New Forest rejects Boris bike-style hire scheme


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The Independent Online

A £2m plan to set up a “Boris bike”-style cycle-hire scheme in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire looks set to be scrapped because of “major anti-cycling sentiment” among residents.

Concerns raised by the public over road safety and increased cycling traffic in the wake of recent large-scale cycling events have led to park officials recommending that the scheme does not go ahead.

According to a report released by the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA), its members “question whether the time is right to introduce more cyclists on to New Forest roads”.

The NFNPA will meet officials from the Department for Transport on Tuesday, when a decision will be made on whether to continue with the plans. If the scheme is cancelled, £2m of government funding will have to be returned. The NFNPA said: “A task and finish group of National Park Authority members … took into account issues arising since the project was originally developed, including public opinion and the project’s financial sustainability. This led to the recommendation that the National Park Authority does not proceed with the public bike system project at this time.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) expressed frustration over residents’ reactions to the scheme.

A senior transport campaigner, Ralph Smyth, said: “Being against a family-friendly cycle hire scheme because of recent mass cycling races is absurd. At a time when funding for rural bus services is being slashed, CPRE believes this proposal to reject funding for cycling could be in breach of the statutory purpose of National Parks of ‘promoting opportunities for… enjoyment… by the public.”