Why it might be hard to get fit in Hampshire this spring


- Credit: Archant

Thinking of getting fit for spring? It might be harder than you think if local authorities have anything to do with it says Alice Cooke

we’re forever being told to be healthier – eat our five a day, be more active, take up a sport – but now it seems that the local powers that be aren’t so keen after all. A voluntary charter restricting the number of cyclists in events to 1,000 has been approved for the New Forest recently.

Councillors representing the New Forest National Park Authority voted in favour of instigating the Cycle Charter last month. There are now 30 clauses containing guidance for people organising cycling events in the New Forest. I mean for goodness’ sake…has it really been that much of a problem?

New Forest National Park Authority chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre even admits that, “the vast majority of cycle events are under this threshold and have been operating without any complaint for many years.” So why is there any need to curb the few that happen to be slightly over this newly-enforced limit? The new-fangled cap on the number of cyclists in large events has been called “discriminatory” by CTC, the national cycling charity.

But Oliver goes on to say that: “The figure of 1,000 has been well received by parish councils. We hope that all event organisers will follow the charter’s criteria even if they don’t agree with it all.”

I am told by the authority that the charter will be sent to all cycle event organisers, just so they don’t go crazy and do something wild like encouraging too many people to take part. Because they do such a lot of harm and cause such a lot of havoc as it currently stands? I think not.

The Safety Advisory Group for the forest says that it will work with event organisers and review each event on a “case-by-case” basis, which already sounds like a bit of a u-turn to me. If there is a need to impose a cap on the number of participants, then surely this should be a blanket rule, not one that can be waived on certain occasions. Is this a case of not having enough courage in one’s convictions?

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Sam Jones, campaigns co-ordinator for CTC, says: “The cap on cycling numbers was loosely justified on safety grounds. It is therefore mystifying and incredibly frustrating that our amendment, which placed the Safety Advisory Group at the very heart of decision-making for each and every cycle event, was rejected. Instead, a discriminatory cap with no foundation in evidence will be implemented.”

Now don’t misunderstand me here – I love the New Forest and am all for protecting it, but what are we actually protecting it from? And it’s getting cycle races and events off the road – that can only be a good (not to mention safe) thing, surely?

Last summer there was talk of introducing a public cycle hire scheme to the Forest, similar to London’s Boris Bikes. They were going to lead by example and be one of the first rural places to introduce such a scheme – but I assume this has all fallen by the wayside now? Should we wear slippers when we walk there in case we dislodge any leaves? What’s next, limiting the amount of joggers on public highways? So selfish this getting fit malarkey. Come on now…let’s not be silly about this.



Black Friday sales have no relevance to us here in Hampshire - opinion page - Did you sell your soul to the seasonal sales? When did getting a good deal come to mean rolling about in the aisles and wrestling with strangers like Neanderthals? Alice Cooke asks, ‘have I missed something here?’