Cyclists in the New Forest have reported rising tensions over the growing popularity of leisure cycling and sportives in the National Park.

Their comments follow the release of a new cycling code of conduct, which a number of cyclists have said is “generally common sense”, but unfairly singles out bike users, while some believe that this perceived anti-cyclist feeling has been exacerbated by sensationalist local news reporting.

New Forest resident Rich Young told Cycling Weekly: “As a cyclist I have never felt as threatened on the roads of the New Forest as I do now.

“It is not the volume of traffic, it is some mentality on the roads generated by a completely unjustified hatred to cycling and cycling events in the New Forest.

“Nobody’s got any problem with what they are saying in this code of conduct, but it seems to be using a hammer to crack a nut.”

He added, “We aren’t the ones causing the deaths on the roads or the congestion.”

Last April, tensions peaked when the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was sabotaged by vandals throwing tacks on the road and removing signs.

Since then, local objections to large cycling events have resulted in the local showground withdrawing permission for the event to use the car park.

In local newspapers, cyclists have also been accused of using foul language, “literally defecating on a local green” and both deliberately slowing down traffic and exceeding the speed limit.

Eamonn Deane, who writes a cycle column in the Bournemouth Daily Echo, said: “There is a lot of contentious stuff going on between cycling groups, sportives and parish councils – and the local media enjoy it because it is one group against the other.”

Deane added: “It always seems to be incumbent on [cyclists] and whilst we do have a responsibility I’m not sure we have any more responsibility than any other road user.”

The 14-point code was agreed by 20 organisations, including the New Forest Park Authority and local police, CTC, Sustrans and local forums, following concerns over the effect of mass-participation events on the New Forest and its wildlife, including ponies.

The code advises cyclists to be considerate, to not drop litter, to take care around animals and to ride at appropriate speeds.

Claims that cycling threatens animal safety have been made by those keen to curb cycling, despite statistics showing the recent increase in animal accidents is totally unrelated to cyclists.

While acknowledging that the New Forest faces challenges to balance the interests of different users, British Cycling registered coach Jason Falconer feels the code is at times contradictory.

“It says on narrow roads ride single file – nobody should do that for their own safety because if you are on a narrow corner with limited visibility you don’t want to be pushed into the hedge. Then it says ride positively, avoid the edge,” he said.

Sion Donovan, communications officer at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “There was a bit of a reaction on social media asking why there is a code for cycling and not for motorists. There were a lot of people thinking this is the Authority imposing their will on local people.”

Meanwhile Ian Murray, editor-in-chief of the Southern Daily Echo, defended what he called the paper’s “balanced reporting of comments”. He suggested in a recent column that people need to stop seeing cyclists as either angels or devils, and realise that while there are problems associated with mass cycling events, cycling is also a healthy and friendly pastime.

External link
New Forest cycling code of conduct

  • JeffGoldblumIII

    Agreed with regards Steve Smith – people are in general nice but there are a small minority who wield a diabolically improportional amount of power.

  • Erol

    I’ve lived and ridden in the New Forest (on and off-road) all of my life and I have never seen or heard so much tension between the various groups as I have now. People just need to get along and be a bit more sympathetic towards each other and not be so aggressive towards one another. GROW UP and stop being so petty! I think it’s mainly down to increased numbers using the roads and more people taking up the sport due to our increased successes in cycling. We might come across the ‘odd’ one or two horse riders, motorists that rub us up the wrong way but get over it – in the main they are OK and only out to enjoy what the New Forest has to offer. As for Steve Smith’s comment – WTF? ‘People aren’t as nice down ‘there’ i.e. they probably abuse poor people, people with mental problems etc as well as cyclists.’ Nobody is abusing others, well at least I hope not. What an absolute joke to say what he said – nob.

  • Steve Smith

    I live in the Teesdale area and their are a lot more cyclists roundabouts than in most other parts of the country don’t know why (not sarcasm). It will definitely be a better place to cycle than most areas although obviously their is comparatively less traffic which is an obvious reason. I think it is probably better mainly because the people are generally better. I think you have more problems down there because the people generally aren’t as nice ie they probably abuse poor people, people with mental problems etc as well as cyclists. In summary I think the nicer the people in an area the better it will be to live and cycle.

  • Ken Evans

    The New Forest is really nice, and a great place to ride, I recommend it. Don’t let other people stop you enjoying your cycling. (And the Calshot indoor track is nearby.)

  • JeffGoldblumIII

    I have lived in the Forest for all my life and, as an organiser of a local event, I was privy to a lot of the discussions surrounding the code of conduct but did not endorse it because it seems entirely unnecessary. It is just an attempt to appease the arrogant and self-involved, horse-riding, Land Rover-driving right-wingers that continually write nonsense in local newspapers and lean on the council with their excess power. The Forest is a lovely place but it can be ruined by the people who lived there, for example, those with Commoners’ rights who tried to keep visitors out of the area during Foot and Mouth which would have bankrupted so many local businesses dependent on tourism.

  • Mark Holcroft

    Around 75% of the New Forest National Park’s income comes from the taxpayer. It’s a lovely place and I’d go there, and enjoy it responsibly.

    If you find the people incredibly rude, the service in shops and pubs poor as I’ve done, simply spend your money outside the Park.

    Just remember, we pay for it, it’s our Park.

  • david crowley

    As an average Britisher I am obese and proud of it, we now rank as the fattest people in the developed world. Since leaving school, I have done absolutely no exercise apart from pushing my trolley (why can’t it have an electric motor?) around the local supermarket. My most exciting moment is when I get behind the wheel of my motorcar and roar around country roads. I cannot see the rationale behind people cycling and taking up valuable road space and as to those that ride on the pavement on the rare occasions that I am waddling/walking to my car even the death penalty seems hardly enough punishment. Many of my friends place their overlarge bodies on diminutive horses and gallop throughout the forest to the shout of ‘tallyho!’ and have also complained about bicyclists getting in the way of their hooves. Please deflate your tyres and get fat.

  • Colnago dave

    I like the comment about animal safety being jeopardised by cyclists, Even if riding a road race the speed is much less than the average motorist drives through there at. Ever consider the reporting which states that today a cyclist was either killed or injured by a motorist and the concluding remark is than the driver was uninjured, of course he was, he had a minimum of 1 ton of steel protecting him.
    We have unfenced country roads where sheep wander across them, you hit one at speed and see who comes off worse.
    The truth is that there still is an element amongst motorists who are unable to cope with other road users especially cyclists and instead of learning how to share the road just vent their rage at us.
    Look at the amount of one car accidents and consider do the police ever check the mobile phones for whether the driver was on the phone or texting.

  • roginoz

    Visitors including cyclists bring trade into an area .This sounds like another NIMBY situation .Dont forget the roads have to be wide enough for all the Range Rovers.

  • downfader

    I’m from Southampton, but know many riders who use the Forest for family, sportifs and fitness riding. Several of them at work too. They’ve all see the way locals out there react to them recently change and as a result I’ve felt compelled to write several letters to the local paper (The Southern Daily Echo) in defence of using the Forest for riding.

    I don’t actually ride there, I’ve always been more into walking and photography out there to be honest, but you still encounter riders and the vast majority are courteous and respectful. I’ve also passed on the experiences and concerns of my friends.

    One of the issues I find with complaints about the organised events is that each rider IS identifiable. Yet very few seem to have ever been reported – either to the organisers or the Police. This too I have raised, I’ve also raised the economic benefits of cyclists to the local businesses – something the NFA have now lost as organisers are now influenced to pull out and move over a county.

  • Jon

    As long as you’re prepared for verbal abuse and being buzzed or just driven into by an irate driver with low levels of heterozygosity, the New Forest is a lovely place to ride. You don’t have to join a sportive to enjoy the quirky behaviour of the local motorists – riding with a local club or even with a friend or two is enough to elicit a threat display from the primitive hominids that inhabit the region.

  • Jackie Fraser

    Can I recommend Teesdale instead? I did the Etape Pennines, starting in Barnard Castle, last year there, and the locals were welcoming, the scenery magnificent, the roads awesome, and my B & B – Homelands – wonderful, with secure bike storage, especially early breakfast, very late showers.
    They like cyclists there.

  • John Guyatt

    Like all things there are boneheads on both sides of the story. Let’s recognise it’s mostly men on both sides of the story that create the problems.

    There are are stupid road cyclists who ride 2 or 3 abreast, think they rule the road and have no idea how to behave to create a more harmonious shared existence.

    Equally there are stupid car drivers who really do need to calm down before they kill somebody.
    Last year I saw a man in a car behave as though he had just had his brain removed. He went up and down a road, swerving here there and everywhere trying to frighten people on road cycles and very nearly hitting them. Cars can easily kill or maim people.

    The large sportive road cycling events are getting too big for the New Forest. And they’re not the only events on during the summer….there are many other smaller events which create more hassle for New Forest locals.

  • Mark Jones

    Thank you for reporting this. I have always fancied a holiday in the New Forest but will definitely not be visiting such a bigoted part of the country with or without my bike. I suggest others do the same and boycott the area if at all possible thus hitting all the local businesses.