SIR – I write in utter astonishment at the letter you published last week (Letters, 8th May).

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Apart from being a gross generalisation of an extremely large group of society, it is packed full of claims and assertions for which the author offers no evidence whatsoever.

As well as an utter unwillingness to share, I was particularly surprised at the author’s apparent super-human ability to determine the origin of any cyclist simply by looking at them!

I am therefore compelled to put forward an alternative perspective to this biased assassination of anyone who rides a bike. As someone who lives, walks, runs, drives and rides a bike in the Forest I am, at least, speaking from multiple view points and broad experience.

Sadly, there is an element of arrogant self-opinionated walkers who seem to think they own the entire Forest and that their personal preference for exercise should have primacy over any other forms of enjoyment in a national park that we all pay for.

Most of them drive to the forest polluting the air with their carcinogenic diesel cars passing too close and too fast to cyclists, including my own young children, lest they be delayed a moment en route to their taxpayer-subsidised parking.

Once they have alighted from their cyclist-killing, polluting vehicles they then proceed to walk in a line completely blocking a perfectly good three-metre wide track whilst refusing to acknowledge their obligation to be aware of other legitimate users around them on a public right of way and designated National Cycle Route.

Not content with having the privilege of a complete right to roam in the Forest, some then take offence at having to move out of the way to let a cyclist past. Unlike walkers, motorists and horse riders – who all enjoy priority access in the Forest – a cyclist is always forced to share the space they use. We have nowhere at all where our presence has primacy over other users.

The drastic decrease in traffic and pollution as a result of the coronavirus lockdown has led to a stark reminder of the air pollution caused by vehicles for both work and recreation. As a result I have seen many more people of all ages getting out on their bikes in the
Forest, which is both good for the environment and public health.

It is time for us all to be questioning how everyone who uses the Forest travels around and how it can possibly be considered good for the environment to encourage hundreds of cars and horse boxes by providing large amounts of free parking at places like Wilverley.

Rather, we should all be encouraging people to leave vehicles outside the Forest and promoting alternative forms of sustainable transport such as cycling – not launching biased, unsubstantiated attacks on it simply to support selfish self-interest.

Unfortunately we live in a national park which has some of the most extreme restrictions on cycling of any in the country, as well as a woeful, disjointed cycle path network – any improvements to which have repeatedly been blocked by an elite, entitled minority fuelled, no doubt, by the kind of tosh you published last week.

I appeal to everyone concerned over this to lobby for improved cycling infrastructure for the good of the environment and everyone’s health. Write to the Forestry Commission, your MP, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, the verderers, everyone – and tell them you want to ride your bike instead of using a car, but it has to be in a car-free, safe place and without abuse.

Then, above all else, let’s teach the entitled minority what it looks like to share the Forest with a hello and a friendly smile.

Name and address supplied

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to say a big THANK YOU to the author of this letter as I completely agree with the points raised. As a keen cyclist, I too am disappointed with the growing negative attitude from some, who seem simply annoyed at my presence on a bike despite the fact that I always slow right down, use my bell with adequate warning and offer a cheery “thank you” as I pass. I would also like to add that during lockdown, my three children and I have been out picking up litter along Burley road – three full bin bags to date. We all love the forest and should be individually doing our bit to take care of it. Negative posters and letters don’t help

  2. I would like to also say a big THANK YOU to the author. What a well written and informative letter. As a very keen Mountain Biker, I can’t believe how disjointed the official cycle trails are in the New Forest , no thought what so ever has gone into the network. The authorities running the New Forest are missing out on a massive income for businesses in the New Forest by not building an official MTB trail network and encouraging riders from all over the country to enjoy the wonderful area.

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