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Could Epping Forest be the new New Forest?

Campaigners brand City of London's Epping Forest consultation "anti-cycling" and urge cyclists to respond before Sunday...

Campaigners say cyclists could be banned from large parts of Epping Forest, following what they are calling an "anti-cycling" consultation document from the City of London about future management of the Forest.

The consultation document, which will help inform the City of London's Epping Forest management strategy for the next ten years, asks respondents whether cycling should be banned "in line with all other vehicles" or whether no cycling areas or times of day should be identified,  or speed limits imposed for non-motorised vehicles.

Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign, a branch of the London Cycling Campaign, says the City needs to drop its anti-cycling stance and is calling on cyclists, making up more than 10% of visits, to make their views heard before the consultation closes on Sunday 4 October.

Waltham Forest Cyclists' website says: "The cycling section has a distinctly 'anti-bike' approach."

It says the City of London has "resisted provision being made for cycling despite 10% of forest visitors choosing to cycle", and "the consultation is mainly focussed on how to reduce and restrict cycling."

"We need to ensure Epping Forest drops their anti-bike stance and makes proper provision for cycling in order to realise the many benefits, otherwise we may well be looking at cycling being severely restricted or banned."

Although listing some benefits of cycling, the City says it can damage the landscape and create tensions with other visitors. It cites other public green spaces which restrict cycle use to a greater extent than the Forest. 

Concerns raised include the dangers of mountain biking to wildlife, notably deer and horse riders, and even to the riders themselves, echoing concerns often raised in the New Forest, which has a small but very vocal group of anti-cycling campaigners.

Although cycles are allowed through much of the forest the City says it has received complaints about cyclists, notably mountain bikers, riding inconsiderately. A Forest byelaw, which carries up to a £200 fine, prohibits cycling "to the danger, injury, annoyance or inconvenience of the public".

Other questions in the consultation ask whether the City should seek further powers to manage issues resulting from cycling, and whether it should be "continuing to resist" journeys that pass through the Forest by bike but don't stop there.

The City of London calls it "the largest consultation we have ever undertaken" and says the management plan it draws up following the consultation will "conserve both the forest's character and its relevance to Londoners as a major recreational resource".

The document is split into six themes and people can choose which areas to respond to from within those criteria. The consultation ends on 4 October, and can be found here. Respondents will need to register before completing the relevant sections.

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