Last week saw the publication of the New Forest Cycling Code, drawn up after months of discussion between 25 organisations, including bodies representing the interests of cyclists and people living and working in the national park. It will be followed in the New Year by a charter covering mass cycling events, which have become a cause of contention in the area in recent years.
The Code of Conduct covers issues such as riding at a safe speed, passing people and animals safely, including horses that are being ridden, and not deviating from permitted routes when riding off-road.
It was drawn up by the Cycling Liaison Group, jointly convened by the New Forest National Park Authority and the New Forest District Council’s Public Events and Safety Advisory Group following a meeting in March.
According to an update on its work issued earlier this month, the group aims “to build a better understanding and consensus about responsible cycling in the New Forest’s unique environment and to keep cycling in step with the special qualities and purposes of the National Park.”
Members include the New Forest Association of Local Councils, New Forest Association, Commoners Defence Association, New Forest Equine Association, Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, CTC and Sustrans, together with cycle event organisers.
Both the Code of Conduct and the forthcoming charter are intended “to respond to the recent local conflict surrounding cycle events and to encourage safe and responsible cycling in the future.”
The charter will be aimed at providing guidelines for organisers of sportives, which are not subject to the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960 or associated legislation.
Mass participation cycling events have become a hugely controversial issue in the New Forest in recent years, in particular those sponsored by Wiggle and organised by UK Cycling Events Ltd, which is based in Fordinbridge, attracting up to 5,000 riders over the course of a weekend.
According to the National Park Authority’s December update, “Each of the on road Wiggle events resulted in antisocial behaviour by both cyclists and local people; the October [Wiggle 100 Sportive] event was exacerbated by an unforeseen clash with a drift and the December [off road Fallen Leaves] event has highlighted differences of opinion about whether the permissive cycle network should be used for events of this kind.
“Amidst the vocal objectors there are also those who support the events, and participants clearly enjoy fresh air and exercise within the National Park’s unique environment,” adding that a survey conducted among participants in the Wiggle October 100 Sportive revealed that 29 per cent of the 1,163 riders stayed and ate locally, with the local economy benefitting to the tune of £322,000.
According to the NPA, “Some aspects of the organisation of events are at least superficially straightforward (e.g. promoting respect for the Forest and its residents). However, other aspects are proving more challenging and complex (e.g. ensuring safety is not compromised by high rider numbers).
“There is a wide range of cycle events and it is important that the charter is as widely applicable as possible. At the time of writing the charter has well over 30 clauses but this will probably change when we condense, simplify and make it ‘more punchy’.”
It says that the most important features will include:
• the potential for a cap on numbers, non-publication of timed results and clearer numbering of riders to facilitate feedback - these have yet to be agreed…
• expectations of advance communication with the Safety Advisory Group and landowners, and associated mechanisms to avoid clashes
• best practice advice about staggered starts and marshalling
• reference to litter and the provision of toilets
• various instructions relating to the New Forest’s special circumstances (narrow roads, horse riders, commoners’ stock etc.) and local communities.
The Cycling Liaison Group will next consider the Charter at its meeting in Fenbruary, with hopes of launching it in the spring.
In the meantime, speaking of the Code of Conduct, Nigel Matthews, head of recreation management and learning at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘This is a significant and welcome achievement following a great deal of careful thought and input from numerous organisations.
“The Liaison Group agreed that in relatively few words, the code highlights the main aspects of cycling within the unique environment of the Forest about which we want to raise awareness.”
New Forest Cycling Code
0.1 Welcome to the New Forest: a beautiful, tranquil and environmentally sensitive place enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike. Mutual respect and courtesy are essential to enable those with different interests to enjoy the Forest together.
0.2 The New Forest is a working forest, with forestry, farming and equestrian activity on its narrow roads and tracks. Ponies, cattle and other animals are free to roam the Forest and most of its roads. Be aware that animals are easily startled and may suddenly move into your path.
0.3 Off road cycling in the New Forest is permitted only on certain routes.
0.4 Please follow both the Highway Code and this New Forest Cycling Code which is supported by cycling groups and local organisations.
0.5 If you are cycling in an organised event, follow the additional instructions to minimise your impact.
1.1 Ride in single file on tracks and narrow roads, leaving gaps for overtaking vehicles to pull into. Never ride more than two abreast.
1.2 Off road, cycle only on the waymarked network of Forestry Commission tracks or on bridleways, byways and restricted byways.
1.4 Be polite to other cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and residents.
1.5 When passing people and animals, use your bell or call out a warning and allow them plenty of room. Be prepared to stop if necessary.
1.6 Do not drop litter or feed the animals; human food and litter are a danger to them.
1.7 Respect the quiet of the Forest.
2.1 Pass animals slowly and to one side if possible.
2.2 Take extra care near horse riders; a kick or fall from a horse could be fatal. Be prepared to stop. Use your bell or call out a friendly warning well in advance. When it is safe, pass wide and at walking pace, to one side only.
Look out for any reaction from the horse.
2.3 Keep to a safe speed, on and off road, particularly on narrow lanes, steep hills and bends. Look out for pot holes, poor surfaces and cattle grids.
2.4 Ride positively and well clear of uneven road edges.
2.5 Look out for and obey safety signs. Do not pass large vehicles and trailers until you know it is safe to do so.
2.6 Ensure you are visible by wearing bright or reflective clothing. Use lights after dark and in poor daytime visibility.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.