A campaign is calling for a ban on electric bikes in the New Forest, saying they pose a risk to the area.
As well as highlighting the potential damage that could be done to pathways in the picturesque national park, the campaign has also said e-bikes pose a risk to walkers exploring the area, and could have a negative impact on horse riders and ground nesting birds.
The issue will now be discussed by the Verderer’s Court.
As it stands, the bikes can be hired from several locations in the ancient forest. Under the rules currently in operation, e-bike users have to stay on the cycle paths and road while adhering to national maximum speed limit of 15.5mph – the speed limit seen across the country.
The Chair of the New Forest Equestrian Association, Caroline Scott, said to the Verderers’ Court: “Many of our members have been reporting incidents involving cyclists on the forest paths.”
“The New Forest is promoted to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of users. The concept of going faster over longer distances is hardly in keeping with with the appreciation of what the forest stands for and the quiet, peaceful enjoyment that most users seek.”
“Opening the forest to these speed seekers will accelerate the denigration of the forest fabric, presenting a danger to other users, grazing livestock and, in particular, ground nesting birds.”
“Permitting motorisation – per se – on the forest is punching a hole in the legal armour of protection. After e-bikes it is a small step then to ATVs [All-terrain vehicles such as quad-bikes] and scramble bikes.”
However, critics of the campaign have said bikes offer a great way to explore the forest, particularly for the elderly and anyone with health conditions.
Ross Kempson, the owner of Cyclexperience in Brockenhurst, said to the Verderers’ Court: “The danger of introducing penalties and further restrictions will only stir up hostility and discontent if cyclists feel there is an air of inequality within the New Forest when the rest of the country – if not the world – are encouraging cycling as a major force to tackle pollution and congestion while increasing the health and wellbeing of its citizens.”
What do you think? Would you like to see ebikes banned from the New Forest if you were touring in the area? Let us know by Tweeting us at @pmotorhome!
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