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French forest officials remind mountain bikers to keep to marked paths

‘Wild’ off-trail biking is not allowed and can prove dangerous, especially on hunt days, they warn

Mountain biking is only allowed on roads and marked trails in France Pic: Dewald Kirsten / Shutterstock

It is forbidden to ride a mountain bike off a marked trail when in a French forest, the Office national des forêts (ONF) has reminded the public. 

The ONF stated that there are restrictions controlling the use of mountain bikes (vélo tout-terrain or VTT) within woodland settings during a press conference in the Forêt de Roumare (Seine-Maritime). 

“It is possible on forest roads and paths, unless stated otherwise, as well as on marked routes,” said the ONF’s Victor Avenas. “When paths are very busy, [mountain biking] is only allowed on those which are more than 2.5m wide.

“Mountain bike riders must also take care to distinguish between an official marked route and a wild path created by the repeated passage of certain people. This is not allowed!”

‘Wild’ mountain biking enthusiasts sometimes go further than simply using unmarked trails, taking steps to change the shape of the terrain by moving the soil, cutting back vegetation or even installing man made structures to create an obstacle course. 

“This is triply forbidden, on a building, environmental and safety level,” Mr Avenas said.

Mountain bikers who do this are especially at risk on hunt days, when “it is even more crucial that you stay in the areas dedicated to [the sport], as these are the only areas where signs warning of a hunt are installed.” 

Straying from the marked trail can result in a fine of up to €1,500, under article 163-6 of the Code forestier. 

The ONF and its local partners have begun a new project with the aim to create a network of fun trails for mountain bikers to use, to expand the routes on offer and respond to the growing popularity of the sport.

Until this network is in place, people breaking the rules may be met with tolerance from the authorities but afterwards penalties will be imposed. 

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