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National Park set to hand back millions of funding in anti-cycling backlash

15 August 2014

The first ‘Boris Bike’ cycle hire scheme in the countryside faces being scrapped on Tuesday on the basis that local residents believe it is not ‘right to introduce more cyclists onto New Forest roads’.

 

Having successfully campaigned for a sustainable travel fund to be available to rural areas as well as cities [1], the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is extremely disappointed with the announcement that the New Forest could have to hand back £2 million to the Department for Transport at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday [2] 19 August.

20 cycle docking stations and 250 bikes, similar to those in London and increasing numbers of English cities, were due to have been installed in the east of the Forest by 2015. Local concerns over recent mass cycling races are being used to justify the proposed scrapping of this scheme.

Ralph Smyth, CPRE’s Senior Transport Campaigner, says:

“With 96% of visits to our National Parks estimated to be made by car [3], our most treasured landscapes are suffering under the weight of traffic. We urgently need to widen travel choices in rural areas, otherwise people spending the weekend in the countryside will end up finding the traffic as frustrating and suffocating as in the cities they are getting away from.

“At a time when funding for rural bus services is being slashed, CPRE believes this proposal to reject funding for cycling could be in breach of the statutory purpose of National Parks of ‘promoting opportunities for…enjoyment…by the public’. Although safety concerns have been raised regarding cycling, a recent police operation found that all the drivers being stopped in the area for speeding were local residents [4].”

Smyth continues:

‘Being against a family-friendly cycle hire scheme because of recent mass cycling races is as absurd as opposing new footpaths because of disruption caused by marathons. This scheme would actually allow visitors to avoid the usual hotspots and enjoy more of the New Forest in a sensitive and sustainable way.’

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

[1] Following pressure by CPRE in 2010 and 2011, the Department for Transport modified its proposals for an ‘Urban Challenge Fund’ into the ‘Local Sustainable Travel Fund’, which funds schemes across all of England.

[2] The New Forest National Park Authority is holding an Extraordinary Authority Meeting to decide the fate of the New Forest Public Bike System. A Task and Finish Group of its members unanimously recommended scrapping the project, despite a preferred supplier being identified and 11 out of 12 local businesses contacted being keen to provide space for docking stations on their own land. Funding has to be spent by April 2015.

[3] According to National Parks England, 2012.

[4] According to Safer New Forest website.

If you would like to talk to Ralph Smyth about this issue in more detail, please contact Benjamin Halfpenny at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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