New Forest Cycling Friendly ?

IanKi
Posts: 7
Joined: 13 Nov 2022, 5:41pm

Re: New Forest Cycling Friendly ?

Post by IanKi »

Agree Russ is a very good source for advice. Many tracks cross nesting sites. It is not just wheel impact that disturbs nesting birds there’re is a proximity effect. I remain concerned about the Forest nature which does need our protection. Where specifically do the campaigners seek to increase access? Where is the balance according to your research? How will this be described for the public?
Zulu Eleven
Posts: 192
Joined: 26 Oct 2018, 9:25pm

Re: New Forest Cycling Friendly

Post by Zulu Eleven »

IanKi wrote: 20 Jan 2023, 6:27pm Agree Russ is a very good source for advice. Many tracks cross nesting sites. It is not just wheel impact that disturbs nesting birds there’re is a proximity effect. I remain concerned about the Forest nature which does need our protection. Where specifically do the campaigners seek to increase access? Where is the balance according to your research? How will this be described for the public?
it OK if I lay out something of a framing question in response?

“At the moment, horses and walkers have unrestricted access to the whole forest, both ‘on tracks’ and a wider right of open access. Do you believe that there is any evidence existing on impact of cycle access that would justify differential treatment of cyclists, as a group, to walkers and horse riders?”

By that, I’m accepting it’s perfect possible that (and indeed I would personally support) greater restriction on recreational use of parts of the forest (most particularly restrictions on dog walkers). But once again here the pertinent question in this debate is one of differential impact and differential restrictions. If we were calling for all users (including horse riders & walkers) to be restricted to surfaced/sustainable paths, then there is a clear logic to that. In reality, the data (see eg. strava heatmaps) suggests that the vast majority of cyclists do, indeed, keep to sustainable/surfaced tracks (and I carefully differentiate that from any idea of keeping to ‘the permitted network’), and indeed recent survey work on e-MTB (national survey) identifies little demand to ride in sensitive areas, and that the vast majority of e-bikes use is on surfaced routes.

Now, I’m also not ruling out the idea that many surfaced routes may well go through ground nesting bird breeding areas - and there is little doubt that breeding success is often significantly negatively correlated with proximity to tracks and paths - but once again, the framework for that discussion is that these routes are already/also in use by walkers (often with dogs, circa 50% of all recreational visits to the countryside are for dogwalking, and in theNew Forest I believe it’s even higher) and horse riders (indeed, IIRC, a previous survey found that over 25% of NF equestrians regularly rode ‘off piste’), so what we have to look at is the differential impact of permitting cyclists to use that same route (unless, of course we are advocating more general restrictions on all users?). We also get into a more complex discussion here, as there is some evidence that disturbance by cyclists to ground nesting birds is lower than walkers (both in the fact that cyclists are much less likely to have dogs, and because their higher median speed means they move through the zone of disturbance quicker, so the birds spend less time off the nest - of course balanced against that ‘penetration’ by cyclists can be deeper - essentially they tend to go further into wilderness/undisturbed areas, but with a narrower ‘bubble’ of disturbance for aforementioned reasons (fewer dogs, speed, more likely to stick to tracks). I would argue that that can largely be managed by the use of promoted routes (ie, you use promoted routes as a management intervention to encourage recreational users into the places you want them to go, and keep away from more sensitive areas) which is essentially what we have already done for years with walkers, ie. used soft management techniques as a ‘nudge psychology’ positive management tool rather than bans or prohibitions.

So, coming back on all that to sum it up - if the real concern was wildlife disturbance then the most logical solution would be to ban all recreational users from sensitive areas, wouldn’t it? But there’s little logic (and as far as I can see no real evidence) justifying singling out one particular non-motorised user group (other than dog walkers) for different treatment from the other groups already offere open access on foot or on horseback - but I’m happy to be persuaded otherwise if there is a rational case underlying that differential treatment.

However, despite all the above, I would maintain that an entirely practical rule of thumb would be that ALL non-motorised recreational users should, at the very least, be strongly encouraged to stay on sustainable/surfaced routes at all times - and I happen to think that there is a strong case to be made for reserving parts of the forest free from recreational access (by all users) in order to better provide space for nature. It’s the treatment of one user group (cyclists) differently without a clear evidential basis that I think can’t be defended, either morally or, at a more technical legal basis, under the Sandford principle
IanKi
Posts: 7
Joined: 13 Nov 2022, 5:41pm

Re: New Forest Cycling Friendly ?

Post by IanKi »

Good summary appreciate your insight. There is regular evidence that some cyclists (a small minority) are already using the whole of the forest area including all footpaths fire breaks and wild horse trails (from the livestock grazing). Disturbance does matter and it is evidently very hard to measure the absolute consequences for nature. Setting aside reserved areas is already in evidence and as you suggest will likely increase which sounds like the only available solution to usage pressure. And yet there also is a broad campaign by Ramblers to open up more access than we currently see although this relates to private land outside of the park authority

I think you have a really good question on human rules and equitable access. But I do believe humans should be much more concerned about the evident loss of natural assets and habitats than we currently appear to be. Good luck!
Zulu Eleven
Posts: 192
Joined: 26 Oct 2018, 9:25pm

Re: New Forest Cycling Friendly ?

Post by Zulu Eleven »

IanKi wrote: 22 Jan 2023, 5:52pm Good summary appreciate your insight. There is regular evidence that some cyclists (a small minority) are already using the whole of the forest area including all footpaths fire breaks and wild horse trails (from the livestock grazing). Disturbance does matter and it is evidently very hard to measure the absolute consequences for nature. Setting aside reserved areas is already in evidence and as you suggest will likely increase which sounds like the only available solution to usage pressure.
There’s a level of interpretation/potential misdirection there as well, for example recent study & announcements by an established NF pressure group have talked a lot about ‘off network’ cycling but fail to distinguish ‘off network’ access on Forest roads & other sustainable routes versus unsustainable areas, and as I keep saying to people, the argument that cyclists should not be allowed to use a gravel road constructed, as specified, for a 44 ton timber wagon, is pretty much untenable.

Either way, the key counter argument remains whether the impact of that person on a bike is any greater than if he was in the same place on a horse or on foot. Ultimately that is the ridiculous factor here, as the moment he gets off the bike he is no longer breaking the law.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L397TWLwrUU

And yet there also is a broad campaign by Ramblers to open up more access than we currently see although this relates to private land outside of the park authority
I have my own concerns about that, expressed directly to the team at Ramblers - I have suggested to them that using language focused more on a ‘right of responsible access to the countryside’ rather than ‘right to roam’ would be more inclusive of a wider range of recreational users and raise fewer objections from other stakeholders.
I think you have a really good question on human rules and equitable access. But I do believe humans should be much more concerned about the evident loss of natural assets and habitats than we currently appear to be. Good luck!
I have argued openly that the Sandford principle should have wider application than just national parks
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