New Forest public bike system decision

cycle hats

Published Tuesday 19 August 2014

New Forest National Park Authority members have voted not to proceed with a project to develop the UK’s first rural public bike system within the New Forest.

This self-service bike hire system would have comprised up to 250 one size fits all bikes for public hire at 20 unmanned locations in the south east of the National Park.

Members were concerned about the financial sustainability of the £2m public bike system. They considered that the likelihood of the system receiving significant sponsorship had markedly reduced since it was originally conceived, given that similar recent schemes in Liverpool and Reading have launched without major sponsors.

Concern was also expressed about the mixed results of a recent community feedback survey, which showed a lack of strong support for the scheme among local residents. Members felt there was a real risk that suitable docking station sites would not be supported at key locations, making it difficult to set up a viable network. The results of the survey are available at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/bikesurvey.

Given the challenging delivery timetable for the project, by March 2015, it was felt there was insufficient time remaining to overcome these issues.

The National Park Authority now intends to support alternative cycling projects with the funding previously allocated for the public bike system.

Members underlined their commitment to supporting responsible family cycling in the National Park, in particular as a key mode of transport for people to get around the Forest for work or pleasure, and as a way to enjoy its special qualities without a car.

National Park Authority Chairman, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘This would have been an innovative project that had clear benefits to offer those wishing to use bicycles for quiet recreation and travelling around the Forest, rather than using their cars.

‘However as members we have scrutinised it very carefully, and concluded that the risks of setting up the scheme now outweigh the benefits. We felt we simply could not justify spending a considerable amount of government money on a system that might not be able to survive at this time, and which seems to have insufficient support in the key locations of the Forest where it needs to operate from.’

The public bike system was part of the New Forest Family Cycling Experiences programme. The programme is funded by a £3.57m grant from the Department for Transport and  will continue to invest in other local cycling projects through:

  • Supporting Hampshire County Council to deliver infrastructure schemes in and around the National Park this year to improve safety and access for cyclists
  • Funding community groups and businesses to develop their own cycling facilities through the Sustainable Communities Fund. Further details at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/scf.

Minutes of the meeting will be available in due course at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/meetings.

For more information on cycling in the New Forest, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/cycling.

-ends-

Notes to editor:

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more

Media Contact:

Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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