Once again cycling is a target in the New Forest. At a local meeting several "concerns" were reported to be raised about cyclists and their access, even their rights to use the roads around and in the New Forest. Raised by Councillors and residents alike.
The whole thing smacks of a "not in my back yard" snotty and snobby attitude - often abbreviated to NIMBY we have seen such attitudes stop everything from wind turbines to pubs being opened. It is surreal that cycling is the target, hidden behind "concern" for riders' welfare - I cannot find one case in the past 3 years of a cyclist having technically caused a crash with a pedestrian. I can however find many, many examples of driver behaviour reported in the press that have resulted in cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian, motor vehicle occupant or animal death.
The number of deaths of horse and pony have risen in the past few years, it seems, many of these are hit and run with the driver simply leaving a distressed and dying animal in the road as they hurtle off into the distance. A few years ago a driver managed to actually take the head off an animal, such was his or her speed - at the time the story was met with calls to ring fence the forest to stop animals from entering the road. The vast problem with that little idea is that would cost a fortune to implement, the ponies actively manage the foliage and allow sight-lines to be grazed clear (another call was to remove the ponies and replace them with workers who would "garden" the forest - something that would again cost a sheer fortune).
Yes, it seems residents and objectors are actually more concerned about the effect of riders than those right under their nose involving motoring through the forest. Cyclists are not the main traffic through the New Forest, and those that do ride there do so because they either live there, commute to work there, or ride there because they appreciate the beauty of the area.
They could drive there. But they've chosen an activity that is both environmentally undemanding to the road surface and the nature that surrounds. Many of these riders head out from Southampton and neighbouring towns and cities - they ride the full distance to the forest and then enjoy a nice meal and a drink spending a lot of money in the local cafes and pubs. Many pop into small shops and buy drinks or snacks.
Imagine if this stopped? For even one weekend. I personally wonder what the economic effect would be - drivers who don't live in the New Forest don't always stop in the same way and spend money - they keep driving. Their destination is not always the forest but elsewhere. There is more opportunity and encouragement to stop when cycling - to take in the view, to have some grub, to get a drink, to catch your breath and rest your legs for a moment. Cycling is supplementing the economy and supporting local businesses.
So far its been pretty much a one-sided jab in all reality and no emphasis on the positives seen, and with little engagement in dealing with road safety. So perhaps this is an idea in the "debate" - boycott the forest for a while and see if the locals complain about the lack of money coming in? If every club and campaign ride were stopped for a short period, or alternative routes found, then perhaps it might make people realise what they're missing out on.