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"Someone could be killed": Path users blame speeding cyclists for New Forest danger

A bridge closure means access to one route is via two steep gravel paths — a popular spot for cyclists, walkers and horse riders, something visitors say has caused conflict

Walkers and horse riders have complained of being put in danger by cyclists riding down steep gravel tracks at high speeds at a popular New Forest beauty spot.

 Speaking to local news outlet the Advertiser & Times one walker suggested "someone could be killed" if cyclists continue to descend the incline rather than dismounting to walk as signs ask.

The embankment paths connect two sections of a route separated by a disused bridge which is to be demolished. To continue on the path, users must descend to the level below before rising back up the other side.

Christine Day told the press: "They are supposed to dismount and walk up and down the paths but they don't. Instead, they seem to view it as a sort of super challenge where they go really fast down one path so they can get up the next without stopping.

"It's really scary when you are walking along and suddenly a bike is hurtling towards you. I fear someone could be killed by either being knocked over, or a cyclist coming to grief."

The path user reported seeing horses spooked by a group riding the trail, causing them to charge towards her and a friend.

"The horses just took off in our direction. If we had not been able to jump out the way I think we would have been killed," she continued.

"We had the horses in front of us and the cyclists rode up really fast towards them. The horses were spooked then, to make it worse, the bike riders started shouting and waving their arms around.

"Some cyclists using these paths don't seem to care about anyone else at all."

The bridge has been closed for five years, with Forestry England saying it is "beyond repair and needs to be demolished".

However, a sign saying works will begin in early 2022 has been defaced by frustrated path users, prompting a spokesperson to say it has been delayed by the pandemic and an increase in popularity of the area.

In another incident a horse rider was taken to hospital after being thrown off and dragged along the gravel when their animal was "spooked by a cyclist hurtling down the railway embankment".

"He was spooked by a cyclist hurtling down the railway embankment and he shot forward," they said.

"I stayed on as long as possible before giving in to the inevitable – my injuries made worse by holding on to him and being dragged along gravel."

On the social media post sharing photos of the rider's bruising, a mother said she does not walk with her toddler there anymore having been scared off.

Disputes over access and use of the New Forest's network of off-road paths are nothing new. Last May, the Beyond New Forest sportive was cancelled after Forestry England threatened legal action against the organisers.

> New Forest sportive cancelled after Forestry England threatens legal action

Roughly 500 riders had been due to ride the 62 or 100-mile events, but it was cancelled after Forestry England, which is responsible for off-road tracks within the New Forest, said it would seek an injunction to prevent it going ahead.

At the start of 2022, the New Forest Association said it had recorded 550 instances of cyclists riding off designated tracks and blamed the "anti-social" behaviour for damage to the national park.

The comments came almost a year to the day since Forestry England was told to "toughen up" action against "out of control" cyclists, prompting fears that more than 100 miles of off-road cycle routes in the New Forest could be axed.

Main image: Mike Faherty / Geograph

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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34 comments

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OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
5 likes

Gien how many horses are killed by poorly driven motor vehicles in the New Forest each year, you'd think people would be a bit smarter about who to blame for road dangers in the area.

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grOg replied to OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
0 likes

nice whataboutism there.. anyone that cycles at speed on a shared path deserves a stick in the spokes.

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lonpfrb | 2 years ago
3 likes

The British Cycling best practice agreement with RHS shows what is expected to share space with Horses safely and the New Forest Code regarding how to ride around horses suggests that selfish fools are at work here. Mainstream media anti-cycling bias removed any benefit of the doubt to generalise that all cyclists ride like selfish fools. Not hate speech literally but part of that toxicity.

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Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
6 likes

NF Horse riders have made a lot of noise over the years about cyclists straying off the dedicated cycle routes and onto 'their' paths all over the forest, claiming that a 100kg rider and bike on inflatable rubber tyres does more damage than a 450kg horse and rider on steel shod hoofs. This particular track is the most used and well known dedicated track in the Forest, an old railway line from Brockenhurst. It is unlikely that any bike rider would reach a speed of more than 10mph on the uphill at this bridge because it is so steep, there is very little benefit to zooming down from the other side because you are negotiating a tight arc. With so many pedestrians, dog walkers, kids on bikes on this track, I would expect the horse riders to dismount for safety reasons or perhaps use one of their 000's of private paths that run alongside this stretch. 

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Padwah replied to Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
4 likes

Muddy Ford wrote:

NF Horse riders have made a lot of noise over the years about cyclists straying off the dedicated cycle routes and onto 'their' paths all over the forest, claiming that a 100kg rider and bike on inflatable rubber tyres does more damage than a 450kg horse and rider on steel shod hoofs. This particular track is the most used and well known dedicated track in the Forest, an old railway line from Brockenhurst. It is unlikely that any bike rider would reach a speed of more than 10mph on the uphill at this bridge because it is so steep, there is very little benefit to zooming down from the other side because you are negotiating a tight arc. With so many pedestrians, dog walkers, kids on bikes on this track, I would expect the horse riders to dismount for safety reasons or perhaps use one of their 000's of private paths that run alongside this stretch. 

If you're on a bike there is quite an advantage to zooming down one side as its a very shallow arc and gives you quite boost up the other side of the embankment. Which is the crux of the problem as you can't see what's passing under the bridge whilst you do it, which can lead to conflict with other cyclists, riders or walkers passing under the bridge.

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grOg replied to Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
0 likes

Why should horse riders riding at slow speed dismount? and I would postulate that deeply treaded bike tyres on bikes ridden at speed would do more damage to unmade surfaces than horses would, ridden at slow speed.

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kil0ran | 2 years ago
5 likes

Sight lines aren't great due to bushes, etc. but it's hardly steep, technical, or even remotely challenging. Also, now that that the underpass is closed there's no conflicting "traffic"

When the bridge was still in use a pinch point was in place to slow riders going across it (you can see it on Google Maps here - https://goo.gl/maps/ewiwUCUC6TwL7by58

Sadly there will always be dickheads, and that part of the forest is busier with people unfamiliar with the area, and possibly with the New Forest Code regarding how to ride around horses. The track links a large campsite with Brockenhurst on a largely straight and well made gravel track so it certainly isn't going to be something ridden for the technical challenge.

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HoarseMann replied to kil0ran | 2 years ago
2 likes

Thanks for the local info. I can't see why you would have to get off and walk down that gravel slope, it's even signposted as a cycle route! https://goo.gl/maps/Qxu5NpM95LFrZKXZA

But it is quite steep and loose. Is it really a place where people would ride, or even lead, a horse up?

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Padwah replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
8 likes

The issue generally isn't with horse riders coming up and down the slope of the embankment. Its with horse riders passing under the bridge when cyclists come down the slope of the embankment to ride up the other side due to the bridge being closed.

If you're coming down the embankment slope you have no visibility of what is passing under the bridge until you're at the bottom of the slope putting you in to conflict with other cyclists, riders or walkers which is why its advised to get off.

There is a signpost advising cyclists to dismount, but its A4, mounted low to the ground and is basically an essay. Unless you stopped to read it you wouldn't know what it said, I've ridden that route thousands of times and only stopped to readit the other day after the article in the local paper.

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Padwah replied to kil0ran | 2 years ago
5 likes

The underpass at Longslade Bottom is closed but the underpass at Logslade View is still open and is where the horse rider came off after their horse was spooked by a cyclist.

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HoarseMann replied to Padwah | 2 years ago
3 likes

Looks like they've conflated the two issues, the bridge & underpass being closed might have actually made the Longslade Bottom access safer than Logslade View!

Irrespective of the bridge being closed, the access onto the trail from the car park is quite difficult due to the steepness.

What they ought to do is turn those steep ramps at the bridge into steps for pedestrians, then create a couple of alternative tracks with a more gradual slope that join up either side of the bridge. This would create better sight lines and enable safe access to the trail for those in mobility scooters etc. With this being part of a Sustrans route, the Forestry Commission could perhaps share the cost of the work with them.

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brooksby | 2 years ago
6 likes

Isn't at least part of the problem here, and the risk to life quoted in the headline, coming from two tonnes of skittish animal which isn't entirely under the control of its rider...?

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Flintshire Boy replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

.

Correct..

Cyclists are never in the wrong.

EVER.

.

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mdavidford replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
6 likes

Has someone hacked FB's account? This haiku layout doesn't look right.

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chrisonabike replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
5 likes

I think they're experimenting with calligrams - I'm guessing this one's a fist with middle digit raised?

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brooksby replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
1 like

.

Erm...

.

So you don't think that the big timid animals might

.

(just might)

.

be part

.

of

.

the problem?

.

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

#rideswerenotmadeforcyclists

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Sriracha replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

No.

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grOg replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

Nice bit of victim blaming there.. like motorists saying cyclists riding on roads at much slower speeds than motor vehicles are part of the problem for getting hit/ close passed; just deal with idiots on bicycles being a social menace on shared paths.

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brooksby replied to grOg | 2 years ago
2 likes

Not really.  Or, at least, not exactly the same thing.  I wasn't commenting on fast vs slow, which would fit into your analogy better.

The article says 

Quote:

The path user reported seeing horses spooked by a group riding the trail, causing them to charge towards her and a friend.

"The horses just took off in our direction. If we had not been able to jump out the way I think we would have been killed," she continued.

so the horses (big easily spooked domesticated but not completely controlled) are at least part of the problem and part of the "Someone could be killed" risk to life.  

Bicycles on a road are usually not actually spooked by motor traffic, and they don't run off out of their rider's control...  Not very often, anyway.

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Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
8 likes

Quote:

 "We had the horses in front of us and the cyclists rode up really fast towards them. The horses were spooked then, to make it worse, the bike riders started shouting and waving their arms around."

Who are these MTB riders who can ride really fast on gravel tracks with no hands waving their arms around?

Quote:

"If we had not been able to jump out the way I think we would have been killed."

There was a car driving down my street this morning when I went out to get breakfast, if I hadn't been able to move onto the pavement I think I would've been killed...

I have seen MTB riders acting like dicks on the New Forest and other trails (and horseriders, and offroaders) but some people's accounts of the activities of cyclists do border on hysteria.

 

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Clem Fandango replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
8 likes

It does kind of smack of some "embellishment" doesn't it?

It's that kind of article / complainant though - cyclists are always "zooming" along (or "hurtling" here).  Unless of course in front of a motor vehicle, in which case they just hold people up....by riding 15 abreast at 10 miles per hour for 27 miles.

 

 

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
11 likes

Maybe Forestry England should do their fricking job and instead of downgrading a path actually invest to put a safe bridge back in.

I dont know the area but I'm guessing sight lines aren;'t the best and thus the cyclists are just trying to maintain momentum.

Much like white lines - dismount signs have no business making up infrastructure.

Are the horse riders being asked to dismount?  I suspect not.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
5 likes

The linked article shows the picture of at least one side of the bridge and tbh it doesn't look that steep that a cyclist couldn't get up it if on a MTB/ gravel bike even going slowly. However it won't stop them wanting to use speed for less effort. In this case the cyclist is probably the least vulnerable user in the hierachy and does need to be more responsible. 

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Secret_squirrel replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
9 likes

Sorry disagree.  The heirarchy of vunerability has nothing to do with it.

The first rule of health and safety is that you take positive steps to create a safe environment, not cop out with a sign.  At the very least they could clear the bushes at the top and middle to create better sight lines.

A slow down sign would be far more likely to be observed.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

I was going to mention a warning sign and slow down would be better. The article shows a sign about the bridge rebuild, but no Dismount sign which I'm sure would have been included with the story if there. 

But I do think the heirachy of vulnerability should be used, especially as unlike motorvehicles, cyclists do have the ability to be towards the top or towards the bottom of that depending where they are riding and who they are mixing with. 

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mdavidford replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
6 likes

It can be both, though - FE are failing in their responsibility to provide an adequate route AND some cyclists are not recognising their responsibilities as the least vulnerable user. The former doesn't give the latter a get out of jail free card.

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brooksby replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
4 likes

Are horsists counted as more or less vulnerable than cyclists?

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mdavidford replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
3 likes

HC lumps them together (along with horse-drawn vehicles), but does say that cyclists should give way to horsists on bridleways (fair enough - they're not called saddleways, after all).

Some of the supplementary material that was doing the rounds when the changes were coming in had pedestrians > horse riders > cyclists.

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chrisonabike replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
8 likes

Bicycles are obviously less vulnerable and more of a threat.  That's why the police use officers on penny-farthings to control crowds and have very occasionally used the "bicycle charge" to disperse them.

Less flippantly horses do get spooked and bicycles can certainly do this - especially one of mine.  An out of control horse is a bad thing to all involved.  I'd say an out of control bike - if not much rarer - is generally only a risk to the rider.  Unless it's the UK where our designers are happy to send cyclists down steep hills into pedestrians...

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