Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association - Bolton Chapter         

Mountain Bike Policy

The Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association was planned and constructed as a primitive hiking trail.  This was and continues to be in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the licence agreement the HVHTA has with the TRCA (the land owner).

The use of mountain bikes has been discussed since inception of the HVHTA. It became a more significant subject at the 2002 AGM.  Since the 2002 AGM it has been discussed at the monthly meetings and at 2003 AGM.

Faced with significant increases in insurance costs the HVHTA has been in consultation with other members of Hike Ontario. Notably the Bruce Trail has also been addressing the Mountain Bike issue in light of increasing costs.

The HVHTA executive has adopted the Bruce Trail report below in total and will be updating trail signage to reflect this policy.

All members of the executive hope that our paid membership understands and accepts this measure, which has been taken to address rising costs. The trail is of course open for use by all. We trust that ALL will enjoy walking on our trail and help ensure this community facility is funded and preserved for future generations.


Roger Taylor

Environmental Policy Working Group
April 7, 2003

In this report we examine the question re the possibility of allowing the Bruce Trail or some sections of it to be opened up to non-pedestrian usage.  Our methodology has been to identify the issues pertaining to the possible multiple usage of the Bruce Trail and then to establish a set of easily-accepted principles relevant to those issues.  From these principles we could then draw logical conclusions re the usage of the Bruce Trail by groups other than pedestrians.

Our plan had been to circulate the sets of issues and principles to the BT Clubs and committees for comment before finalising the report.  This was partially accomplished by presenting the issues and principles at a workshop at the 2002 AGM and also by discussing them with the Environment and the Land Stewardship Committees.  We then asked the Risk Management Committee to give us an opinion re the financial and legal risks associated with permitting non-pedestrian traffic on the Bruce Trail.  They informed us that insurance coverage for non-pedestrian usage would be prohibitively expensive for the Bruce Trail Association.

One of the principles identified in this report states that:

There should be no increased risk for the BTA.  A policy should minimize risk exposure and cost of liability insurance for the BTA.

Clearly, to encourage usage of mountain bikes, motorised vehicles etc on sections of the Bruce Trail would violate this principle Hence one has to conclude that the Bruce Trail Association should as a matter of policy restrict the entire Trail to pedestrian usage only, except in areas where the landowner explicitly permits and takes responsibility for other usage of the Trail.  This is the recommendation of the Environmental Policy Working Group.  The matter should only be reconsidered if the cost of insurance coverage were to become more affordable at some time in the future.

The report has not been circulated to other committees or to BT Clubs for comment because there seemed no need in light of the response from the Risk Management Committee.

In the following are listed the issues and principles identified by the Environmental Policy Working Group.  In the final section are some comments and suggestions that the Bruce Trail Association might wish to consider.

Facts and Issues

Original Purpose of the Bruce Trail

1.       The Bruce Trail was established as a footpath for pedestrian usage only.

2.       Nothing in the charter objectives, by-laws, BTA mission or strategic plan indicates or promotes non-pedestrian usage.

Multiple Use Aspects/Problems

3.       Mountain bikers are known to use many segments of the Trail which are not intended for bicycles.  However in some areas, e.g. Conservation Areas (CAs), the Trail follows paths permitting multiple usage.

4.       Horseback riders are known to use portions of the Trail not intended for horses.  However in some areas the Trail follows a path that is designated for use by horses and pedestrians.

5.       ATVs and motorbikes occasionally travel along portions of the Trail, none of which is intended for motorized vehicles.

6.       Among non-pedestrian users there is a lack of understanding that the BT is not a general usage public trail.

7.       Many BTA members ride bikes and/or horses and would like to use the Trail for such activities.  This creates a potential conflict with those who feel that it should be for pedestrian use only.

8.       Landowner agreements may specifically exclude some or all non-pedestrian usage of the Trail, or some may specifically allow such usage, e.g. CAs, the Caledon Trailway and some private land.  Thus we find bikes being used where usage is not permitted.

9.       Some bike organisations and publications have specifically identified the BT as suitable for biking.  [For example go to and scroll down through the reviews.] This will need to be addressed once a policy is in place.


10.   Safe use of the Trail by pedestrians is sometimes compromised by non-pedestrian users.

11.   Use of the Trail by non-pedestrians requires assessment from a risk management perspective.

12.   Legal liability for the BTA could arise from injury sustained by both pedestrian and non-pedestrian users.

13.   Some portions of the BT are appropriate and safe for usage only by pedestrians.

Maintenance problems

14.   Trail degradation can occur in wet conditions and in sensitive areas when subjected to non-pedestrian use and also inappropriate pedestrian use, e.g. mass hiking or trampling undergrowth at the edge of such areas.

Policy consequences

15.   Multi-use trails can be built but at what cost?  And who should pay?

16.   The expense and energy enforcing a no-bike, no-horse, no-whatever policy is a drain on BTA and Club resources, particularly when we are gearing up for the Realizing the Dream campaign.

17.   Opening the Trail to multiple usage where appropriate could conceivably have a positive impact on the Realizing the Dream campaign through increased positive exposure to other organizations.

18.   To be effective any policy dealing with trail usage needs to be enforceable.  Attempting to enforce the unenforceable is unwise.


1.       No activity or usage of the Bruce Trail should detract from the enjoyment of the Trail by pedestrians.  It follows that a policy should not negatively impact pedestrians.

2.       No activity on the Trail should place users at risk.

3.       Use of the Trail should not degrade its integrity and/or the integrity of the environment through which it passes.  Permitted usage of the Trail should not materially increase the current level of Trail maintenance.

4.       All users should respect the rights of others.

5.       All activities should conform to the Trail Users’ Code.

6.       There should be no increased risk for the BTA.  A policy should minimize risk exposure and cost of liability insurance for the BTA.

Comments, Conclusions and Recommendations

The Risk Management Committee has pointed out that due to the potential legal liabilities associated with permitting non-pedestrian usage of the Bruce Trail, the cost of insurance for the Bruce Trail Association would become prohibitively expensive if such usage were allowed.  In fact if the BTA were to permit motorised vehicle usage of the Trail, insurance would likely be impossible to obtain.  Hence to permit such usage of the Trail would clearly violate Principle #6 and possibly others as well.

Recommendation: that the Bruce Trail Association should as a matter of policy restrict the entire Trail to pedestrian usage only, except in areas where the landowner explicitly permits and takes responsibility for other usage of the Trail.

Mass hiking would appear to violate Principle #1 and should therefore be discouraged especially in sensitive areas and during wet times of the year.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, being essentially pedestrian activities, do not appear to violate any of the above principles.

Within CAs the BTA might try to work with them to identify alternate existing trails for bikes and keep the BT segments for pedestrian use only.

Installation of bike racks might be considered at some entry points for the Trail.

Friendly signage is recommended at entry points for the Trail.  The signs should state that the Trail is for pedestrian usage only with all other activities prohibited.  The sign could convey the message that people be respectful of the Trail and emphasize that it is not appropriate for non-pedestrian usage.  A photo of a sign on a trail in New York State was conveyed to us by Eric Best with an image of a hiker on it plus the following wording:

OPEN TO {hiker image} And Other Foot Travel.  CLOSED TO ALL OTHER USES.  To reduce trail impact and ensure a premier hiking experience.

The BTA might wish to consider a similar sign at entry points for the Trail.

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