ATVs are your decision, but consider four major factors
I have never visited Bermuda and know little of its culture or politics, so I hesitate to advise Bermudians regarding a policy for motorised, recreational all-terrain vehicles on your railway trails. It's your decision.
As a resident of Nova Scotia, Canada, however, I do have one thing in common with Bermudians, and that is falling amid a developing controversy on whether to permit such vehicles on our abandoned rail corridors.
In decision-making, I urge Bermudians to weigh four major factors in reaching a conclusion: they are the health impacts, the environmental impacts, potential social costs and the overall economic burden — cost to benefit.
I should point out that at least in one jurisdiction in the United States, these calculations were considered moot by the risk of lawsuits, believed to be too high to allow such vehicles to roam freely.
If you decide to do the long calculation, it is sobering to realise that “ATVing” is extremely dangerous. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has calculated that the health costs of ATVing in the US is approximately one hundredth that of cardiovascular disease, which is America's greatest health burden. Almost all ATVing in the US is recreation-based, so this appears to be a great price to pay for leisure and tourism.
The costs of environmental reparations are more difficult to calculate, as the damage is rarely rectified given that we typically live with a degraded environment; whether considering air pollution or landscape degradation or trail maintenance, the environmental costs are very large.
Even more difficult to calculate are the social costs. Residents living close to trail corridors will lose peace and quiet, thus reducing property values, other trail users are displaced, and the health and recreation experience of “trail adapters” — those who continue to use a trail frequented by ATVs — is substantially diminished. Proponents for ATV access frequently cite the potential for increased economic activity, but rarely if ever is full cost accounting done.
The economic activity created by ATV sales and tourism revenues are rarely juxtaposed against the economic leakages to wholesalers offshore, increased insurance premiums, health costs, environmental reparations, property devaluation and displaced tourists' dissatisfaction.
A full and balanced costs-to-benefits analysis will provide decision-makers with a more reasonable way to make policy decisions rather than responding to the vagaries of narrow-interest advocacy.
GLYN BISSIX, PhD
Professor and Head
Department of Community Development
Professor, Environmental and Sustainability Studies,
Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada