Cycling UK and Sustrans united against "discriminatory" New Forest Charter

Cycling UK & Sustrans call for balance from the NFNPA. Photo by Selim Korycki
In the latest stage of developments in the ongoing saga in the New Forest, Cycling UK and Sustrans have shown a united front against the New Forest National Park Authority’s draft Charter.

Since a growth in cycle activities in the New Forest, there has been an increase in reports from local residents and organisations against organised cycle events. In response to this, the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) has launched an “arm's length” exercise to produce a “Cycle Event Organisers’ Charter”. The Charter, which is currently in draft form, will go up for final amendment and approval tomorrow morning, 22 January.

Cycling UK and Sustrans have been actively involved in the Charter’s creation since its beginning and were instrumental in placing the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) at the centre of the process. As a result of their involvement, the Charter overall presents a balanced set of practices to help maintain harmony between all users and inhabitants of the New Forest.

However, despite Cycling UK and Sustrans involvement, there are still two outstanding issues in the Charter which come across as both discriminatory and disproportionate in their treatment of cyclists.

The proposed cap on cyclist numbers in the New Forest comes across as both discriminatory and disproportionate. No other activity outside of cycling enjoys such depth of scrutiny or limitation, so it is exceptionally disappointing that the NFNPA would seek to limit participants that celebrate the forest when there is no basis of evidence to do so beyond anecdote.”

Tejesh Mistry,
Cycling UK, Head of Development

The Charter in its current form aims to restrict the amount of cyclists to 1,000 per event. This restriction is based on residents' and local organisations’ claims that cycling presents a threat to the “special qualities of the forest” and “a danger to people and wildlife”. Currently no evidence has been provided to support these claims.

Cycling UK and Sustrans have jointly proposed that each event should be judged on a case-by-case basis, with the number of riders agreed upon by the Safety Advisory Group in the planning process, and not by an arbitrary figure with no basis in real evidence. Such an approach is seen as entirely consistent with the rest of the Charter

Additionally, Cycling UK and Sustrans would like to seek clarity on any proposals to make riders in all events wear front and rear numbers. This proposal is seen as discriminatory in that the wearing of numbers in general, let alone front and rear, is not advised by the NFNPA for any participants in any other recreational activity in the National Park.

We want everyone to be able to enjoy all that the New Forest has to offer. However we fear any new charter in the New Forest could have wider implications for changes in other National Parks so getting the right balance now is essential. We need a charter that works for everyone.”

Sustrans statement

Cycling UK understands that event organisers need to identify riders in timed events or sportives who are exhibiting unacceptable behaviour. Participants in such events, therefore, should be identifiable to marshals by numbers worn on either the front or back. To make all cyclists involved in an “event” wear a number, however, would place a greater burden of responsibility on the cyclist than is required by the Highway Code for motorcyclists. Potentially, this could mean a child in an event would be expected to have more by way of numbering than the rider of a high-powered motorbike.

Ultimately, both Cycling UK and Sustrans are keen to stress their willingness to engage with the NFNPA. The New Forest presents a fantastic location for people of all ages, background and abilities to enjoy cycling across several disciplines. It is hoped that through a spirit of compromise and consensus, a Charter will emerge that will allow everyone to enjoy it.