A MOVE to abandon £2million plans for a ‘Boris bike’-style scheme in the New Forest is ‘disappointing’ say the company set to run it.
Members of the New Forest National Park Authority look set to throw out the almost-completed plans for the scheme at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday.
Concerns over ‘major anti-cycling sentiment’ in the Forest and worries over securing sponsorship has led members to call for the scheme – included as part of £3.5million funding from the Department of Transport – to be rejected.
This is despite a procurement process securing the service of company B-Cycle to implement around 250 bikes in 20 different New Forest locations.
The contract was due to be signed in June, but delayed after members raised concerns.
A petition has been signed by 500 people urging the authority to go-ahead with the plans.
On Friday, British former racing cyclist and Olympic gold medal winner Chris Boardman tweeted a link to the petition.
And it received a welcome boost on Thursday after Tour de France legend Jens Voigt retweeted a link to the petition.
Last year he took time out to support a charity bike ride through the New Forest for the Epilepsy Society.
Graham Bright, B-Cycle’s partnership director for the UK and Europe said in his experience the situation was “unprecedented”.
But he hoped to be able to address members’ concerns at the crunch meeting on Tuesday.
“This came out the blue both to us and officers of the National Park Authority”, said Graham.
“We have not had an opportunity to engage with members.
“The things they have mentioned in their reports can be easily addressed.”
He said concerns over sponsorship were misguided as any sponsorship deals to cover ongoing costs would not affect the viability of the scheme.
“Our business model that we put to the authority does not require sponsorship in order to be sustaining.
“Even if we do not receive sponsorship, the model is sustainable.
“It would be our risk and our cost.”
Mr Bright, said B-Cycle who are part of bike giants Trek, have established successful schemes across North and South America.
He said bike share is a service that is a very different experience to mass cycling events.
“It is a slow leisure ride for families that want to explore the forest. Our bikes typically move at a speed of 7mph, similar to a fast runner.
“They won’t be hammering through Brockenhurst.”
He added: “From my perspective I am disappointed not to have had the opportunity to address the points.
“I am surprised that this has happened but keen to do what I can to make sure this goes ahead.
“It would have brought a number of benefits to the area including environmental as congestion will be reduced.
“There were economic benefits as well with local businesses involved in repairing the bikes. Now they will lose out.
“They had a vision to go and secure the funding.
They have shown the leadership in going through a very rigorous procurement and I hope that together we could have the courage to go forward and make this a reality.
“I am still hopeful and really relish the chance to make this happen.”