Cycling in the Forest - Burley Village Magazine

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Cycling in the Forest - Burley Village Magazine

Post by BurleyPAB » Wed Dec 01, 2021 9:33 pm

Following up the Facebook post, I'm wondering if anyone would like to ask the Verderers a few questions?

Below are two recent articles from Burley Village Magazine (I’m the editor):
- one from a cyclist, reacting to the Verderers suggesting £100 fine for cyclists off the specified tracks etc
- a long response from a well-respected forester.

Now I’m looking for a balancing article. Max 400 words. Could ask some questions like why the permitted tracks don’t go anywhere? What’s the damage if someone cycles on one of the other gravelled tracks (which are used by foresters’ vehicles)? How many animals killed or injured last year, what percentage caused by bikes? Would they ever consider reviewing the current restrictions? Was there any consultation before (or after) the restrictions were imposed?

It has to factual and polite! And I will send a copy to the Head Verderer asking if they would like to reply.

November 2021: Cycling in the Forest
The Verderers are pushing for introduction of £100 fixed penalty notices for anti-social behaviour, according to a recent article in the Lymington Times. This targets “off-road cyclists, owners of out-of-control dogs and people using barbecues”. Parking on verges and electric bikes would be prohibited.
It saddens me when cyclists are bundled this way with fly tippers, litter louts and fire-starters. The vast majority of bikers in the Forest love this habitat and do everything possible to keep an eye out for the animals, things that need addressing or anyone that may cause a threat to the peace and tranquillity of this amazing area.
The enjoyment and health benefits of cycling through the Forest also bring a vast amount of business and revenue, and not just in the summer months. That article also targets electric bikes as a problem; in fact they are slower than non-electric in the UK. Before making assumptions we need to think about what this innovation has meant to elderly and handicapped people looking to improve their physical and mental health, and the implications of exclusions for some people.
Before any such Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are considered by forestry committees and government I feel local views should be heard by the people living and paying their taxes in this area.
How many times have we seen overnight camping and fires, rubbish left by visitors? Any PSPO should aim at the damage they cause, giving the authorities power to take details and fine where appropriate and to move inappropriate visitors on. In my opinion, seeking out bikers as somehow destructive is unhelpful and simply not true.
My wife has hacked her Forest pony across the Forest for most of her life and we both also enjoy days together on horse and bike at the same time. My wife’s Forest Pony, ‘Frosty’ loves following me on my bike. There is a lot more that can be done to link up the bridle ways of the new Forest. At the moment there are just many bridle ways that actually don’t go anywhere other than within a specific enclosure.
Rather than looking to hide our precious forest and impose restrictions we should be looking to promote and improve people’s enjoyment when walking or cycling through this ancient woodland.
Andy Newman

December 2021: From the Inclosure
Recent incidents, conversations and letters have prompted me to resurrect the keyboard to try and explain the thorny question of the proposed Public Space Protection Order and cycling on the New Forest. Before I go any further let me assure you the majority of cyclists come and enjoy this beautiful place without giving cause for concern, but if you think this applies to all cyclists then you are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Unfortunately the 144 square miles of Crown land which is bounded by the Perambulation of the New Forest sits within the New Forest National Park but it is not, as some might like to assume, a theme park. It is an area of land whose unique landscape supports many endangered species of flora and fauna. It is so important that it has been designated as an international RAMSAR site, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, A Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation.
The miles of gravelled tracks that criss-cross the New Forest are not bridleways nor are they cycle tracks, they have been built for the management of the Forest and for the extraction of its end-product i.e. timber. In order to protect this rare place and at the same time allow the general populace to enjoy it, Forestry England have designated some 100 miles of their gravelled roads as cycle routes. These have been carefully chosen to avoid damage or disturbance to sensitive areas but they are not, however, for the exclusive use of cyclists. Walkers, horse riders, carriage drivers and permitted vehicle use them too.
Whilst the vast majority of cyclists are content to stay on these tracks there is, I’m sorry to say, a growing genre of anarchistic individuals who choose to disregard the signage and ride across areas where they risk harming and disrupting rare and endangered species. Be under no illusion these are not an odd one or two, we encounter them frequently and on a daily basis. Now, before you jump up and down and say I’m talking rubbish, I challenge you to walk down any grass ride or across the open Forest and I’ll guarantee before long you’ll find either off-road cyclists or their tyre tracks. It’s this minority of cyclists who are the problem and it is these, along with the racers who show no respect for the Forest and the others who use it, and those who ride through the Inclosures at night, who should be targeted by the proposed Public Space Protection Order.
Electric bikes have also been the topic of much discussion and one needs to consider the Forest by-laws, one of which states there is a maximum speed limit on the New Forest of 20mph and 15mph when in an Inclosure. And whilst electric bikes in the UK are restricted to an assisted speed limit of 15.5 mph they can, by further pedalling, reach speeds of up to 28mph and illegal electric bikes which, apparently, are available can reach speeds of 50mph! Furthermore, the by-laws also state the only vehicle propelled by electric power which is permitted on the Forest is an invalid carriage! At the moment Forestry England seem to be turning a blind eye to the subject of electric bikes but I’m sure if the situation escalates then further action will become necessary.
Forestry England have a very difficult balancing act to perform in order to please everyone so why not just follow the by-laws and the signage and help them to preserve this beautiful part of England for future generations to enjoy.
Ian Thew

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