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

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.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

46 comments

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Some Fella [890 posts] 1 year ago
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There is so much that beggars belief in this story that i wont even bother leaving an erudite and articulate comment but simply offer my opinion - that New Forest National Park Authority members are dicks.

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DuncanMc [29 posts] 1 year ago
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I thought the point was this scheme is not for locals but visiting tourists.
Shame on those so called locals who shouted this down. I hope they enjoy the fume choked forest on thier own.
Obviously a local forest for local people.

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DuncanMc [29 posts] 1 year ago
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I thought the point was this scheme is not for locals but visiting tourists.
Shame on those so called locals who shouted this down. I hope they enjoy the fume choked forest on thier own.
Obviously a local forest for local people.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 1 year ago
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Won't be going to the New Forest anytime soon to spend my holiday money.

 14

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matttheaudit [69 posts] 1 year ago
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Some Fella wrote:

There is so much that beggars belief in this story that i wont even bother leaving an erudite and articulate comment but simply offer my opinion - that New Forest National Park Authority members are dicks.

Under the circumstances, this is a very restrained response that sums them up perfectly.
God forbid that the second homers have to slow down as they bomb around the forest. FFS it's a National Park. For everyone. The clue is in the name.

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thx1138 [41 posts] 1 year ago
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The National Park Authority now intends to support alternative cycling projects with the funding previously allocated for the public bike system.

What's the point of that given the locals resentment of anything cycling related...

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jova54 [644 posts] 1 year ago
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Quote:

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.

Surely if the money was a grant to cover the costs of a specific scheme and it hasn't been used for that then it should be repaid to DfT immediately.

Given the failure of New Forest Authority and Hampshire County Council to show it has sufficient balls to stand up to NIMBYS, the chance of them being given any more money for cycling related schemes should be nil.

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userfriendly [538 posts] 1 year ago
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This is truly shameful. Pity those kind of people don't know what shame means.

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jacknorell [942 posts] 1 year ago
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Basically, the moneyed second home/retirement place people are f-ing over the locals who are dependent on tourism. Though I'm sure some of the locals are swivel-eyed loons as well, they mostly welcome tourists.

At some point, they'll get a clue and get active, but cyclists will likely have moved on long before then...

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parksey [343 posts] 1 year ago
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Agreed, really cannot make sense of this decision at all.

I'm going to keep riding there, mind. Don't want the weekend locals to think they can always get their way.

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levermonkey [646 posts] 1 year ago
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So they are happy to give up the scheme but not the money, strange [Not]!

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dp24 [201 posts] 1 year ago
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They should have the money taken from them, so it can be given to somewhere who are willing to put it to good use, instead of caving into to a bunch of arseholes who don't want bikes getting in the way of their 4x4.

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badback [302 posts] 1 year ago
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Well they are really going out of the way to sell themselves as a place for me and my family to visit [not].

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Forester [111 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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maultby [9 posts] 1 year ago
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Ask them to publicise full details of their supposed "local survey"
I live on edge of forest and not aware of any local survey.
This feels like yet another example of "un"democracy.

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bikewithnoname [81 posts] 1 year ago
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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. Hampshire county council does nothing to improve the situation, no cycle lanes to speak of, no signs warning motorists to consider cyclists, the only minority road user they ever consider are horse riders.

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...

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KiwiMike [1074 posts] 1 year ago
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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'?

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antonio [1103 posts] 1 year ago
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It's quite obvious the whole area has been taken over by aliens, it's the only explanation for wholesale character change!

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Simmo72 [584 posts] 1 year ago
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On face value it would appear that many of the new forest residents and local organisations are a bunch of Car loving bungle cnuts.

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bikebot [1634 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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vbvb [525 posts] 1 year ago
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I know nothing about it but think the decision was reasonable but keeping the lolly is not.

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spin sugar [47 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Gizmo_ [1333 posts] 1 year ago
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I love the New Forest. But stuff them. Take the money away and spend it somewhere else.

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Tovarishch [58 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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oozaveared [933 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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oozaveared [933 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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KiwiMike [1074 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Forester [111 posts] 1 year ago
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You've misread, I was on my bike and riding carefully as usual!

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