Friday, April 17, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

X-ray image of a broken clavicle bone

OK, OK, there might actually be a girl or two but it's mostly a male crowd. They've occupied a spot in the Don Valley for several years nicknamed DJ's which is short for Dirt Jumps. In this scrubby area nestled between the river and the CN rail line they have fashioned a bicycle skills park crowded with earthen jumps. These jumps are sculpted in such a way that allows them to jump their bikes over them. Sometimes they are single and sometimes they are multiple jumps.

Earlier this spring someone shoehorned a new series of jumps into the park. This new line of jumps has led to much discussion with mixed reviews. As can be seen from this video posted by one of the bikers, they can jump pretty high into the air on these jumps.

Unfortunately, it's not all clean and safe fun as can be seen from this x-ray posted by one of the bikers, and he is one of more experienced bikers. He also suffered a broken wrist.

Incidents like this makes the city cringe. Legally the land is owned by the conservation authority but managed by the city's Parks, Forestry & Recreation Department. Technically speaking, the city could be held liable for accidents such as this. However the biking crowd is not really very litigious so the victim in this case only crawled home to lick his wounds. His parents might be another matter.

Due to this type of issue and other related matters concerning this section of the valley, the city created a management plan for the area. Part of the plan is to close the skills park because it is inaccessible to ambulances in case anybody gets seriously hurt (I suppose this accident doesn't qualify). Not part of the plan is where to relocate the bicycle skills park. The management plan recognizes this problem but it doesn't say much about how to fix it. The bikers and the city are slowly working on it but really haven't tackled the issue seriously. There are only two bike parks in the whole city (one near Finch and Bayview, the other near Dufferin and Dupont) where this activity is condoned neither of which is close to downtown. Even if the city succeeds in closing this site, the bikers may just move to some other area which will no doubt be even more secluded.

Let's hope that the city starts creating good bicycle skills parks that allows these youngsters to build jumps to their heart's delight, preferably in a place that doesn't impinge on a natural space and is also accessible to ambulance services.


Jason Murray said...

Let's not forget that "The Flats" is more than the DJs, it also includes a fairly popular beginner single track paralleling the river. This *is* specifically intended to be replaced before it is closed. However reality tends to get in the way of our best intentions and it might not play out that way. Hopefully it will though.

So while you are correct that the management plan does not explicitly address relocation of "The Flats" it is implied.

While it might not look from the outside that the City is tackling the issue of a Progressive Skills Park seriously such is not the case. Progress is slow, but progress is being made. Site visits have been done, and a draft report for site selection has been prepared. The City is also hoping to have prepared a document addressing design, management, risk and liability issues. On top of this I'll be having a meeting with a strategic planner in PFR to discuss what the vision for Progressive Skills Parks should look like for the City. In other words the City wants to be sure they understand the issue fully before they make any brash decisions. Refreshing really, but it does make it look like there is no progress.

The cycling community has been involved each step of the way, whether that is IMBA, local riders individually, or the masses.

I just wanted to expand on your post and provide a more full picture.

Donwatcher said...

Thanks for the update Jason... DW.