New Forest abandons rural 'Boris Bike' scheme

Did risk of sabotage by locals lead to bizarre anti-tourism decision?

by John Stevenson   August 19, 2014  

New Forest rider and pony (CC licensed by iNew Forest:Flickr)

The New Forest National Park Authority has decided not to go ahead with the planned implementation of a 'Boris Bike' style network of hire bikes. Had the project gone ahead it would have been the UK's first rural hire bike system.

In a statement issues this afternoon, the authority said that its 12 members were concerned about the system's financial sustainability and believed that "the likelihood of the system receiving significant sponsorship had markedly reduced since it was originally conceived".

However, earlier this week Graham Bright of B-Cycle, the company retained to implement the scheme, told the Southern Daily Echo that concerns over sponsorship were misguided as any deals to cover ongoing costs would not affect the viability of the scheme.

Bright said: “We have not had an opportunity to engage with members. The things they have mentioned in their reports can be easily addressed.”

It's not known whether Bright was able to address today's meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority.

In its statement, the authority also mentions perhaps the crux of the decision: opposition from some locals. It said that a recent  survey "showed a lack of strong support for the scheme among local residents".

As a result, it said, "there was a real risk that suitable docking station sites would not be supported at key locations, making it difficult to set up a viable network".

Since it's clearly irrelevant whether or not the building of a bike docking station is "supported" or not, the obvious conclusion is that the authority has backed down under the expectation of sabotage of the construction of docking stations.

Cycling events in the New Forest have been sabotaged numerous times in the last few years, with tacks and slurry spread on roads and signage removed.

The authority says it plans to spend the funding intended for teh scheme - part of a £3.57m grant from the Department for Transport - on other local cycling projects, though it's not currently clear that it has the authority to do so.

Here's the authority's statement in full:

New Forest National Park Authority members have voted not to proceed with a project to develop the UK’s first rural public bike system within the New Forest.

This self-service bike hire system would have comprised up to 250 one size fits all bikes for public hire at 20 unmanned locations in the south east of the National Park.

Members were concerned about the financial sustainability of the £2m public bike system. They considered that the likelihood of the system receiving significant sponsorship had markedly reduced since it was originally conceived, given that similar recent schemes in Liverpool and Reading have launched without major sponsors.

Concern was also expressed about the mixed results of a recent community feedback survey, which showed a lack of strong support for the scheme among local residents. Members felt there was a real risk that suitable docking station sites would not be supported at key locations, making it difficult to set up a viable network. The results of the survey are available at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/bikesurvey.

Given the challenging delivery timetable for the project, by March 2015, it was felt there was insufficient time remaining to overcome these issues.

The National Park Authority now intends to support alternative cycling projects with the funding previously allocated for the public bike system.

Members underlined their commitment to supporting responsible family cycling in the National Park, in particular as a key mode of transport for people to get around the Forest for work or pleasure, and as a way to enjoy its special qualities without a car.

National Park Authority Chairman, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘This would have been an innovative project that had clear benefits to offer those wishing to use bicycles for quiet recreation and travelling around the Forest, rather than using their cars.

‘However as members we have scrutinised it very carefully, and concluded that the risks of setting up the scheme now outweigh the benefits. We felt we simply could not justify spending a considerable amount of government money on a system that might not be able to survive at this time, and which seems to have insufficient support in the key locations of the Forest where it needs to operate from.’

The public bike system was part of the New Forest Family Cycling Experiences programme. The programme is funded by a £3.57m grant from the Department for Transport and  will continue to invest in other local cycling projects through:

  • Supporting Hampshire County Council to deliver infrastructure schemes in and around the National Park this year to improve safety and access for cyclists
  • Funding community groups and businesses to develop their own cycling facilities through the Sustainable Communities Fund. Further details at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/scf.

Minutes of the meeting will be available in due course at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/meetings.

45 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Forester wrote:
...was following a youngster on a road bike who simply jammed on the brakes and stopped when he came to a cattle grid leaving me with a car behind me having to take evasive action.

Without knowing the specifics it's hard to be certain, but from your description it sounds like you were following too close, not allowing for the actions of a vulnerable road user at a visible pinchpoint/hazard.

I suppose if you'd hit them it would have been a 'tragic but unavoidable accident'?

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
20th August 2014 - 7:42

20 Likes

It's quite obvious the whole area has been taken over by aliens, it's the only explanation for wholesale character change!

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1018 posts]
20th August 2014 - 7:46

15 Likes

On face value it would appear that many of the new forest residents and local organisations are a bunch of Car loving bungle cnuts.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [397 posts]
20th August 2014 - 8:32

17 Likes

The National Park Authority now intends to support alternative cycling projects with the funding previously allocated for the public bike system.

So if I were to make an educated guess as to what that might be, I'd say it would be some typical sustrans rural off road routes. Better known as "bridleways", with a nice top layer of horse poop.

posted by bikebot [789 posts]
20th August 2014 - 8:37

22 Likes

I know nothing about it but think the decision was reasonable but keeping the lolly is not.

posted by vbvb [304 posts]
20th August 2014 - 8:37

10 Likes

If you look at @forestcyclist and @jimbrattley on twitter you can get more info on what happened yesterday, as they were at the meeting. They've also posted the results of the original local area vote. Apparently, at one point, one of the members of the NFNPA actually said he was voting against the scheme because he didn't cycle and didn't want to cycle. I.e. others, be damned. That's the mentality they're dealing with, here. I don't think you can say that's reasonable.

posted by spin sugar [40 posts]
20th August 2014 - 9:23

24 Likes

Really then, the New Forest NPA are nothing better than the smack head that walks round with a jerry can in their hand, giving you the bullshit story and pleading for money for petrol to get home only to go and squander it on something else.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
20th August 2014 - 9:24

16 Likes

I love the New Forest. But stuff them. Take the money away and spend it somewhere else.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [958 posts]
20th August 2014 - 9:27

15 Likes

bikewithnoname wrote:

Don't get me started on the fact you can't mountain bike on most of the forest trails anymore due to all the "damage" mtb's do to the trails, yeah right, 500kg of horse and rider simply float across the surface...

I strongly recommend riding the trails anyway and just flicking two fingers at anyone who tries to stop you. The time for being reasonable has long since past and the New Forest needs its own monthly Critical Mass.

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:00

19 Likes

139 people responded to the survey. Not sure what the population of the New Forest is but that is less than 5% of the population of Lyndhurst. The analysis doesn't bear scrutiny as they have taken averages of an ordinal rating scale and the margin of error is way above the detectable differences in opinion. Someone should take the National Park Authority to court for maladministration.

Tovarishch's picture

posted by Tovarishch [49 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:08

15 Likes

I am from the New Forest originally and I am proud that it is a National Park. I do think however that if they are not going to act like a National Park and make the Forest easy to access and promote leisure activities, but instead act as a mouthpiece for carpetbagging nimbyism from the weekend second homers then that status should be put in jeopardy.

I think the MoT needs to put a financial shot across their bows.

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

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:14

19 Likes

Forester wrote:
....was following a youngster on a road bike who simply jammed on the brakes and stopped when he came to a cattle grid leaving me with a car behind me having to take evasive action.

Then you are a bad and inconsiderate driver. Bicycles don't have brake lights and they stop much more quickly than a car can so any good sensible driver is going to leave plenty of space.

As an advanced driver I can only hope that in furure you remember the acronym for the mantra of advanced driving. TTR - Time to React. If you leave yourself without any then you have poor driving skills.

Many driving schools offer remedial lessons aimed at improving the skills of existing licence holders so you should invest in some of that. But easier than that try a bit of common sense and courtesy.

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

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:28

14 Likes

Tovarishch wrote:
139 people responded to the survey. Not sure what the population of the New Forest is but that is less than 5% of the population of Lyndhurst. The analysis doesn't bear scrutiny as they have taken averages of an ordinal rating scale and the margin of error is way above the detectable differences in opinion. Someone should take the National Park Authority to court for maladministration.

An excellent idea - if they have based a decision upon a clearly unrepresentative sample they should be rightly pilloried for that alone, regardless of the actual outcome.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:28

12 Likes

You've misread, I was on my bike and riding carefully as usual!

New Forester

posted by Forester [101 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:30

16 Likes

Oh....this is priceless. What's the best childhood memory New Forest NPA chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre?

Summer days spent cycling with my brothers through the lanes in the north of the Forest.

http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20012/our_people/79/members/3#.U_R0s...

I'm Speechless

posted by thx1138 [19 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:34

12 Likes

I was on my bike! It was me who was endangered by a rider who looked competent and was with his Mum. With elderly drivers and impatient locals, you do need a modicum of road sense on busy forest roads.

New Forester

posted by Forester [101 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:35

7 Likes

Forester wrote:
Not sure about this one; there are plenty of cycle hire firms catering for visitors who often want childrens ' bikes and trailers. Unfortunately said visitors often end up on busy and unsuitable roads as there is no joined up cycle route; was following a youngster on a road bike who simply jammed on the brakes and stopped when he came to a cattle grid leaving me with a car behind me having to take evasive action. Apart from Wiggle issue, forest residents in general aren't too bad. Money needs to be spent on roads and tracks.

The relevant part of that is the driver behind you was not leaving sufficient space as per Highway Code.

posted by jacknorell [585 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:47

13 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
Forester wrote:
....was following a youngster on a road bike who simply jammed on the brakes and stopped when he came to a cattle grid leaving me with a car behind me having to take evasive action.

Then you are a bad and inconsiderate driver. Bicycles don't have brake lights and they stop much more quickly than a car can so any good sensible driver is going to leave plenty of space.

As an advanced driver I can only hope that in furure you remember the acronym for the mantra of advanced driving. TTR - Time to React. If you leave yourself without any then you have poor driving skills.

Many driving schools offer remedial lessons aimed at improving the skills of existing licence holders so you should invest in some of that. But easier than that try a bit of common sense and courtesy.

Dude, reading comprehension failure on your part.

The poster (Forester) was cycling, the car behind him was too close.

posted by jacknorell [585 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:51

21 Likes

From the NFNPA website:

"As the Authority is financed by the public it has a statutory duty to ensure that this money is used economically, efficiently and effectively and is safeguarded and properly accounted for.

All business has to be conducted in accordance with the law and with regard to proper standards. The Authority also has to strive for continuous improvement in the way it runs its operation.

The main source of funding is a direct grant from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)."

I think using a clearly unrepresentative survey as an input to a multi-million-pound decision, and having some NPA members clearly displaying prejudicial views on the topic underconsideration breaches the NFNPA's obligation to ensure its business is 'conducted in accordance with the law and with regard to proper standards'.

So who leads the charge to get this decision reviewed? CTC?

Do we jump up and down and try to get the funding revoked instead of spent elsewhere on 'cycling'? Or will that be a bit nose/spite face?

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
20th August 2014 - 10:57

17 Likes

Forester wrote:
I was on my bike! It was me who was endangered by a rider who looked competent and was with his Mum. With elderly drivers and impatient locals, you do need a modicum of road sense on busy forest roads.

I wasn't assuming you were driving - just that you were operating a vehicle (car/bike/whatever). The consequences of a child being rear-ended by an adult cyclist could well be life-changing.

You weren't 'endangered' by the child's actions - quite the opposite it seems. You should be leaving sufficient space to stop, and should be passing with the same 1.5m space recommended for all vehicles in the Highway Code. Not trying to sound preachy - that's a standard we should all hold ourselves to, regardless of mode of transport.

Close passes of my wife/kids (on or off bikes) by other people on bikes are a major hate of mine.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
20th August 2014 - 11:05

14 Likes

They say no to 250 bikes. Hope they enjoy 250 more cars.

Nobbers.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
20th August 2014 - 12:08

10 Likes

well then that makes him a bad cyclist for pretty much the same reason.

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

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
20th August 2014 - 12:57

6 Likes

KiwiMike wrote:
Do we jump up and down and try to get the funding revoked instead of spent elsewhere on 'cycling'? Or will that be a bit nose/spite face?

That's my first choice.

They've proven that they can not be trusted, time and time again, so all cycling related funding should be pulled and spent in areas that are willing to support cycling. I'd also argue that as they clearly can't abide outsiders, that all tourism related funding and subsidies should be brutally slashed too. Let them try and raise their own income to look after the National Park.

Take the "Don't negotiate with terrorists" approach to them.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
20th August 2014 - 13:33

7 Likes

farrell wrote:
... all cycling related funding should be pulled and spent in areas that are willing to support cycling.

If they took that money and used it to fix the unmitigated disaster that is the mile of horrific 60MPH A-road in the middle of the responsible family-friendly Burley-Brockenhurst Rail Trail, I'd be a very happy man.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
20th August 2014 - 14:14

2 Likes

Please write to the New Forest NPA and make your views heard....if they don't hear from folks they'll assume they were right...

The email address is :-

enquiries@newforestnpa.gov.uk

Please note that I have already down so and my letter is on my blog if you want to get an idea for writing:-

http://ezpcgoescycling.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/a-bad-decision/

EZPC

EZPC
Smile

posted by ezpc [10 posts]
20th August 2014 - 14:47

2 Likes

There are serious ramifications from this decision. First of all they have reduced the chances of obtaining government grants in future. When we were awarded this grant to trial this scheme (it's first in the country) it meant another National Park lost. By not using the grant, it will be returned unless they can get alternative sustainable cycle provisions agreed and paid for before April 2015. Secondly the National backlash from cyclists is that many that holiday here with their families are now planning alternative destinations. You may not think that this is too much of a problem, but a lot of the NF is now dependant upon tourism, and the cycling fraternity is worth millions. One UKCE event last year brought £300,000 to the NF over one weekend. Other National Parks have realised this and are going out of their way to encourage cyclists, the Isle of Wight has it's own website to encourage them there. Yet here we turn free money down, and effectively put up a sign advertising that non-locals are not welcome.

posted by Drhysted [2 posts]
21st August 2014 - 10:15

3 Likes

This just received from the NFNPA Cycling project manager:

My colleague passed on your phone request for more details regarding the extent to which the results of the community feedback survey influenced the task and finish group’s recommendation, which was supported by Members at Tuesday’s Extraordinary Authority Meeting.
Members were particularly concerned about the financial sustainability of the public bike system. They considered that the likelihood of the system receiving significant sponsorship had markedly reduced since it was originally conceived, given that similar recent schemes in Liverpool and Reading have launched without major sponsors.

The survey was one of several factors that set the context for the task and finish group’s recommendation, and members expressed concern about its mixed results, which showed a lack of strong support for the scheme amongst local residents. Additionally, the lack of support for the scheme from Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst parish council was noted by the group. It was felt that there was a real risk that suitable docking station sites would not be supported at key locations, making it difficult to set up a viable network.
We were working to a challenging delivery timetable for the project, by March 2015, and bearing this in mind Members felt there was insufficient time remaining to overcome these issues.

Draft minutes from Tuesday’s Authority meeting will soon be available on our website, the minutes will be subject to approval at the next Authority meeting on 25 September.

As regards your question about an appeals process for this decision, please see our website - http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20015/your_views/57/comments_and_com...

===============

My reply:

I think we can agree the survey was a dismal failure if its objective was to correctly assess residents support or objection to the scheme. Out of a population of 34,400 you would need 380 respondents to give you 95% confidence that the result was within 5% of what the public wanted. Noting that those 380 respondents would have to be selected at random, not self-selected based on a marketing campaign.

So the survey should not have been considered in any way representative of the wishes of residents. You would have done as well to ask Facebook or Twitter for its opinion.

Which brings us to financial viability: What work was done surveying actual or potential visitors to the park, to assess their desire to use a hire scheme?

It is highly unlikely any resident would use the scheme, as they would either have their own bicycle, or car. Cycle hire schemes in major cities are predominantly used by tourists or commuters who are not able to bring their own bicycles into the city with them - such as London with its woeful train capacity for cycles. Another category of user is a city resident without the ability to store a bicycle, such as an apartment or halls of residence dweller. Very rare in the New Forest, I think you'll agree, as are commuters.

The lack of support from individual parish councils is understandable - their residents don't stand to gain, apart from those operating tourist businesses catering for people who like to cycle when on holiday. Noting that such a scheme would also take business from the existing firms operating private cycle hire such as that in burley which we have used in the past, although a public hire scheme would use a rather different category of cycle than those currently offered.

So I would like to know two things:

1. Does the NFNPA consider its survey methodology to be sound, and in keeping with its obligation to ensure "All business ... be conducted in accordance with the law and with regard to proper standards. "?

2. What work was done surveying actual or potential visitors to the park, to assess their desire to use a hire scheme?

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [631 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:44

3 Likes

bikewithnoname wrote:
I grew up in the New Forest, cycled nearly every day and can honestly not remember a single incident of "locals" being anything other than considerate to cyclists.

Fast forward 15 years and when I go to visit my parents and go out for a ride I can guarantee you that on every ride some low life will be shouting out of thier car, or blasting thier horn at you. Something really has changed in the area, there appears to be genuine resentment of cyclists.

I rode on a charity bike ride from Cornwall to London going through the New Forest, the local behaviour was shameful, with abusive drivers and people in a local pub taunting riders. I was ashamed for them boozing away the week end while insulting people raising money for charity. I certainly would not go there for a holiday, which may make them happy, but is probably short sighted for the local economy.

posted by simonsays [11 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 20:26

2 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
Forester wrote:
....was following a youngster on a road bike who simply jammed on the brakes and stopped when he came to a cattle grid leaving me with a car behind me having to take evasive action.

Then you are a bad and inconsiderate driver.

As an advanced driver I can only hope that in furure....

Many driving schools offer remedial lessons....


[[[[[[ Er...Forester was on his bike, not driving....

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [308 posts]
24th August 2014 - 19:57

0 Likes

Clearly a significant number of people who live in the New Forest do not like cyclists.
To all you sad people may I say how wonderful you all are, how lovely, and do
keep on being absolutely splendid.

posted by Condor flyer [25 posts]
24th August 2014 - 20:48

0 Likes