20 multi-day off-road cycling adventures
OK, slightly clickbait title, yes, but this is the question that Steve Wilson wants answered. He lives in Carlisle, Cumbria, and was all excited to hear that a new pump track was being built in his local park by Carlisle City Council. And then, he got this.
Looking back through the Council’s reports on the track, it’s described in decreasingly exciting ways. It starts out as ‘a BMX Pump Track at Dale End Field, Harraby’ at the Full Council meeting on 8th September 2020, and indeed had been announced in the press as having received funding back in March 2020, with the article illustrated by a full face wearing BMX racer. By January 2021 the BMX has been dropped and it’s just a pump track, described as ‘Pump tracks are designed for users of BMX bikes, scooters and even skateboards to develop their skills and improve their fitness and social skills.’ By 20th July, the transition from BMX to kids’ track is complete: ‘A pump track is similar to a conventional BMX track but physically smaller and suitable for younger users and beginners.’ The planning application in December 2020 describes it as an ‘asphalt surfaced pumptrack suitable for bikes, skateboards, scooters etc.’
Ah yes, the planning application. There’s no doubt it’s a tight site – it’s only 0.05 hectares, which is 500 square metres. However, if you look at the Craigspark pump track in Livingston, it looks to be less than the size of the adjacent ‘kickabout area’, which would be 375sqm. Craigspark is a Velosolutions track – one of a number commissioned by West Lothian Council – and looks to have a fair amount of excitement built in to this small area. So, availability of space may not be the issue here.
The planning application shows a design with four ‘roller summits’, plus two central ‘transition’ areas. The reality on the ground though is rather different – less rollers with summits, more ‘did I just roll over summat?’. Shallow ripples of tarmac, closely spaced, don’t seem to match up to the summits shown in the plans. But maybe there’s a new plan that we don’t know about? We asked the consultants, Kingmoor Consulting, who created the information submitted to Planning about the plans and their involvement:
We were not involved in the final design nor the construction supervision of the track at Dale End Recreational Centre. We understand that the council were leading this themselves and our involvement ceased on the completion of the planning drawings. We offered a number of designs and construction methodologies to the Council at the planning stages as well as costs to provide support during the detailed design and construction phase.Colin Aimers, Kingmoor Consulting
So didn’t Carlisle Council follow the plan shown in the Planning Application? Is there a subsequent revised plan we don’t know about? We asked Carlisle Council about the difference between the plans and the reality on the ground. Have yourself a corporate statement:
“We consulted on the design of the pump track with local residents and other interested parties prior to any works starting. We then put in place a scheme that met those needs within the available budget. This is very much a community-led project and is aimed at younger children and not adults.
“Works are still underway on the site and in the meantime, we ask that any concerns are raised with us direct.”Carlisle City Council spokesperson
‘Aimed at younger children and not adults?’ But, not the under 8s it seems – this sign appears at the site:
It’s hard to imagine than anyone much older than an under five on a balance bike will get much thrill out of this track – and as designs up and down the country have shown, it’s possible to create tracks which offer fun for beginners and more advanced riders. Has this one been designed by someone without the necessary experience to get it right, or has the budget been spread too thinly?
As well as asking about the design and intended use, we’ve also asked about the budget that was available to the project. It appears to have been partially funded by a grant, plus some community fundraising, though we’ve yet to receive any information on the terms of the grant or description of facility that was associated with either the grant or community fundraising. However, we know that the grant was £30,000, so there should be at least that to spend on this project. Does what you see here look like £30k of spending? It seems that £90k got the Friends of Omiston Park this new track, which looks pretty sizeable:
Have you been involved in designing and building a pump track? What did you get for your money – was it better than this?
Now, if you’re wondering why we’re spending any time looking into a small scale local track like this, and what it has to do with the price of fish, or tarmac, then take a moment. Urban cycle tracks, pump tracks and BMX tracks are how many of our own children and future mountain bikers will take to two wheels, so it’s important that councils build these facilities. But bad facilities don’t get used, and as well as not delivering fun and turning people off the sport, they create the impression that there’s no demand. Think about all those miles of red or green paint that passed as cycle lanes for so long – those that don’t see the point in bike infrastructure use their lack of use as evidence that they’re not needed, rather than as evidence they’re being done badly. Or how about all those horrible metal wedges that pass as skateparks, and then people complain when the kids still take to the town hall steps or the supermarket car park for their kicks, instead of using the designated (useless) skate zone?
If a Council spends £30k (or whatever the total fee turns out to be) of grant funding on some poorly thought out wriggly tarmac that ends up collecting water and crumbling into disuse, it makes things harder for all of us. We have to sell the whole idea of why bikes are great, and pump tracks are brilliant, again and again. Build them properly – as we’ve seen happen in Scotland, where Velosolutions tracks (and other companies’) have popped up all over the central belt – and their popularity will speak for itself.
While we wait for fuller answers from Carlisle City Council, here’s a vision of what could have been.
And by all means, if you think you’ve got a worse pump track, Steve Wilson wants to commiserate with you. Head to the comments!
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It just looks like some of the footpaths around my way where tree roots are pushing up the tarmac, bet the kids can’t wait for the 6 weeks holidays to start…..
Lordy, that’s criminal.
Classic council spending plan: over promise, under deliver. No-one uses it, rip it out and refuse to fund anything again because “looks what happened last time…”
what a shame. the potential was high, the execution was poor, the local community suffers..
The one in Sowerby Bridge is pretty terrible – The council even forgot they built it! (Or rather the countryside & outdoors department and cycling officer didn’t know that the parks department had built it.)
That is value engineering at its finest.
The parties involved in delivering that shit show should be embarrassed they have wasted grant money and under delivered.
Usually it seems there are 2 common issues.
1. These equipment are seen as play facilities rather than spots faculties. Someone’s grandchild is used as a reference and hence its aimed at very young users only.
2. A valid design is ripped off by a contractor who’s owner is a a brother / cousin / partner of a member of the council. They think that they can build it but don’t really have an idea.
Wow!!! We could do with one of them in Walsall’s arboretum.
there is an excellent ramp track built already that gets used so much, that people cue up to use it.. and sometimes it’s so full of beardy young men with stupidly tight jeans rolling around on bikes I stopped riding when I was 16 when i bought I bought a proper bike, that young people (including my nine year old nephew) are either intimidated by all the adults using it, or the language being shouted at him if attempts to go from one end to the other to practice manualing or constant smell of weed being smoked openly on the ramp.
the better the pump track and the better the quarter/half pipe becomes the the less chance young kids have at getting a go.
Yes its no good for adults with jump bikes and mature bmx’ers but it is ideal for the young to start somewhere….
At least there is something provided by yhe council when i was bmx’ing in the late 80’s i had to travel 10 miles into the centre of Birmingham to get even near a smooth half pipe…. so most of the time my mates and i messed about in the local woods building what we needed without council red tape telling us how big our drop off could be.
It never ceases to amaze me how easily councils can bugger up even relatively simple things when it comes to cycling.
Spend a load of money on consultation, experts give a nice plan of what could be done. Someone in the council gets scared of accidents, litigation and “Health & Safety” so it gets massively watered down. Some backhanders on contracts so a mate of a Councillor can build it and you end up with a woefully substandard bit of engineering nothing like the expensive consultation promised.
Then no-one uses it, it falls into disrepair, it becomes “an eyesore”, council uses it as an excuse never to build anything like that again.
Wow! This reminds me of back when I was at school in the 70s! Such bizarre similarities to when my friends and I were asked to design a skatepark for the local area (Leigh Park, look it up). Amazing! Our own skatepark! We got designing and to fit in the small area, we came came up with a fun snake run with elevated sides into a bowl… we got something extremely similar to the above. Tat tarmac look with wooden beading down the side, amazing similarity! The ridiculously shallow bowl at the end was unrideable and so shallow that it filled with rain water and stayed that way. It was such a disappointment, I remember to this day, so can totally relate to the locals in the story.
Funny too – in the news article about the planning of the pump track:
BMX enthusiast “disappointed” at Carlisle’s new track”
That is absolutely shocking. Total waste of cash worthy of investigation.
Heres one thats opened up near to me this year. £80k budget as far as i can see on the council website, much bigger. Illustrates what the Carlisle locals should be riding this summer.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8hD28dBQfk
“Is this the worst pump track in the UK?”
Well, it’s certainly a strong contender.
There used to be a very dull bike track near my house. Last year Clark & Kent flattened the site and replaced it with an awesome pump track. I saw the artist’s impressions before they got to work and while it looked decent I didn’t believe the council would allow it to be built so big. Fortunately they did and the near deserted and dilapidated bike track has been transformed into a mecca with people travelling miles to ride it. It gets skaters, scooter riders, BMXers and jump bikes with riders of all ages and everyone seems to get along fine.
This is what can be done; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fJI3vpU8Uc
Hampshire, a place called Fair Oak, Blackberry drive installed a “track” and i quote
“Civic chiefs have revealed plans for a 40 metre circuit, complete with ramps, balance beams and “rumble strips”, to be installed at Blackberry Drive open space in Fair Oak.
The plans were drawn up amid fears for the safety of young bike riders using a grass embankment close to the busy Fair Oak Road.
Residents, police and youngsters in the area came up with the idea before approaching Eastleigh Borough Council’s Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Horton Heath Local Area Committee.
Features such as jumps and ramps on the facility would be made of recycled plastic with the surface constructed from crushed stone.”
Never seen anything less rideable and hence never ridden, street view link
“Hampshire, a place called Fair Oak, Blackberry drive”
Oh my, that’s pretty awesome too!
Luckily Southampton residents have WCA and SBP!
Actually, would be good to rob those ramps and put them somewhere decent
the reality looks very much like that plan – both poor.
is a worry though getting things right, have this out for tender at moment – indicative design only, (but did put some effort into it) for a competent contractor to hopefully knock into shape. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1zycdRHhZxobTVGA0owAPrBM33hF0cjsG?usp=sharing
Local council incompetence shock-horror.
Yet people still think devolving things is a good idea.
For the every epitome of such hopelessness take a look at Derby’s A52 improvement. Years late, gazillions over budget, total sh111tshow, inquiry confirms cluelessness, incompetence and zero oversight by all.
Basingstoke has had 2 pump tracks recently constructed. The velosolutions track in the war memorial park is fantastic. The other track that has been constructed in hatch warren is insanely small and is also on a hill so is not the best. I am just happy to have one that is so good.
Procurement could be the issue… ive noticed a few times that one department within a council will design something good then a separate team asks for bids to build it. Without any idea of what is important and will make team As plans work. The procurement team probably claimed it as a major cost saving that the specialist track builder quoted x and ‘look how much they saved’.
The pump track at Cuningar Loop in Glasgow isn’t exactly a stunning example – it’s not as bad as the one in the main article, but it’s pretty underwhelming. The adjacent skills loop isn’t bad for playing about on with kids, but it does have one or two interesting design choices about where features were sited.
Living in Bristol we are spoilt for choice when it comes to pump tracks. I’m pretty sure that one would never get used by anyone over the age of 5 or 6 down here
Ive just started skating (Board) again as my lad’s into it. We’ve done a tour of all the locals and they range from pretty decent to what were they thinking? Durham has a more than one park made from these god awful fibreglass ramps with ropey tarmac to boot. Whats worse is they have more than 1! You’d think they’d learn after the first but no, they did another.
Still, they’re all 100% better than that pump track.
Anyone got an AIR (All in Rate, cost per m run) for Pump Tracks. Trying to put together an estimate (ball park figure) for small track we are planning in our parish.
It looks like they’ve just given the job to the people who do the pavements tbh? Nobody involved knew what a pump track is.
The idea of this one being for really young kids is rubbish – we have an excellent pump track by the river in Bristol that is popular with EVERYONE, youths, kids, grown ups, BMX, skateboarders, MTBs… and my daughter started riding her balance bike round it before she was even 3. She would not be interested in this wobbly tarmac strip.
Colchester is worse.
Newly built, looks fairly decent.
They’ve put a fence around it and want to charge kids £5 an hour to use it.
“Newly built, looks fairly decent. They’ve put a fence around it and want to charge kids £5 an hour to use it.”
They did that at my old school- removed a flat bit of concrete that’d been the home for random kickarounds and bike races and whatever else just needs a flat bit of concrete. Replaced it with a well made tarmac basketball and football space with proper goals, hoops, painted areas etc, really very nice. Put a massive fence round it and charged for access for everything that wasn’t a school class (which barely used it anyway as they had other spaces). Plus booking was a pain. Plus the opening hours weren’t great- but of course while there’s not always anyone who can open it for you, there’s always someone that’ll call the police if you climb the fence.
I saw the user stats a couple of years later, it’d been used for 3 hours, in a whole year. “Community spaces”.
Someone, somewhere got a lot of value from this.
Somewhere is a happy contractor paid from council funds that was able invoice the materials recommended by the blame consultants and still resurface a councillors drive for free.
@redthunder – contact Edd Wright @ Architrail/Velosolutions, he should be able to help.