A crash course in crippling adventure insurance

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From the mountains to the sea, they say we are blessed in this county to have so much sports and recreation facilities on our doorstep, and I hopped around the corner Thursday afternoon for a take out coffee. in one of my favorites.

Covering over 400 acres, not long ago home to rolling fairways and perfectly cut greens, Glencullen Adventure Park – also known as The Gap – is now unmistakably a bicycle park (although complete with a designated walking trail that depends on the time of day. or the wind direction is also perfectly suited for running.)

It is easy to see and see from the town’s approach to Glencullen, the first of seven valleys that continue in almost transparent succession deep into the Wicklow Mountains, on the short descent into Dublin’s highest village, still only a 40 minute cycle ride back to O’Connell Street (although it may take a bit longer to go up).

It is also one of the few private and operated bicycle parks in the country, with 16 downhill mountain bike trails, four more nearing completion, ranging in increasing difficulty from intermediate to expert. Once the country fully reopens, it will also resume its full lift service, the five Ford Transit vans that transport drivers and their bikes to two drop-off points at the top of the trails. At the moment, you can pedal the trails only five times a day.

These include the Widow Maker, which starts at the edge of Ticknock Forest and traverses the old ninth hole and jumps over what was once one of the soft short greens at Glencullen Golf Course, which after 20 years closed in the summer of 2015., despite the large catchment area of ​​Stepaside and Kilternan nearby: the interest was simply no longer there.

There is also the Witches Cauldron, the path that descends along one of the old fairways and then sweeps with a perfect view of Dublin Bay and the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Plus the Death Grip, which bypasses the lake through the old fourth hole and from there down to the large wooden clubhouse, the main proof that this place was indeed once a golf club – before it became The Gap .

There is a lot of activity on Thursday afternoons, in part because this time it was able to stay open throughout the level 5 restrictions, given that it is essentially a park, and that ‘he also made take-out coffee in The Gap’s kitchen, which is run separately from the old one. clubhouse, and now offers an expanded outdoor dining area directly across from the main registration and bicycle rental building, which once housed all golf course maintenance equipment.

It was outside here that I ran into Matt Davy, the owner and general manager of the place, also an avid mountain biker in his own right. This plot of land has been in the family for years (he grew up very close to the mountain in Ballyedmonduff) and two years after the golf course closed Davy had opened The Gap, the trails designed by the famous Welsh mountain. cycling consultant Rowan Sorrell, the gentle gravity of the Dublin mountains seemingly groomed for a development like this (though some people thought otherwise).

As he approaches his fifth full-year summer, Davy tells me that the biggest challenge and worry in a post-pandemic period isn’t getting back to business or even trying to attract new bikers (la only mouth worth takes care of) but lingering worry over crushing insurance premiums. In this, The Gap is certainly not the only one.

He does not hide that they were spared in the first place by a major investment: they had their (old golf course), the club house, the entrance and the parking lots; it basically became a kind of modern adrenaline rush makeover. If they had needed to make a substantial investment, the skyrocketing insurance premiums might have already gone bankrupt.

As it has already done with some, Bike Park Ireland in County Tipperary closed in 2019 due to rising insurance costs, and although it is still working on the reopening, progress on the insurance front have been slow, even stagnant. Many more parks or adventure-type facilities have also reduced or closed their operations just because of insurance costs alone.

Anyone using The Gap must sign a liability waiver and accept all the risks that come with what is by definition and nature an extreme sport, but that doesn’t matter much when it comes to purchasing insurance (and especially the franchise): “I’m really afraid that there are so many places that won’t be able to reopen after Covid, and that’s because of the cost of insurance, in addition to the cost of everything else,” me Davy said. “If we can continue to ride on the premium that we have we would certainly be happy, but it’s a constant battle, we’ve almost got there this year.

“The problem here is that the rewards are too great, that fraudulent claims aren’t pursued, and the insurance companies have more or less said it’s not worth it here in Ireland anyway, when they can take it. their business in the UK, where the rewards are four times less.

“It cripples a lot of businesses, not just adventure sports, but pubs and clubs as well, and to be honest I don’t know where the solution is. It’s not like the government can say “you have to accept this”. People know that if they come here and fall off their bikes, it’s an accident. But the insurance company still thinks it’s a claim coming your way, there’s always someone who will try to pretend it’s not their fault, it’s always a concern.

The Irish Adventure Tourism Association (IAAT) has sought some sort of framework policy from insurance companies, the Alliance for Insurance Reform, which still hopes for a major reform by this year, particularly in this regard. which concerns the personal injury assessment, recently claiming that the government has done nothing. put downward pressure on insurance premiums.

The underlying problem, it seems, is that general damages for minor injuries must be drastically reduced to reflect international standards and standards already set by the Court of Appeal; otherwise the quotes for adventure insurance will remain above € 50,000, and it is not a question of lack of competition either.

Meanwhile, the sport of mountain biking is booming in the country, in various forms ranging from purely recreational to strictly competitive, including a rainbow jersey winner from world junior downhill champion Oisín O’Callaghan, who learned his trade on the public trails of Ballyhoura. in Limerick. In the post-Covid times, the benefits to mind, body and spirit can only become more and more apparent.

For The Gap, too, there is also some solace in the knowledge and experience that the vast majority of cyclists who use their mountain bike trails accept responsibility for the ride that goes with it: after five years, they don’t. have not yet a single bodily injury claim, the only previous one actually coming when they have been operating as a golf course, after a golfer has slipped somewhere on the course, and there may or may not be a message hidden somewhere.

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