QLE.20.014 – OFF-ROAD: Mapping out a route to sustainable mountain biking in Dutch nature

Route: Quality of the living environment

Cluster question: 002 What do humans and nature mean to each other and what is the ideal relationship between the two?

Mountain biking is rapidly gaining popularity in the Netherlands, catalyzed even further by the current COVID situation. Currently 4.5% of the Dutch population mountain bike at least once a year. This outdoor leisure activity supports health and wellbeing, but also results in increased pressure on natural and cultural landscapes with media frequently reporting on mountain bike-related conflicts. The Dutch countryside is appreciated and used by a wide range of groups, often focusing on nature and tranquility. Many conventional users regard mountain bikers as a disturbance for their leisure experience. They express concerns that mountain biking affects the quality of the landscape and expels wildlife. However, knowledge is lacking to prove or disprove this perception. Increasingly, dedicated tracks are created to accommodate the needs of the mountain bike community, while separating them from other users. This may prevent conflict, but it also attracts new users and may increase recreational pressure on previously quiet areas. Moreover, mountain bike tracks may harm relatively unaffected landscapes through enhanced erosion especially during periods of prolonged drought in our changing climate. Knowledge is lacking to develop policies and infrastructure to sustainably accommodate diverse recreational needs. Using a living lab approach we will combine expertise on leisure, ecology, landscape geography, heritage and conflict to identify routes towards sustainable mountain biking in Dutch nature. The entire knowledge chain will be involved in the project, ranging from universities, research institutes (e.g. Mulier), universities of applied sciences (e.g. HvHL), and a wide range of stakeholders (e.g. Provinces, nature and recreational organizations (e.g. Staatsbosbeheer, MTB Utrechtse Heuvelrug), biking associations (e.g. NTFU), MKB companies (e.g. Tracks&Trails)) as well as individual users (both from inside and outside the mountain bike community).


environment, landscape, MTB, recreation, wildlife

Other organisations

Mulier Institute, NTFU, Staatsbosbeheer, Tracks&Trails, van Hall Larenstein univeristy of applied sciences


Organisation Wageningen University (WUR)
Name Prof. dr. E.H. (Edward) Huijbens
E-mail edward.huijbens@wur.nl
Website environment, recreation, wildlife, MTB, landscape