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19 August 2014, 17:36
The New Forest National Park Authority's turend down plans for the UK's first rural public bike system within the New Forest.
The 'Boris Bike' style self-service hire system would have seen up to 250 'one size fits all' bikes made available for public hire at 20 unmanned locations in the south east of the National Park.
The Park authority says members were concerned about the long term cost of the system and felt it would be unlikely anyone would sponsor it.
There were also mixed results of a recent community feedback survey, which showed a lack of strong support for the scheme among local residents.
Members felt there was a risk that suitable docking station sites would not be supported at key locations, making it difficult to set up a viable network. The results of the survey are available at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/bikesurvey.
As the project had to eb set up by March 2015, it was felt there wasn't enough time remaining to overcome these issues.
The National Park Authority says it now intends to support alternative cycling projects with the funding previously allocated for the public bike system.
Chairman, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said:
"This would have been an innovative project that had clear benefits to offer those wishing to use bicycles for quiet recreation and travelling around the Forest, rather than using their cars.
"However as members we have scrutinised it very carefully, and concluded that the risks of setting up the scheme now outweigh the benefits.
"We felt we simply could not justify spending a considerable amount of government money on a system that might not be able to survive at this time, and which seems to have insufficient support in the key locations of the Forest from where it needs to operate.'
The public bike system was part of the New Forest Family Cycling Experiences programme. The programme is funded by a £3.57m grant from the Department for Transport which the Authority says will be invested in other local cycling projects.