Mountain bikers targeted by traps hidden in French forests

Multiple cases of dangerous traps left on forest roads have been reported by mountain bikers in several regions of France.

Recent attacks in the Vosges mountains in eastern France have included studded wooden planks and barbed wire that can puncture bicycle tires hidden on forest paths.

A cyclist, Gaëten, was on his way to a viewpoint in the mountains to watch the sunset when he was caught by one of the traps.

He told BFMTV: “I saw a lot of leaves being picked up from the ground at the last moment as I was passing them. My tires burst straight away and I lost control of my motorcycle and hit a tree.

“I had fallen hard by the time I realized what had happened.”

The representative of the Alsace VTTAE VTT association, Maxime Mouget, said that over the past two years, the number of pest traps reported “had increased like a crescendo”.

“We don’t understand why, given the work we have done [to improve the trails and separate hiker and biking routes]”, he said.

Tensions between hikers and cyclists

In recent months, there have been tensions between hikers and mountain bikers who both take the paths of the Vosges forest.

As a compromise, a 400-meter trail with separate lanes for walkers and cyclists was tested.

However, in September, the environmental organization SOS massif des Vosges launched a petition opposing the lawsuit on the grounds that cyclists using the trails posed a risk to nature and hikers.

In response, the Alsace VTTAE electric mountain bike association launched a second petition to defend the right of mountain bikers to use forest trails. It has so far collected over 10,000 signatures.

Alain Ferstler, president of Club Vosgien, a local hiking association whose members volunteer to maintain forest trails, spoke out against those who set the traps for cyclists.

“It is a heinous and criminal thing to do,” he told BFMTV. “I think the person or people who did it don’t understand how serious their actions are.”

Is this issue isolated from the Vosges forest? Where else is this happening?

Unfortunately, similar ATV traps have been reported in other regions of France.

In March this year, the gendarmerie and rural associations warned of an increase in forest traps set up for mountain bikers and other trail users across the country.

Some suspected that they could have been posed by disgruntled hunters, walkers angry at the use of the trails by bikers or simply troublemakers.

Traps found also include wires or ropes stretched halfway up the paths, deliberately placed to catch high-speed bikers.

Since 2004, around fifty victims and traps have been reported, farmers’ associations estimating that the real number of victims could be three times higher or even more.

Romuald Seels, head of the peasant association the Collectif de Défense des Loisirs, in the Oise, said: “When a trap is set, we do not know who will pass. It can be a child, a horse, a mountain biker, a motorcycle, a quad. There is nothing certain about this.

The question was even raised in the Senate.

In 2015, a 57-year-old hunter was sentenced to nine months in prison, including one month in closed prison, for setting a cable trap on a mountain biker, causing three serious injuries.

No one else has ever been charged with the offense in France.

The gendarmerie said anyone seeing or being affected by these traps should not hesitate to report the incident or location to your local gendarmerie station.

Read more: Traps on mountain and country trails in France are on the rise

What are the rules for hikers and cyclists who share nature trails in France?

There are more than 100,000 kilometers of trails on 100 routes across France, many of which are classified as “Sentiers de grande randonné” (GR). These are designated by numbers, marked on trees, stones or poles, as well as a red and white stripe.

Some smaller and shorter trails are called PR (Short Hiking Trails). The Tourism website offers a map of the main GR routes.

These paths, including the GR, are not open to motorcycles or any motor vehicle.

There are general rules that hikers and cyclists must follow when using the routes.

These include:

  • Choose paths that match your physical ability
  • Stay on the trails rather than going to the surrounding fields or nature
  • Be respectful to the locals and anyone else you may meet on the trail
  • Do not pick flowers or other plants
  • Closing fences and gates
  • Take your waste home
  • Do not drink the water from the stream.

A recent attack by a Pyrenean mountain watchdog also prompted trail users to check livestock and guard dogs, maintain a good distance and exercise caution in affected areas.

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About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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