New Forest needs new attitudes over cyclists

Cyclists in the New Forest have reported rising tensions over the growing popularity of leisure cycling and sportives in the National Park.

Their comments follow the release of a new cycling code of conduct, which a number of cyclists have said is “generally common sense”, but unfairly singles out bike users, while some believe that this perceived anti-cyclist feeling has been exacerbated by sensationalist local news reporting.

>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<

New Forest resident Rich Young told Cycling Weekly: “As a cyclist I have never felt as threatened on the roads of the New Forest as I do now.

“It is not the volume of traffic, it is some mentality on the roads generated by a completely unjustified hatred to cycling and cycling events in the New Forest.

“Nobody’s got any problem with what they are saying in this code of conduct, but it seems to be using a hammer to crack a nut.”

He added, “We aren’t the ones causing the deaths on the roads or the congestion.”

Last April, tensions peaked when the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was sabotaged by vandals throwing tacks on the road and removing signs.

Since then, local objections to large cycling events have resulted in the local showground withdrawing permission for the event to use the car park.

In local newspapers, cyclists have also been accused of using foul language, “literally defecating on a local green” and both deliberately slowing down traffic and exceeding the speed limit.

Eamonn Deane, who writes a cycle column in the Bournemouth Daily Echo, said: “There is a lot of contentious stuff going on between cycling groups, sportives and parish councils – and the local media enjoy it because it is one group against the other.”

Deane added: “It always seems to be incumbent on [cyclists] and whilst we do have a responsibility I’m not sure we have any more responsibility than any other road user.”

The 14-point code was agreed by 20 organisations, including the New Forest Park Authority and local police, CTC, Sustrans and local forums, following concerns over the effect of mass-participation events on the New Forest and its wildlife, including ponies.

The code advises cyclists to be considerate, to not drop litter, to take care around animals and to ride at appropriate speeds.

Claims that cycling threatens animal safety have been made by those keen to curb cycling, despite statistics showing the recent increase in animal accidents is totally unrelated to cyclists.

While acknowledging that the New Forest faces challenges to balance the interests of different users, British Cycling registered coach Jason Falconer feels the code is at times contradictory.

“It says on narrow roads ride single file – nobody should do that for their own safety because if you are on a narrow corner with limited visibility you don’t want to be pushed into the hedge. Then it says ride positively, avoid the edge,” he said.

Sion Donovan, communications officer at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “There was a bit of a reaction on social media asking why there is a code for cycling and not for motorists. There were a lot of people thinking this is the Authority imposing their will on local people.”

Meanwhile Ian Murray, editor-in-chief of the Southern Daily Echo, defended what he called the paper’s “balanced reporting of comments”. He suggested in a recent column that people need to stop seeing cyclists as either angels or devils, and realise that while there are problems associated with mass cycling events, cycling is also a healthy and friendly pastime.

External link
New Forest cycling code of conduct