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Don Valley Mountain Biking Trail Sabotaged

The sabotaged bridge, after it had been (deliberately) knocked down by Ted Ingram and some other cyclists. Photo by Timothy Charles, originally posted on the Dropmachine forums.

Don Valley mountain bikers are growing increasingly worried, and with good reason: someone has been sabotaging their trails, for the apparent purpose of causing serious injury to riders.

The issue began to attract attention both within and outside the mountain biking community last Friday afternoon, when Ted Ingram, a long-time Don Valley biker, sent an email to cyclists warning them of damage to a wooden bridge on a certain Don Valley mountain biking trail.
“If that bridge had failed while you were riding across it, you would not have walked out of there. This was a deliberate act to injure someone,” said Ingram. He added that the Don Valley has been popular with mountain bikers for almost thirty years, and that the trails currently have thousands of users.
The nature of the damage to the bridge was subtle. Rather than simply breaking or removing the wooden structure, the culprit used a saw to cut most of the way through its supporting beams, leaving the bridge standing but weakened to the point where it might have given way under the weight of a rider. If that had actually occurred before Ingram noticed the cuts—it didn’t—the length of the drop to the ground below for the unlucky cyclist would have been a few feet. For someone riding at high speed, there’s no telling what the outcome might have been.
Farther along the trail, a second bridge had some of its wooden rungs ripped off, making it unusable. The damage was obvious enough that cyclists could have spotted and avoided it.
The bridges were built by volunteers involved in the local mountain biking community, and not by the City; the first person to respond to the damage was a member of the Toronto Offroad Bicycling Association (TORBA), who repaired and replaced the cut bridge over the weekend.

The damage to the sabotaged bridge. Photo by Ted Ingram.

There have been other instances of damage to Don Valley mountain biking trails. In 2008, a rider discovered a metal chain stretched across a trail, apparently to act as a kind of roadblock. Last winter, the very same bridges as those tampered with last week were damaged, but in a manner obvious enough for cyclists to steer clear of: one was sawed completely apart, and the other had some slats removed.
The two bridges are far from the only volunteer-built infrastructure along the Don Valley mountain bike trail network. In fact, the vast majority of the Don Valley’s mountain biking areas were established informally, by bikers, who continue to maintain them. The only exception is a small length of trail in the Crothers’ Woods area of the Valley, where the City, beginning in 2004, has partnered with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to lead public trail-building workshops.
Ted Ingram estimates the total length of the trails addressed by the City and IMBA at around four kilometres. “And there’s approximately eighty kilometres of trail in the ravine,” he said.
The lack of City involvement in mountain bike trail maintenance has been a periodic source of concern. A 2007 report prepared by environmental consultants for the City [PDF] acknowledges that mountain bikers “are the predominant user group of the Don Valley trails,” but doesn’t go so far as to condone the construction of unnatural trail features. “Unauthorized building of technical trail features (TTFs) and dirt jumps in the forest for mountain biking present management and liability issues for the City of Toronto,” says the study. “The presence of these structures and ongoing building of dirt jumps demonstrates the need for a City sanctioned mountain bike skills park in the area.” The emergence of anonymous vandals with an apparent interest in destroying these unauthorized structures stands to make matters worse.
Mountain bikers have been trying to maintain some level of formal partnership with the City. “It’s something that was completely off the radar for the City until about five years ago,” said Alastair Patterson, president of TORBA, which has since its inception roughly five years ago been one of the only organized bodies performing trail maintenance on the parts of the Valley the City hasn’t yet involved itself in.
“There isn’t really much we can do other than ask people to keep an eye out,” he said.
Ingram said that he personally had tried reaching out to the City, but without success: “I tried for years and years, because of my connection with the Don, but it’s like banging your head against the wall.” Torontoist’s calls to the City’s department of Parks and Recreation were not immediately returned.
The motivations of the person (or people) responsible for the deliberate trail damage are still unknown. “It’s sort of hard to understand why someone is trying to hurt people using those trails,” said Patterson.
The City has been notified about the situation by several people, as have Toronto Police. Constable Scott Mills, a TPS social media officer, told Torontoist that “we will take this seriously and look into it.” Anyone with information can direct it to the Toronto Police Service’s Twitter or call 416-808-2222.


  • http://undefined the_yellow_dart

    There are multiple headers for the TORBA website and they come up at random. I just clicked through to it and it displayed one with a picture of me! I had no idea. Creepy.

  • http://undefined rek

    [Insert too-easy Rob Ford anti-cyclist joke.]

  • http://undefined Gregory

    I think that cutting the bridges in a way that makes them look safe is a bad thing, and not very nice. BUT…. I also think that the forest does not need a whole bunch of bridges and man made shit/jink thrown all over the place, these so-called “off road riders” need to man up and actually try riding in nature and not be such pussies. These are Mountain Bikes!! they are made to ride up and down mountains, not along pristine flat ground paths. What a bunch of babies. disgusting. some bikers are such wienies.

  • http://undefined TOgal

    Judging by your other Torontoist comments, Gregory Hughes, you seems to have a bit of a beef with cyclists. It’s a tad extreme to call mountain bikers who use trail bridges “a bunch of babies, disgusting… wienies”!? What gives?

  • http://undefined Gregory

    I AM a cyclist, i just think that much of the bicycling community whine WAY too much and demand too much. Cycling in the city is hard, that’s the way it should be, not everyone belongs on a bike. I see too many people riding in traffic that have trouble balancing or operating their bike properly.
    As far as the bridges go, stop dirtying up nature with precut lumber, what gives them the right to build shit in the woods??? leave it alone, we need natural space just like that… natural.

  • http://undefined beastman

    Way to take the issue of some miscreant deliberately trying to cause harm to cyclists, and trying (but failing) to turn it anti-cyclist.
    Go back to your cave, troll.

  • http://undefined sheleftyouasong

    I find it amusing when people whine about whining.

  • http://undefined Myke

    Someone knows the person doing these acts. It ought to only be a matter of time. I also think it’s time to “man up” and take some extreme action: call me if you need a hand when the culprit is caught and maybe we can make a documentary about the outcome. Or at least call a live press conference with the guy/gal trapped between some planks of wood…

  • Myke

    This was me before I signed up for a profile here… feel free to respond subsequently to this!

  • http://undefined Gregory

    Dear Beastman,
    My comments were not anti-cyclist, but pro-nature, go fuck yourself.

  • http://undefined JB

    Mountain bikes still need trails, however.
    It’s actually worse for the forest if people bike wherever they want, because it disturbs the soil and vegetation over a wider area.
    With a proper trail, it’s concentrated, and if it ever gets really bad, the original trail can be shut down for a period to regenerate, while another trail is used.
    Consider that any activity in the forest that we humans do harms it, even camping.
    Also – when people enjoy responsible activities in nature, it gives them a stake in conservation. It’s a paradox, but it’s true – want folks to actively campaign for environmental causes? Get them out to Algonquin for a week to see how amazing the woods are, and they’ll be more likely to do so.

  • http://undefined AsKo

    The description under the first photograph should be corrected. It says “The sabotaged bridge, after it had been (deliberately) knocked down by Ted Ingram and some other cyclists. Photo by Timothy Charles, originally posted on the Dropmachine forums.”
    I’m sure you’re not trying to say that Ted Ingram and some other cyclists damaged the bridge. Or are you? Because there is no indication in the piece that the bridge was merely damaged, and that Ingram had brought it down to avoid anyone getting hurt. It’s not entirely clear…

  • Steve Kupferman

    Apologies if that wasn’t clear. The felled bridge in the picture you’re referring to was the one that was weakened but not broken—the same one depicted in the second photo. Ted Ingram wrote in an email that he and some other cyclists brought the bridge down completely in order to prevent others from riding over it in its compromised state. This is implied in the text of the article, but never stated outright.

  • LittleRiddle

    ( Uh… you’ve obviously NEVER ridden the ‘Don trails as they are not “pristine flat ground paths” and unless you’ve not noticed, there’s no mountains in Toronto. Stop judging off-roaders so flagrantly- it just reveals your ignorance.)
    JB has the most sense, please read his post and consider what he says, as it is true and well worded. TORBA also follows the policies of NORBA and the Mountain Bikers actually help preserve some of the trails that HIKERS also damage and erode, by sanctioning them off for reforestation. The Don is a park inside a city, not a pristine forest- and it is important for city folks to get into ‘nature’ in any form of recreation. You may get your kicks in front of your computer or in some night club, but we like fresh air and the physical challenges AND we also respect the environment we’re playing in! Someone out there is disrespecting our LIVES with this sabotage. There could have been fatal results.. Think about it.
    You’re a ‘cyclist’? Or are you ‘someone who commutes on a bike’? BIG difference buddy.
    You’re not pro-nature at all! Humans ARE natural – and we need to play in the dirt!

  • LittleRiddle

    JB sorry of you’re a gal too. I just used the ‘he’ assumption, since most riders I know are dudes and there’s not a lot of us MTB ladies. ;b

  • thelemur

    First, I’d like to say that this sabotage is cowardly, dangerous and potentially criminal. I know these trails and I know that they are not in a heavily trafficked area, not even for walkers, and that they are not an obstruction or disruption, but a much-needed resource for off-roaders as JB says.
    However, regardless of your take on Gregory (whom I disagree with), anyone who rides a bike whether for commuting, travel, off-roading or otherwise is a cyclist, or rider if you prefer (yes, Gregory, even if they do it badly … if it’s that difficult for them they’ll eventually give up). No one has a monopoly on the term. Just like everyone who drives a car is a driver (again, even if they do it badly), everyone who walks is a pedestrian, etc.
    I ride a bike to commute and I ride off-road, sometimes in the course of the same ride.