I’d been planning to pen a few words about the dangers of the worldwide web but, wouldn’t you know it, fate has stepped in to make it a necessity. I recently posted a whimsical little piece on Ride Sheffield which gently poked fun at some of our hard-pressed public servants yet carried what I thought was a serious message. My mistake was to forget that something written in the comfort of your own home with a cup of tea at your elbow looks different through the weird filter of the internet. I was soon receiving emails from seriously unamused officialdom who had simply been doing their best in difficult circumstances.
I really should know better. Before I saw the light and took up mountain biking, I was a climber and heavily involved in the British Mountaineering Council. This was in the early days of the web and we soon found that far from being a benign method of disseminating information and debating issues, it could be a potential trap. On a number of occasions, involved in delicate access negotiations, we’d find ourselves having to explain the latest outpouring of bile on the internet.
Campaigning on behalf of mountain bikers involves forming relationships with land managers like the Peak Park, Eastern Moors Partnership, Wildlife Trusts and Sheffield City Council. It also requires us to get on with horse riders, walkers, naturalists and archaeologists to name but a few. Mindlessly antagonising them is not a bit of harmless fun, it potentially scuppers relationships that have taken months or even years to build. So, think before you post and bear in mind that anyone can read it whether it’s on Singletrack, Southern Downhill or the Ride Sheffield group on Facebook.
Now all I need to do is take my own advice….