In what’s believed the be the first such scheme outside a metropolitan area, electronically-controlled hire bikes — like Paris’ Velibs and London’s Boris Bikes — are set to be operated in the New Forest.
The forest bikes are part of a £3.7 million plan to make cycling in the area more family-friendly, funded by the Department for Transport. It’s part of a £17 million initiative to encourage cycling in national parks.
The bike hire system is due to launch in April 2015 with an initial roll-out of around 20 docking stations and 250 bikes, according to TransportXtra.
Docking stations will be located close to public transport links, tourist attractions and accommodation in the south-east of the New Forest National Park.
The national park authority says the hire scheme is expected to create more than 30 new jobs and generate income for local businesses. It is estimated that bike use will replace 127,000 car journeys every year.
The New Forest National Park Authority is working with consultant Atkins to develop a procurement strategy and specification for the scheme. James Datson, senior consultant at Atkins, says: “The project will support existing cycle hire providers and offer further opportunities to increase cycling among the 13.5m visitors to the New Forest each year.”
Given the historical antipathy toward cycling of some New Forest residents, it’s perhaps unsurprising that some aspects of the scheme have not gone down well with some New Forest residents.
The plans include a family cycling centre at Brockenhurst, the former base of the sportive rides that are now run from outside the Forest thanks to local opposition.
At a National Park Authority meeting, parish council chairman Russell Horne claimed the potential influx of new riders was likely to increase the dangers faced by enthusiasts, according to the Daily Echo.
He added: “We had no advance knowledge of this announcement and had not been included in any part of the consultation process, even though much of the proposed activity will centre on Brockenhurst.
“The lack of consultation has led to a lack of support for the plans.
“The proposals would lead to a significant increase in the number of cyclists being channelled onto routes that are already inadequate and potentially dangerous.”
And National Park Authority member Maureen Holding, who is also a Brockenhurst parish councillor, said: “Brockenhurst was not informed that it was going to be the cycling centre of the New Forest.
We’re almost swamped with visitors in the summer. This will bring many more visitors to the area.”
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.