Petition launched to save £2m New Forest ‘Boris Bike’ scheme, set to be scrapped partly due to anti-cycling sentiment

National Park Authority report says opposition to mass events plus sponsorship concerns reasons to pull plug

by Simon_MacMichael   August 13, 2014  

Artist's impression of New Forest mobile docking system (source NFPFA bid document)

A petition has been launched to save a family-friendly ‘Boris Bike’ cycle hire scheme in the New Forest aimed at boosting tourism, which despite having £2 million of government money allocated to it faces being scrapped – in part because of opposition to mass participation cycling events in the national park by a small but vociferous minority of locals.

The petition has been set up on the Change.org website by Twitter user New Forest Cyclist (@forestcyclist), who in a series of posts on the social network today warned that the scheme, which the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) unveiled earlier this year, looks unklikely to go ahead, and called for support in urging the authority not to scrap it.

The NFPFA submitted its application for cash from the DfT in April this year in a comprehensive document called New Forest Family Cycling Experiences. Of the £3.57 million awarded, £2 million was to be allocated to the scheme.

It said the scheme would link transport facilities with accommodation and tourist attractions, as well as generating more than 30 new jobs and replacing an estimated 127,000 car journeys each year, while boosting tourism and benefiting local businesses.

It was due to open in April next year, initially with 20 electronically controlled hire stations and 250 bicycles, making it the largest such scheme in the UK outside an urban area.

Money for the initiative was to have come from a grant from the Department for Transport aimed at encouraging more people to cycle in England’s national parks, and the NFNPA had even gone so far as to commence the procurement process and select a preferred supplier for the scheme, should it go ahead.

But now, a members’ task and finish group set up after a meeting of the authority on 26 June has made the unanimous recommendation “that the National Park Authority does not proceed with the New Forest Public Bike System at this time.”

That recommendation, detailed in this report from John Lynn, cycling projects manager at NFPFA, will be debated at an extraordinary meeting of the authority next Tuesday 19 August, and with the funding needing to have been spent by the end of March 2015, time is pressing.

The report pointed out a number of aspects that had changed since a feasibility study into the scheme was carried out, including the issue of whether it would be possible to find a corporate sponsor, given Barclays’ termination of its backing of the London Cycle Hire Scheme, and the launch of similar initiatives in Liverpool and Reading, neither of which has a sponsor.

But it also highlighted that “In the New Forest a major anti-cycling sentiment has come to the fore in the wake of large-scale cycle sportive events which have impacted on local people. A fresh wave of concern exists about the safety of on-road cycling. Concerns about safety featured prominently in the responses to the recent questionnaire about the proposed scheme, especially amongst those who live and work in the Forest. Members therefore questioned whether the time was right to introduce more cyclists onto New Forest roads.”

It added that the committee’s members had concerns over “the financial viability of the scheme, and the recently emerged sentiment in the Forest towards cycling in the wake of large scale events,” and that they had “insufficient confidence that the project would now be financially sustainable or receive sufficient local support, and therefore be appropriate for the New Forest at this time.”

In his petition, which at the time of writing has 130 signatures, New Forest Cyclist calls on the NFPFA to:

Implement multi million pound rural equivalent of 'Boris Bikes' that already have secured funding, a preferred supplier & overwhelming public support

and

To encourage and enhance cycling and cyclist numbers in the New Forest, thereby encouraging a healthy lifestyle, lessening car journeys, improving the environment, and protecting local wildlife.

25 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Oh for f... D Oh

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [288 posts]
13th August 2014 - 21:51

25 Likes

Signed.

Of course it won't get local support, and that's exactly why it's needed.
The New Forest is traffic jam central this time of year but strangely enough you don't hear the bumpkins complaining vociferously about the number of cars, caravans etc. on the roads

posted by TheSpaniard [53 posts]
13th August 2014 - 22:24

41 Likes

I love the idea that the locals in opposition are actually concerned about the 'safety of on-road cycling', rather than their own convenience.

posted by dp24 [190 posts]
13th August 2014 - 22:57

30 Likes

Having recently cycled around the New Forest and Hampshire for the first time, I cannot believe there aren't more fatalities. Bugger the Boris bikes, the only way I'll ever cycle there again is if I can have handlebar mounted machine guns. Hats off to all of you who cycle that area regularly, the locals are mental.

posted by Scrumpymonkey [4 posts]
14th August 2014 - 0:04

48 Likes

I love the idea that the locals in opposition are actually concerned about the 'safety of on-road cycling', rather than their own convinence

I think you will find they are concerned about the safety of the cyclists from themselves and other locals.....

posted by Nzlucas [89 posts]
14th August 2014 - 1:33

33 Likes

Shame it's not possible to surround the area with barb wire and landmines. Lets keep people out, as long as the locals are kept in. Then they can play with their ponies and drive like nutters all day long and not have to worry.

Minds will be soon changed once tourist money stops rolling in, the local shops close down and the ponies become food sources.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [293 posts]
14th August 2014 - 8:09

34 Likes

It even hits local people who want to cycle to work or college, and especially those who would love to be one less in the time wasting, polluting and resource draining traffic jam that locks up the Western road approaches to Southampton daily. They are afraid to make daily cycle trips on the local roads.

The best thing for the New Forest would be a robust enforcement of the 40 mph speed limit, and management of the car parking which obstructs the movement of all traffic or causes other nuisance, and if there is a problem with large events that put a concentration of activity, then be more robust about regulating these rather than taking ill-judged action which suggests a lack of willingness and/or competence to tackle the actual issues.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [484 posts]
14th August 2014 - 8:28

27 Likes

This seems absurdly self-defeating. What better way to deter the alleged high-speed risk-taking helmet-wearing wannabe-racers that upset locals than flooding the area with a load of cheerful casual relaxed upright-sitting hire-biking holiday-makers? Laughing Just look at the abuse for Boris bikers on certain "serious" cycling forums (including some road.cc discussions). This project could transform cycling in the New Forest and calm things down, but no, they'd rather keep the roads clear for racers. Rolling Eyes

posted by a.jumper [700 posts]
14th August 2014 - 8:38

21 Likes

"In the New Forest a major anti-cycling sentiment...."

I doubt this very much. The opposition is from a small but very well organised group of people who are incapable of ever presenting a sensible reason for their anti-cycling rhetoric.

Unfortunately they make enough noise for it to have an effect, as demonstrated here.

The scheme sounds like a good idea, give it a go.

posted by seanbolton [139 posts]
14th August 2014 - 8:56

23 Likes

Lovely area,but i have never come across such a group of vicious people, to go to the lengths of covering the road with slurry, tacks etc, is something i have never come across before, the trouble is what will they do with time they spend organising all this mayhem if they do stop sportives move on to setting fire to holiday homes.

posted by 230548 [12 posts]
14th August 2014 - 9:18

19 Likes

Aren't these designed to be mostly used on the traffic-free off-road trails within the forest?

posted by ribena [140 posts]
14th August 2014 - 9:44

18 Likes

Scrumpymonkey wrote:
Having recently cycled around the New Forest and Hampshire for the first time, I cannot believe there aren't more fatalities. Bugger the Boris bikes, the only way I'll ever cycle there again is if I can have handlebar mounted machine guns. Hats off to all of you who cycle that area regularly, the locals are mental.

I've never been there, but the only open road sportive I've done (in the Chilterns) involved a bit of aggro from the usually patient locals. Eg being hooted at for going 2 abreast by someone coming TOWARDS us, with us leaving enough room to get a tank through.

Did you feel threatened during a sportive or just out for a solo ride?

Anyway, well done to locals of the New Forest for achieving what seemed impossible: making Surrey look friendly!

posted by deblemund [91 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:07

23 Likes

Signed.

In fairness, the New Forest is a lovely part of the country to cycle in. Yes, there's a couple of busy trunk roads through it which are best avoided, and places like Lyndhurst get ridiculously snarled up with traffic even at fairly quiet times, but there's miles of other far quieter roads to use which, in my experience of cycling there, are an absolute joy. Some tough hills too.

Besides, these bikes look like they're designed more for off-road than on-road use anyway, so presumably they won't bother the weekend locals blasting about in their BMW X5s?

posted by parksey [234 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:09

11 Likes

230548 wrote:
the trouble is what will they do with time they spend organising all this mayhem if they do stop sportives move on to setting fire to holiday homes.

Why would they burn down there own houses???

You do realise local isn't quite true in relation to these idiots????

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1108 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:13

19 Likes

Can we have the money for a scheme in the Yorkshire Dales please!

posted by RedfishUK [54 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:29

15 Likes

Scrumpymonkey wrote:
Having recently cycled around the New Forest and Hampshire for the first time, I cannot believe there aren't more fatalities. Bugger the Boris bikes, the only way I'll ever cycle there again is if I can have handlebar mounted machine guns. Hats off to all of you who cycle that area regularly, the locals are mental.

I don't know where you normally cycle. It must be exceptionally niceand safe if you think the New Forest is a death trap. I've been cycling on roads all over the country, though mainly in the South. I don't recognise the picture you paint. The New Forest is a nice place to cycle better than most and by no means excessively dangerous.

Tell us where you live or cycle normally and I'll pop over to see you. Is it called Shangri La?

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [628 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:52

14 Likes

RedfishUK wrote:
Can we have the money for a scheme in the Yorkshire Dales please!

Didn't the council spend it all moving rocks around the hills to stop people parking up to watch the Grand Depart?

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [628 posts]
14th August 2014 - 10:54

21 Likes

Critical Mass in the NF anyone? Wink

Seriously though, although this sounds like a nice idea, I would like to be convinced that it would actually get much use.

It would probably also suffer more vandalism than the Boris bikes Sad

DaveE128's picture

posted by DaveE128 [65 posts]
14th August 2014 - 11:43

10 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
RedfishUK wrote:
Can we have the money for a scheme in the Yorkshire Dales please!

Didn't the council spend it all moving rocks around the hills to stop people parking up to watch the Grand Depart?

With the risk of sounding pedantic, that was at Holme Moss which is in the Pennines - Calderdale Council, not the Dales - mainly North Yorkshire Wink

posted by RedfishUK [54 posts]
14th August 2014 - 12:54

8 Likes

If I lived in that area I may be asking questions about how much money this has cost so far in preparing & submitting the bid, if they weren't serious about it?

I wonder what they find to occupy the time of John Lynn, cycling projects manager at NFPFA, if it isn't cycling projects?

There appear to be 4 aspects
“the financial viability of the scheme," which should have been fully considered by the authority & DfT in the bidding process, if not why not

"the recently emerged sentiment in the Forest towards cycling in the wake of large scale events,” irrelevant to a bike hire scheme and sentiment is never a good basis to reach such decisions on?

“insufficient confidence that the project would now be financially sustainable "" see first point, either economic conditions have changed or the bid was financially flawed in which case someone needs to won up and take the consequences

"or receive sufficient local support, and therefore be appropriate for the New Forest at this time.” Look at business case was it aimed at getting local bikes for local people Wink or a genuine tourism initiative in which case again totally irrelevant

But unless Govt intervenes or the decision is challenged by judicial review I doubt they will change their minds

posted by langsett [19 posts]
14th August 2014 - 13:45

16 Likes

I guess a New Forest Velothon is not on the cards then Smile

Funny how other parts of the country can really embrace cycling (Yorkshire, Surrey, Wales, etc) but a few NIMBYs in the New Forest can derail really good ideas.

posted by seanbolton [139 posts]
14th August 2014 - 14:01

16 Likes

RedfishUK wrote:
Can we have the money for a scheme in the Yorkshire Dales please!

*cough* http://www.bikeandgo.co.uk/locations.php#north_east

posted by Mr Agreeable [142 posts]
14th August 2014 - 14:41

8 Likes

I'm not really surprised that this scheme has fallen flat.

I can't imagine a lot of New Forest locals using hire bikes. I don't know the area brilliantly but it doesn't seem like the kind of place where you might, for instance, get off a a train and use a hire bike for onward travel to your destination. Do oportunities for this sort of application exist in the New Forest? For those who wish to make standalone journey's by bike I would expect that owning a bike would be a more attractive option. Perhaps they would be used for the once-yearly pootle around the woods, avoiding the hassle of pumping up tyres and oiling chains but that's the only real use I can envisage by locals.

For the tourist market the scheme makes more sense. Taking a bike on holiday can be a hassle, especially if you don't plan to cycle extensively. You need to keep it safe overnight, get it in/on the car etc. etc. however if a real demand exists I would expect it to be filled by shops offering bike hire or other private schemes as we see in other areas poular with tourists. Tourists are unlikely to need to hire/return a bike in the middle of the night or to collect it from one location for a one-way journey to another so the shop-hire model seems well suited.

I'm in no way opposed to the scheme, I'm just not sure I understand the point of it.

posted by Matt eaton [395 posts]
14th August 2014 - 18:28

11 Likes

Just a thought, but if all those who like to ride in this area were to leave their bikes at home for a weekend and drive their favorite routes instead, would the ensuing gridlock influence the views of that small but influential minority?

StevieG

posted by stevengoodfellow [40 posts]
15th August 2014 - 21:49

7 Likes

I have lived and cycled in the New Forest all my life, more than 40yrs. My family have lived here for more than 150yrs. The people who complain about cyclists in this area do not represent my views at all and Ii suspect the vast majority are holiday home owners who arrive on a friday night in their 4x4s and get frustrated at not being able to charge round the forest roads in them due to the cycling events. There is very little working traffic at the weekend, it is all tourism. The ponies that are killed in accidents are killed by idiots driving over 40mph. These Nimbys should remember that William the Conqueror created the Forest as a sporting venue, therefore historically the sportives are more in keeping with its intended use than farming or keeping a fugging holiday home for spoilt brats!

posted by Muddy Ford [4 posts]
16th August 2014 - 8:04

11 Likes