A cyclist riding on a popular bridle path in Berkshire narrowly avoided disaster this week, stopping just in time to avoid a booby trap made up of rope and brambles strung across the path.
The act of sabotage was spotted by cyclist John on the Knowl Hill Bridleway Circuit, a roughly 30 mile loop around Maidenhead, Hurley, and the surrounding villages, which is popular with horse riders and off-road cyclists.
John told road.cc that he was riding his gravel bike on a part of the route just south of the Broadmoor Road, near Waltham Saint Lawrence, when he spotted the act of deliberate sabotage.
A story of trail a sabotage in 4 parts... 😎 pic.twitter.com/71Ac3sudvB
— John A 🚲 (@johna3c) September 14, 2023
“This bit is a fairly smooth, flowy section and I was up to about 30kph,” he says. “Luckily I saw it in time to stop, but I easily could’ve hit it as it was a sunny day and this bit was in the shade.”
Thanks to a knife from his repair kit (a benefit, he noted, of riding tubeless), John was able to cut through the rope and dismantle the trap.
He continued: “From what I could figure it was possibly in some way linked to the adjacent field as there was similar rope within that. I think it may be occupied by cattle or horses, so it may be a disgruntled landowner?”
John added that he has reported the trap to the local authority, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who confirmed that the matter has been passed on to their Highways and Public Rights of Way departments.
Unfortunately, John’s near miss on the Knowl Hill Bridleway isn’t the first time this year that cyclists have encountered Machiavellian acts of sabotage on popular trails and bike paths.
In February, police in Staffordshire issued a warning after a cyclist found a wire stretched across a trail at Brocton Coppice, in the popular Cannock Chase forest in Staffordshire.
Officers said they received a report from a cyclist riding in Cannock Chase, a popular haunt for mountain bikers just north of Birmingham, concerning a wire that had been tied between a tree and a post, at “adult waist height”, across one of the forest’s paths.
Staffordshire Police said the apparent attempt at sabotage “could cause serious injury to walkers, cyclists, children, horse riders, or wildlife”.
Later that month, a cyclist from North Wales was seriously injured after he crashed into a similar length of wire stretched across a cycle path.
41-year-old Ian Davies was knocked out as a result of the crash, which saw him being thrown over the handlebars on his bike, hitting the ground head-first. The impact left him concussed, and he also sustained a broken collarbone and three fractured ribs in the incident, which happened on the Chester Millennium Greenway near Deeside Industrial Park.
The trap, which was at waist height, was made from wire from an adjacent fence and according to Mr Davies followed a similar hazard in the same location three weeks before, with no-one injured on that occasion.
This unsettling phenomena of cyclists being targeted by locals unhappy at them using forest trails or paths rose sharply during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In June 2021, a nine-year-old boy sustained a neck injury after cycling into a rope stretched across a path in woodlands in Kent, causing him to fall off his bike, while a year earlier a mountain biker suffered a nasty wrist injury after riding into a metal wire strung across a West Yorkshire trail.
In May 2020, a cyclist riding in woods in Cleveland had both his tyres punctured after he rode across a wooden board with nails hammered into it that had been left as a trap for cyclists.
And later that month, two women in their sixties were spoken to by police after admitting placing rocks and branches on a path in North Yorkshire to stop cyclists from using it.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.