For the last few months Lee and I have been talking it up about going for a mountain bike together. So finally last weekend Lee and I decided to hit the Ferguson Valley hills on our mountain bikes, only to find when we got to the trails that the Department of Environment and Conservation had decided that this fine mountain biking day was perfect for a controlled burn off (the first there in 15 years!).
After a 50 minute drive we sat disheartened in the car at the roped off entrance to the trails realising we should have checked the website before leaving home first, and pondering what course of action to take. Then like a knight in dusty green, along came a DEC officer who was himself a keen mountain biker and gave us some directions to trails not affected by the burn that we could ride, near Wellington Dam. Thanking him, off we went with the adventure of exciting rides on new trails ahead.
We got to the kiosk at the dam, parked the car and thanks to a large sign with the name of the trail and an arrow pointing which way to go we were soon careering downhill out of control having a ball, which quickly turned to chest and limb burning uphill grinding (oh for an endless downhill with no uphills).
Soon we were deep in the bush on the trails, and having not ridden these trails we were dependant on the signs along the trails as to where to go.
Now the original trails we were wanting to ride are purely mountain bike tracks and we know our way around them. This track however is a walking and biking trail and new to us.
Hooning down a hill behind Lee I noticed a sign with two icons: pointing to a trail heading off to the left and straight ahead. I quickly stopped but Lee kept going straight and I called Lee back. Looking at the sign it became obvious that Lee had carried onto a new track which given the icon of Aboriginal design we guessed must be the Bibbulmun or Munda Biddi, not sure.
I suggested we needed to go left to carry on our trail, Lee quickly noted that the arrow was a different colour to the arrows we had been following. What? It looked the same to me. And then it became clear as I removed my yellow lensed sunnies, yes it was more of a pinky colour than the burnt orange
of the original.
So we were actually on a different trail than the one we started and thought we were on anyway. The only thing was to back track to see where we went wrong, or keep going and see where we end up. We carried on along the track we did not know and needless to say a long time and many wrong turns later we finally got back to the car.
Now whoever looks after these trails does a great job, but it soon became obvious that the signage system in place was great for walkers but not bikers.
A good signage system needs to work within the environment it is placed and the way the reader interacts with it. For the walkers the signs as small as they are, are clearly visible. However, for bikers who are flying down the hills hanging on for dear life they are virtually invisible. A couple of simple solutions would be to make the signs bigger (obviously we are not talking like road signs because the last thing we want is to create an eyesore in the bush), maybe like the highway system a sign ahead of the actual turn to let you know it is coming up. Putting the actual name of the trail on the signs not just colours or icons which without a key mean not much, would help. And given that a lot of mountain bikers wear yellow and orange lensed glasses in the bush, colours that are noticeably different through such lenses. Simple consultation with the users of the signage system before implementation would solve such issues.
As for next time I will take a map and extra water!