Wednesday 13 August 2014

New Forest: Cyclists Fuck off. Official

In June, an article arguing that Sportives are the new Critical Mass —and that the way to get back at the haters would be to go to the Wiggle event, wave your wallet around and bring tourist ££s to the community.

This week the New forest National Parks Authority —which already has a code of behaviour for everyone, and one for organised events, has come out and is planning to hand back £3.7 Million pounds to encourage family cycling round the area by having a boris-bike scheme biased towards leisure use.

That's nothing to do with Sportives, nobody is going to turn up, rent a forest-boris-bike and then do an 80 miler. Few people are going to head down to the forest for a weekend carrying Sky team wear and get changed in it to cycle with the rest of the family for half an hour. Boris Bikes and Sportives have nothing in common except they involve people cycling on public roads.

The NPAs rationale for their decision makes it clear this is because they hate cyclists.
Since the original feasibility study was done and the invitation to tender was issued, the backdrop to cycling in the New Forest and elsewhere has changed significantly.
Actually, nothing major has happened nationally, only locally:
In the New Forest a major anti-cycling sentiment has come to the fore in the wake of large-scale cycle sportive events which have impacted on local people.

True. But what does this have to do with leisure bike rentals?
A fresh wave of concern exists about the safety of on-road cycling. 
From who? People who want to cycle, or people who hate cyclists and are trying to come up with reasons to block these proposals?
Concerns about safety featured prominently in the responses to the recent questionnaire about the proposed scheme, especially amongst those who live and work in the Forest.

That is a metric for sentiment against cyclists in the area, not evidence that cycling in the forest has become less safe.

To put it differently:

1. If no evidence that cycling has got more dangerous  "emerged in timescales parallel to the running of the procurement process" then the safety claim is completely spurious and should be dismissed. 

Because if it hasn't actually got more dangerous, then the safety conditions for cycling in the forest are exactly as they were when the process started. All that has happened is that NIMBYs objecting to the proposal out of their hate for sportives have been using safety as an excuse in their objections.

2. If it has got more dangerous, then this is a situation which the NPA and local authorities must address, not by discouraging cycling —but by making the roads safer.

The NPA should publish their objections. No doubt the haters couldn't just say "I hate them lycra-clad riders we should ban them all", so do have to hide it "I don't think it's safe for people to cycle on the roads"

And the authority has gone along with sentiment, rather than saying "we have a duty to encourage sustainable tourism". Instead they are saying

Some of those who live and work in the Forest hate cyclists and will do anything to stop people cycling in the Forest. We, the National Parks Authority are prepared to acquiesce to their demands, even if it means returning millions of pounds of central government funding which was meant to encourage tourists to visit the area in ways that minimises congestion.

What to do now? There's still the wiggle sportive: get down there and show the haters that you are not intimidated. Make it the cyclists equivalent of Pride Parades.

And now that the NPA are using "perceived cyclist safety" as a reason for cancelling projects, then any proposal that appears to endanger cyclists in the area must be objected to on these grounds. To show them up for being hypocritical wankers that they appear to be.


  1. The apparent source of the "Major anti-cycling sentiment" (unless it is simply the authority members' own prejudice, or the ear-bending they have had from a coterie of geriatric blow-ins anxious to preserve the chocolate-box prettiness of the forest along with their ability to drive unimpeded to Asda in Southampton) is a consultation which elicited 136 responses, in the normal way of such consultations all 136 being self-selected.

    The analysis of those responses by the cycling officer for the NPA indicates a very marginal disagreement to the scheme (average score 2.81, where 1 is strongly disagree and 3 is neither agree nor disagree) in the area most affected ie around Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, and a modest positive (average 3.59 where 4 is Agree) in the rest of the Park.

    Major anti-cycling sentiment?

    The survey also suggests that respondents thought that the scheme would, on balance, benefit visitors, but would not benefit local residents or businesses (presumably direct benefit - surely anything which attracts visitors must be of indirect benefit to local business). That tells you something about their personal attitudes to riding a bicycle, themselves, although it would be interesting to see how attitudes changed if the scheme was implemented and locals gave it a try after looking out their windows and seeing that their weekly trip to the supermarket was going to be a slow business due to the traffic jams.

    The NPA members do appear to have very weak grounds for turning down the money they originally applied for, and which could have been awarded to another authority - such as Haslemere in Surrey which is seeking status as a gateway to the South Downs national Park - which suggests to me that they have committed an act of malfeasance in public office and should be surcharged.

  2. I refuse to go to any event that makes helmet wearing a mandatory condition of participation...

  3. NF verderers, on the whole*, sound like a bunch of arseholes but they are clued up arseholes. They've realised they can't say "I hate cyclists ban them" but know that "we love those guys but we think it's really dangerous for the poor mites, now ban them!" does work. I just can't believe the NPA fall for it

    *if there are any pro cyclist verderers we don't get to hear about them.