A MOVE to abandon £2m plans for a ‘Boris bike’-style scheme in the New Forest is ‘disappointing’, says the company set to run it.
Members of the New Forest National Park Authority turned down 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 £3.5m funding from the Department of Transport – to be rejected.
This is despite a procurement process securing the service of company B-Cycle to introduce about 250 bikes in 20 different New Forest locations.
The contract was due to be signed in June, but delayed after members raised concerns.
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.
“This came out of the blue both to us and officers of the National Park Authority,” said Mr Bright.
“We have not had an opportunity to engage with members.”
He said concerns over sponsorship were misguided as any sponsorship deals to cover ongoing costs would not affect the viability of the scheme.
“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.
“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 (NFNPA) had a vision to go and secure the funding 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.”