Only last week, we were slagging off the New Forest charter as bollocks, with those final changes showing the real opinions of the group
- The cause of the charter is "concerns from some local people"
- The issue is not "Impacts on the Forest", it is "inconvenience to other road users"
Our summary was: The whole thing is bollocks and the NFNPA should be told to fuck off.
Which is exactly what the CTC and the organisers of the Wiggle event have done.
And the reaction of the NFNPA? Parish business as usual. According to road.cc, the "amended minutes" are:
- The NPA will only support the draft Charter if it is amended to include cap of 1000 cyclists and to require that rides wear rear numbers and
- If the Charter is not adhered to … the NPA will look to persuade the Government to change legislation so that local authorities will have control over the events.
They recognise that the charter has no teeth to it —and rather than say "never mind, please work with our SAG to ensure we all get on", they say "If it is not adhered to we want laws to give local authorities control over events".
They would fucking love that control, wouldn't they. No doubt driving somewhere to their meeting where they set the limit on cycle groups for the season. The Bournemouth Echo says
NPA member Maureen Holding, said: “If this doesn't work we should call in the MP and pursue rules and regulations that are enforceable. We want safety in our forest and we want everyone to be able to enjoy the area, not just cyclists.”
Meanwhile, road.cc adds "Our source at the meeting reports that Ms Holding said she believed a limit of 500 would be more appropriate"
This woman is still claiming the "safety in the forest" myth, even though the final charter admits it is inconvenient, then says "well, let's just call our MP"
That's Maureen "I'm not anti-cycling but" Holding, who is "not anti cycling, but " ... “I’ve always said the cycling charter needs more teeth – it hasn’t got the bite that it needs.”
She's the one who has been saying for months that "a change in the law is needed". And clearly she thinks that 500 should be the limit. Remember though: that limit is not "per ride", it is "total number of participants in sportives that day".
If Maureen "I'm not anti-cycling but" Holding, gets her way, she'd have a limit of 500 bicycles/day in her forest.
Sadly for her: it's not going to happen.
What will happen?
The next Wiggle sportive will be a test. Will the uncontroversial bits of the charter be followed, and will it go down well? If not, what are the problems? Will there be locals putting up posters? Criminals putting down tacks at risk of causing injury? Or just some gripes about "too many cyclists"? Regardless: if there are any issues, the cyclist haters in the NFNPA will be blaming the cyclists, saying there were too many of them, etc, etc.
There will be a summer. The forest will grind to a halt on holiday weekends, animals will get killed by cars, there will be multiple crashes and possibly some deaths related to it. Hopefully none, especially any involving cyclists. If a cyclist is on the KSI statistics, this will reinforce prejudices "they shouldn't have been there". The presence of large traffic jams most weekends will not be considered a problem.
Cyclists will cycle round the forest. As is their right. They will spend money in cafes and restaurants, B&Bs. Anyone planning to visit the forest should try to spend money ostentatiously "I wanted to visit the forest while it was still legal to cycle here", or "I know the forest has got a reputation for hating cyclists, but having visited it I can see it's just a few parish councillors and not the majority of the people". There's no harm in making clear that you are aware of and don't approve of the NPA members' actions —while recognising it doesn't imply the rest of the area is so narrow minded.
The Bournemouth Echo will print cycling scare stories. This paper could say "we're not anti-cycling, but..." as the opener to their weekly editorials. They've printed articles on "growing number of cyclists 'frightening' people in the New Forest". They've consistently used resentment to sportives to support the killing of the Boris Bike plans: sportive photos over family ride photos, no attempt to even defend the ideas. Presumably they will repeat their tired, repetitive agenda. Which is a shame as there's another big story they havent looked at: how a small clique of parish councillors took over the national park authority, lost the region £1.6M of government funding and are now threatening the sole tourism mechanism that the forest could realistically sustain.
The NFNPA members will remain in power. The power group that got in on the basis that something must be done will stay in their committees, have a meaningless piece of paper and will have their supporters fuming whenever they are held up. These are the same people that lost the forest £1.6M already. What they will do is refuse to recognise the loss is their fault "the government' didn't accept our reasonable proposals from local people," and double-down on their efforts to have some kind of legislation to put teeth behind their bollocks. What they've probably underestimated is how hard it would be get any legislation through. It's one thing to set lighting up times in a parish, to push through your agenda in a park authority for which membership has not been contentious in the past —another for a clique of NIMBY parish councillors to try and set the laws of a country.
There will be an election. It's too late for the NFNPA to ask for local authority "regulation" before that election. After it, there's a new queen's speech and then "100 days" for the new government to make a visible impact. Possibly, if the new government is conservative majority, or Conservative+UKIP+DUP, the new forest MP has a chance of going to them and arguing that some form of regulation is worth listing. If its Cons+LibDem, he can ask, but there's less chance of it flying. If it is labour: they won't even sit down to talk to him. He's not on their team and they have other things to worry about.
The only way some form of regulation on cycling on public roads will come about is tacked in to some other general bill, such as some road traffic one. So look out for them.
And cyclists who care? There's the sportive, there's day trips.
There's also the option to stage a mass informal protest.
- Agree on a single day to visit the forest, some time in spring, post sportive, before peak season.
- Plan to come over to the forest, ideally on a weekend trip, staying nearby and spending money locally.
- Even if there is only 1 or 2 of you: contact the SAG, announce that you are coming, check to make sure that you are below the "1000 limit" for aggregate event attendees, ask what numbers you should wear. Do this to make a point that an aggregate limit is unworkable.
- Turn up and ride. Maybe plan in advance some meetup points. Maybe not: the key thing is a mass visit of cyclists to the area, riding down every road, enjoying themselves.
It says : we will not be intimidated.
It says: you can make up whatever charter you want, you can't stop us without making cycling in the forest illegal.
It says: you are outnumbered.