Thursday 8 January 2015

The New Forest NPA: criminalising cycling in the countryside

So, the NFNPA cycling "charter" is up, some nominal support from cycling organisations,  and Hants police. What's in it? Being a word document showing last minute revisions, extra insight

Why the charter? "concerns from some local people". Nobody else. Not the NPA itself, not the police or council, locals.

This charter does  not replace or detract from the need to comply with the highway code or highway legislation

What it doesn't say is 'all the rights granted by highway legislation are not removed by this charter'. Especially the one where it says cyclists have a right to cycle on a public highway.

Because this charter isn't about rights, its about taking them away

All rides of 100+ are expected to contact the group. Planning a club ride? It's ok if there there is 99 or less. 100 or more: expected to co-operate and comply.

 This shows the truth, the impacts of the forest aren't irreplaceable environment damage, household pets being run over, speeding cyclists killing children. No, it's "inconvenience to other road users". They throw in the sop of 'and other cyclists', just to spread the blame.

"avoid use of quiet country roads". This again shows the real concern "inconvenience", and why so many millions in the now-defunct "Plan B" was to be spent widening a road. For the haters behind this charter, there is nothing worse than being held up by cyclists"

Again, that repetition of the duties of the highway code, not the rights. And we've suddenly gone from implying that cyclists are an "inconvenience' to "irresponsible"

Maybe pre-event briefings should cover those rights too, just for completeness. And for fairness, when the "New Forest Drivers Charter" is published, anyone organising an event with >100 cars will have to offer a pre-ride briefing on the highway code responsibilities

Again, the mention of "riding in single file", and highlights this. Note that the comment claims that it could be for an emergency vehicle: it's for your own good.  We call that "post-rationalisation"

This raises some questions. The implication of wearing a number is that "offenders" can be reported: but what for? For cycling two abreast? Could someone really phone up and say "I was held up by four cyclists riding two-abreast, here are their numbers?"

The second paragraph implies it, taking action against participants who "contravene event rules", e..g "banned from future events for ... cycling in a peleton".

In the absence of any definition of "peleton", what the fuck does this mean? As on a sportive its inevitable groups will form. Not necessarily fast ones, but groups, wheelsucking or turn taking. Is this now a crime?

As for banning: will that be from a specific event, like "wiggle sportives", or will it be from all rides in the area

Are the NFNPA proposing being able to ban cyclists from all events in the area?

The whole thing is bollocks and the NFNPA should be told to fuck off.

Realistically, Wiggle aren't going to, as they don't want to have the council, verderers and park authorities go out their way to make things already harder than they have. Wiggle are already forced to start outside the NF, they have to deal with Verderers apparently changing drift dates, and if people really did want to protest against cycling, tacks on the ground are an easy way to injure a lot of people.

Everyone else though should think long and hard about whether to agree to this. What it represents is an attempt to limit the number of cyclists in a bit of the countryside -and if the new forest does it, Surrey will be watching to see how it goes. Both these places have the same clash of locals thinking they have exclusive rights to drive down back country roads at speed, both blame cyclists,

And they both have councils saying "legislation may be needed". That's going to go down well with their narrow-minded haters, but nationally, it would be vicious.

What to do instead? Get out and ride! Don't be afraid of cycling two abreast or in a group. Don't be afraid to walk into pubs and buy food and beer. That doesn't mean be antisocial: let cars past when you consider it safe for them to do so, don't scatter gel wrappers everywhere (hint: there are pockets in your jersey for them), and be considerate of pedestrians in villages. Consider also fixing a camera or two on the bike, so if you do get tailgated by a car, or overtaken dangerously, you can be the one phoning in the number to Hants police, with a video.


Lucky they haven't heard of Strava or they'd be demanding it doesn't record rides in the forest on the day of an event. Or even more: ban recording any rides in the area, ever.

1 comment:

  1. Fundamentally (and as an event organiser) I have no problem with local SAG's. They do a good job keeping standards for organisers high, co-ordinating events that might otherwise clash / cause chaos for other road users. Imagine if you were en-route to your Wiggle Sportive, and were held up for an hour on the road by the Dorset Sheep Botherer's Annual Wellyboot Strideout, which co-incided with the Lymington Tweed Weaver's Shirty Thirty Walkathon. Yes, they have the same right to occupy the public highway as you do. But common sense dictates that for the good of all, organisers of large events co-ordinate with authorities to minimise disruption to the public (on foot, horseback, bike or in car). Where this 'Cycling Charter' falls down is in its singling out one user group/type of event for special attention, then attributing quasi-legal 'obligations' such as requirement to wear ID, ride single file etc. Consulting the local SAG is completely voluntary, and all the relevant issues such as traffic management etc are already covered by best practice built over years of event management. The pushback against this particular bit of nonsense should be on the grounds we have an *existing* process that addresses all concerns. If there are *new* concerns, they should be applicable to all events - equestrian, pedestrian, motoring, etc. If 100 steam tractors wanted to hold a rally driving at 5MPH through the forest exactly the same SAG guidelines and processes should apply.