline.

(The NSMBA received emails from the District land manager that suggested the structures would be left alone until the end of 2020 until the timeline was suddenly bumped up this week).

“We fought this fairly hard and the association has lost at this point. But I think with anything as we’ve seen time and time again from housing to B-Line buses to sewer projects if there’s enough community outcry (…) maybe there’s a chance council and staff will understand (…) these things really do have deep value to the community.”

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The first ever teeter-totter on a mountain bike trail globally was built right here on Mt. Fromme in the early 90s. The “Ladies Only” teeter totter crosses over a swamp and is a popular stunt for riders to check off their bucket lists

Todd “Digger Fiander” built that stunt more than 30 years ago.

“I built it because I was trying to put unique bridges on all my trails and what’s more unique than a teeter-totter?”

He says there are some significant differences between the stunt at the centre of the Ontario court’s ruling and the stunts on the Shore today.

“I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction due to something that happened to a poorly designed teeter-totter somewhere back east,” he says.

The teeter totter in Ontario was about four feet off the ground at its pivot point, meaning it could be up to 50 degrees to ride up.

“Which is really steep. Most of the teeter-totters on the North Shore are about 10 degrees, so almost flat,” he says.

A properly-built teeter-totter, in his eyes, never gets much higher than that, and is no riskier than the inherent risks associated with mountain biking itself.

“It’s probably the easiest stunt to ride on because when it falls down, you just ride down it,” he says.

In 2013, an Idaho tourist was killed while riding a teeter-totter on the “Pipeline” trail on Fromme. He was riding alone when he fell down a ravine and sustained head and neck injuries, so there is no detailed account of what happened.

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Rider Kurt Ruetters feels mountain bikers themselves have been left out of the conversation, so he started a petition to save the see-saws.

“The consensus seems to be very much the same: that people don’t feel that most of the teeter-totters on the Shore are very much of a challenge or pose any hazard. The majority of them are fairly low to the ground,” he says.

The District of North Vancouver declined an interview with NEWS 1130 but provided an emailed statement.

“The District of North Vancouver is removing five ‘teeter-totter’ structures located on our mountain biking trails. We have been advised that these structures pose an unacceptable level of liability risk to the municipality and, as a result, staff will begin dismantling the structures immediately.

The decision has been made in response to advice from a recently-commissioned professional risk assessment, a recent court decision in Ontario, Campbell v. Bruce (County) 2016, and our own experience in dealing with serious injuries related to ‘teeter totters’ on our mountain biking trails.

The DNV will work with the mountain biking community to find more suitable structures, with the goal of striking an acceptable balance between rider safety and trail riding experience.”