Top Menu

Guest Post: Cycling: Improving the Off-road Network And Reduce Highly Charged Debate

Furthering positive discussion of recreation in the New Forest, we feature this guest statement by Richard Taylor, given as a Presentment to the November 2022 Verderers Court on behalf of the New Forest Cycle Working Group.

Good morning – my name is Richard Taylor, and I’m here to make a presentment as the chair of the New Forest Cycle Working Group.

In the recent discussions in the Verderers Court around cycling in the New Forest the voice of the cycling community has not been heard and we would like to try and correct this.

The Cycle working Group is an independent group and has been established for many years.  Its aim is to promote, and contribute to the delivery of, cycling-related objectives in many local strategic plans, and to promote opportunities to improve cycle infrastructure.  Our membership includes local cycle groups, local cycle businesses, national cycling organisations, sustainable transport groups, local councils at all levels, Forestry England and the New Forest National Park Authority.

We aim to encourage responsible cycling in the New Forest to minimise conflict with the special qualities of the National Park and other people, and to improve usability and connectivity of the cycle network.

Excerpt of the New Forest Off Road Cycle Network (Blue + Red Sustrans Routes) from OpenCycleMap

Improvements to the connectivity and waymarking of the off-road gravel cycle network have been promised for many years. These objectives are outlined in strategic action 14 of the Recreation Management Strategy which has been agreed by all partner organisations.  We fully support the vision for the cycle network as presented by Richard Burke of Forestry England.

We are delighted to hear support from the Verderers for the cycle network and we fully agree that improvements and revisions to the network must include,

preservation of the tranquil and undisturbed areas, links to the car parks, the interests of nature conservation and protection of the fragile environment together with the interest of the commoners … as well as the interests of those who wish to use the Forest for recreation.’

However, with all this agreement on the objectives for cycling in the Forest, progress to achieving this has been non-existent, to the huge frustration of the cycling community, and cyclists continue to be demonised.

The vast majority of cyclists on the off-road network want to cycle responsibly respecting the special qualities of the New Forest.  The health and wellbeing benefits of cycling are well documented and increased use of carbon free transport is universally accepted as a good thing.  However, the network as it currently exists is not fit for purpose, it is poorly connected, and badly waymarked.  Mapping could be improved for both physical and online maps, and it needs to be clear to existing and new cyclists which maps should be used.  The CWG are there to try and help this process in any way we can.  We have provided feedback on what connections on the network would be most valuable to cyclists and we have engaged fully with the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan process currently underway.

We would ask the Verderers to engage positively with all other stakeholders in the process of improving the off-road network.  We all need to reduce the highly charged tabloid nature of the current debate and concentrate on producing solutions that work.  We want to help with this process in any way that we can.  We can provide feedback and information from the cycling community and help promote responsible cycling practices.  Surely essential elements in this process.

The recent BBC panorama ‘Road Rage – Cars v Bikes’ showed how easy it is to whip up feelings on all sides of the argument around cycling.  However, this serves little point other than to keep social media busy and sell papers.  Please can all parties involved engage positively to find practical solutions which work.

Thank you.

We share this statement by kind permission of both Richard Taylor and the New Forest Cycle Working Group. Mr. Taylor is also a Minstead Parish Councillor since 2010 and currently serves as a parish quadrant appointee member of the National Park Authority for whom his responsibilities include RMS Advisory Group Chair, and NPA representative on the New Forest Local Access Forum.


, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply