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Policies and attitudes out of step with other national parks

Generally, Britain's National Parks are welcoming havens for cyclists, with lots of tiny back roads and challenging terrain to tackle. The Yorkshire Dales and Lake District in particular are famous for their riding. But the New Forest seems determined to go against this pattern.

The New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) has just released its draft plan of management for 2015-2020, the document that will determine how the park is run for the next half decade. But where similar plans from other national parks are positive about cycling, NFNPA just sees it as a problem.

Here's what it has to say, in the only section of the plan that deals with cycling in the park in any significant way:

4.20 A major issue which has arisen over the last few years is the increase in large and nationally organised cycling events. There has always been support for responsible family cycling in the National Park, but the scale of these new events and their impact on local communities has provoked wide-spread debate and concern.

4.21 The National Park Authority and others wish to see better controls in place for such major events, which may require the updating of national legislation. In the meantime discussions with those involved locally have led to a new cycling code, a charter for organisers of cycle events and improved advice from the Safety Advisory Group1 which will be widely promoted and monitored for effectiveness.

There's no such grizzling in the Lake District's draft plan of management for 2015-20, which opened for consultation on November 2. Like the New Forest, the Lake District is a working landscape with lots of tiny roads and animals wandering about. Anyone who's encountered North of England sheep knows their reluctance to get out of the way.

Nevertheless, throughout the draft plan's appendices, the Lake District makes numerous references to encouraging "more utility and recreational cycling".

Moving people around is a challenge for all national parks. Encouraging cycling is an obvious way to reduce the impact of car use on thee often-fragile lanscapes. The Lake District's plan recognises this. It says:

The GoLakes Travel programme has given us an exciting glimpse of how the Lake District could be for visitors – integrated, high quality cycle routes, a network of jetties for lake services to make frequent stops at, buses and boats that carry bikes, improved railway station facilities, electric cars for hire by the hour, and charging points to keep them on the move. It is now time for us to apply what we have learnt from this pilot programme elsewhere in the Lake District.

It's clear that despite the geographical challenges it presents, the Lake District National Park Authority sees cycling as a significant part of its effort to get people out of their cars.

The maximum elevation of the New Forest is 129m, a mere pimple compared to any of the hills in the Lakes. You'd think that cycling would be a good way for the New Forest to encourage people out of their cars.

However, having axed a planned rural bike hire scheme, surely perfect for "responsible family cycling", the New Forest has painted itself into a corner. Or rather a bus seat. The draft says: "It is hoped that improved public bus services for both visitors and local people will help to reduce private car use in the future."

The authority therefore plans to:

Improve opportunities to use a range of sustainable transport options, including the New Forest Tour39, Beach Bus and other seasonal bus services. The target is to achieve a 5% reduction in the number of visits by car by 2020.

There's no explicit government guidance on cycling in National Parks, presumably because the relevant ministry, DEFRA, thinks providing such guidance would be like reminding park board members to breathe.

But DEFRA's guidance document English National Parks and the Broads: UK Government Vision and Circular 2010 says: "Parks are attractive locations for large-scale community, charitable or other events and festivals such as organised charity walks, cycling events, cultural and musical events and fairs."

NFNPA's hostility to sportives is clearly exactly contrary to this policy, and needs sustained public pressure to change.

A tip of the hat to New Forest cycling campaigner ForestCyclist for drawing this to my attention. He's calling on everyone to read the draft and email your feedback to: policy [at] newforestnpa.gov.uk (subject: Draft%20plan%20of%20management) .

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.

24 comments

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IngloriousLou [146 posts] 4 years ago
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> The target is to achieve a 5% reduction in the number of visits by car by 2020.

Wow, they're really daring to dream.

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Nick0 [185 posts] 4 years ago
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I know this will sound totally lazy, but.... to save lazy swines like me reading through all their stuff, what points should we be making when emailing them?

Any chance of a template we could all alter and then copy and paste to an email?

The less effort lazy people like me have to make, the more likely lazy people like me are to contribute our voices to The Good Fight  3

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KiwiMike [1410 posts] 4 years ago
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The thing is, there is simply no 'major issue' or 'wide-spread debate and concern'.

An FOI request to Hampshire Police, to the New Forest District Council and to the New Forest NPA itself revealed there was not a single record of a cyclist causing a problem. Despite the local MP suggesting in parliament that cyclists should wear numbers allowing identification in the event of an 'incident of an aggressive nature'.

The NFNPA's own survey - the one they used to justify cancelling the rural hire scheme and that ultimately led to them losing £1.5 Million in funding - found quite the opposite: widespread support or at worst indifference.

From http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/yoursay/letters/11529297.Puzzled_by_NPA___s_c...

...In all, 118 Forest residents and 21 visitors completed the survey – which might not sound like many until you consider that polling organisations base their predictions for general elections on samples of a mere 1,000 respondents.

The results reported by officers indicate that by and large respondents either loved the scheme or hated it. It is true that a significant percentage strongly opposed the scheme, but half of all respondents from the immediately affected area either supported or were indifferent to the proposal, and a substantial majority (over 60 per cent) of other Forest residents supported it, 50 per cent strongly.

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Beefy [381 posts] 4 years ago
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Dreadful,as a taxpayer I am aware that national parks are subsidised by the nation. If you wish to have a policy in direct contradiction to why the national park exists, by restricting bicycle riding, I for one will be petitioning my MP for national park status to be removed. The clue is in the word national.

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Yorkshie Whippet [650 posts] 4 years ago
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Are you sure the horses are reacting to the news or have been viciously attacked by the couple of bikes lurking in the background?

The question is should we leave the area alone?

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rasalati [38 posts] 4 years ago
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There are a couple of services in the Lakes which already carry bikes. I noticed a few of the 800s (which can carry up to 12 bikes!) whilst at the train station in Windermere when I visited this last summer (sadly without my bike):

http://www.golakes.co.uk/travel/New-Bike-Bus.aspx

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mmag1 [31 posts] 4 years ago
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4.21 reads as if the park authority are lobbying for a change in the law to get cycling events off the road altogether. What is their mandate for attempting to do this?

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ragtag [219 posts] 4 years ago
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Not surprised. They'd have an annual cull on cyclists if they could get away with it.

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Bob's bikes [882 posts] 4 years ago
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Is it me? or does this seem like the NFNPA are throwing their toys out the pram, they were giving money for cycling schemes they tried using it for the benefit of cars, they had money taken away.

Now this draft management plan comes out!

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Wardy74 [48 posts] 4 years ago
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I think these old NIMBY fuddy duddies underestimate the power of the internet. Nobody can stop you riding on the roads, we have a right to, which goes further back than cars. So what's to stop a critical mass type event from happening? Nothing. Ban or seriously limit sportives and I'd love to see the reaction.

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Cycleholic [28 posts] 4 years ago
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The landed 'thieving' gentry of the New Forest have had it their way for far too long. Let's be honest. These are the same people who have too large an influence over local issues, both political and social. This incredibly small minority of egotistical pseudo-aristocrats are parochial in the extreme and they haven't produced one reasonable argument against why cycling should not be more encouraged and associated infrastructure further developed. The issue for them is that they want the roads to themselves and their gas guzzling range rovers and jeeps. It's that simple.

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mrmo [2099 posts] 4 years ago
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well i have written a response, with the final comment being.

If the NFNPA doesn't want tourists, what is the point of the NFNPA?

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wheelsucker [58 posts] 4 years ago
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wouldn't that be spooky if say on June 12th 2015 a couple of thousand cyclists all just happened to go to the New Forest?

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ambrosio2 [19 posts] 4 years ago
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Sustainable transport options! Is cycling not a sustainable transport option? Idiots and fools !

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 4 years ago
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Glad I spend my time ridding around the Lake District, and sometimes the Yorkshire Dales, both are great places to go for a bike ride in fantastic scenery.
.
From the sound of it the New Forest is not a place I'd want to on my bike or for a holiday in my caravan. Too flat anyway 129m we would call that a kerb stone in the Lakes  3

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Awavey [523 posts] 4 years ago
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maybe this is the way theyll hit their congestion targets though, by making the New Forest such a thoroughly unpleasant place for anyone to want to visit, we'll just all head for the Lake District where it sounds much nicer and friendlier instead.

I dont understand how something thats designated as a national park, and receives national government funding as part of that,is able to be run with an outlook thats so dominated by such obvious self centred localism.

the whole thing just seems completely wrong.

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darrenleroy [323 posts] 4 years ago
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tonymod wrote:

The landed 'thieving' gentry of the New Forest have had it their way for far too long. Let's be honest. These are the same people who have too large an influence over local issues, both political and social. This incredibly small minority of egotistical pseudo-aristocrats are parochial in the extreme and they haven't produced one reasonable argument against why cycling should not be more encouraged and associated infrastructure further developed. The issue for them is that they want the roads to themselves and their gas guzzling range rovers and jeeps. It's that simple.

I visit the Forest a lot for wild camping (illegal but fuck it, my peasant ancestors being shafted for over a millennium gives me the moral right to camp overnight on our land) and I hate the snooty attitude of rich incomers who feel they have an inviable right to absolute peace and quiet and freedom of the road at all times.

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Dug Hickin [8 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm no 'interlecktwul' but it would appear that the 'Range Rover set' only have a problem with the large Wiggle events so why not just get Wiggle to give them some dosh for a new 'Ye Olde Tea Shoppe' and have done with it ! Problem solved, everyones a winner!
Wiggle make a fortune from their events so come on Wiggle, give something back (unlike when I asked you to support a Royal Marine Charity ride to the tune of a couple of hundred quid) but like the Murphy's....I'm not bitter.

On a serious note though: This is a National Park, if they don't like it....fuck off to Surrey, no no no not Surrey, full of cyclists I meant Surbiton.

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Forester [125 posts] 4 years ago
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Went for an hour's ride in the New Forest yesterday and met 9 horseriders, 1 horsedrawn cart and 3 cyclists. Horseriders ranged from friendly to offish, one cyclist said hello. Result of being careful and politely asking if it was OK to pass riders was 4 minutes longer for my usual route, wonder whether medal-chasing Wiggle riders would tolerate that. Some of the roads covered in ground-in horse manure, which never seems to get mentioned. Local riding centre regularly holds up traffic through the Summer as 10 or so nags plod out of New Milton with their cargo of unsmiling townees.

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KiwiMike [1410 posts] 4 years ago
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Petition up now at:

http://goo.gl/gIfC5i

Please share/ retweet / email / pidgeon post

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Zebedee [18 posts] 4 years ago
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KiwiMike wrote:

Petition up now at:

http://goo.gl/gIfC5i

Please share/ retweet / email / pidgeon post

Signed

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ollieclark [23 posts] 4 years ago
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How's about this for a protest:

Instead of giving the anti-bike brigade ammunition, one day all the cyclists go down in cars and drive through the New Forest. Stick to the speed limit, show consideration but cause absolute traffic mayhem. For added effect, have a bike strapped to the car. Oh and don't stop anywhere to spend money, just drive through and leave.

I was born and raised in the New Forest. I now live in Yorkshire. The difference is marked. I'm not inclined to go back.

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ironmancole [365 posts] 4 years ago
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It's plainly discriminatory and perhaps that's the avenue of attack although I do love the idea of a mass car visit. Thousands of cars all trashing the roads and clogging everything up. Have this once a fortnight as they clearly love their cars.

What puzzles me is how such a small bunch of likely obese royal wannabes can dictate to such a level in a national park?

Something is very wrong here.

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Eg3ftp1 [72 posts] 3 years ago
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It looks like this is significantly improved in the updated draft:

4.21 There has always been support for responsible recreational and utility cycling in the National Park. However the increase in large-scale organised cycling events over the last few years has resulted in considerable public concern locally, and a new cycling code and a charter for organisers of cycle events have recently been produced.
4.22 It is hoped that improved event notification procedures and clear advice from the Public Events and Safety Advisory Group11 will help to ensure that all kinds of major recreational events within the National Park in the future are well-managed, enjoyed by those involved and designed to reduce any impacts on the Park and its communities.

Well done everyone who wrote to complain.