Saturday, 22 November 2014

Response to New Forest National Park antipathy to Cycling

In response to the New Forest Management Plan,  whose only provision for cycling was concerns about large groups, (deadline for submissions 19th Dec 2014), I submitted the following;

I was born on the edge of the New Forest, at Highcliffe, and spent many happy days in my childhood cycling into the New Forest (even at quite a young age). I am now 50, and living in Poole, so a rarer visitor, but far more likely to come with my bike than otherwise, and have occasionally cycled with my family.

I am shocked by the current negative attitude of the New Forest NPA to cycling. I know that a grant was revoked because of this, and that there are certain noisy interests who are anti-cycling, but surely it is the duty of a National Park Authority to balance all interests, and in particular to contribute to the really important work of reducing childhood and adult obesity by encouraging all sustainable activity through the area.

I understand the conflict that large scale events can cause, but the forest is big enough that it really should be possible to manage such things, and core to the values of a national park.

 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."

Your management plan talks about supporting sustainable travel options, but then only developing the bus services, to reduce car arrivals by 5%. This ambition is very limited.

In particular, I do not see how the refusal of bike hire facilities or silence on any other enhancements ties to the concern about big events (which seems to be the only mention you make of cycling in section 4.20 and 4.21).

NFNPA should include proactive measures to enhance the leisure use of the Forest by bike for families and small groups (especially using the train stations as entry points, but also potentially encouraging bike racks on buses through the Forest), and rather than just look to "control" cycle events (do you do the same for walkers, riders, car rallies), aim to work out routes and potentially adding tracks to mitigate pinch-point locations.

In your 5 year plan I would like to see positive measures to encourage all sustainable travel options, in order to justify the designation "National" Park, your public funding, to balance the needs of all potential park users, and to contribute to mitigating the obesity pandemic.

Andy Hadley, Poole