National park is right to woo cyclists out of cars

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There was a time, not many years ago, when walkers and horse riders enjoying the stunning countryside of the South Downs, would curse the very existence of cyclists.

They sneaked up from behind on bridleways and hurtled past without so much as the dainty tinkle of a handlebar bell, let alone a shouted warning.

There was much animosity towards the two-wheeled fraternity from those on two and four feet.

But gradually, times and etiquette have changed.

The majority of cyclists now slow down and call out when they are approaching. Their numbers have grown to such an extent that they are now an accepted part of countryside life.

And cycling too, in all its forms, has changed thanks to the marvellous sporting achievements of people like the knighted Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins plus Chris Froome and Victoria Pendleton.

Suddenly cycling has become all the rage and talked about at all the best dinner parties.

So, it is welcome that the South Downs National Park has just received more than £5m from the government and other bodies to improve cycling routes into and within the downs.

We support any move which attracts people to lead healthier lives and does something to improve the air we breathe.

As transport minister Simon Burns said when he announced the funding at Petersfield yesterday: ‘Cycling is an important way of people keeping healthy. We are also doing it for the environment because it reduces carbon emissions... it is right to get more people to use cycling as a form of transport rather than automatically getting into a car and driving there.’

What all this means, in theory, is that the park authority will now be able to complete cycle trails into the national park from either Portsmouth or from the A32 into the Meon Valley.

Keen riders wanting a day out in the hills and valleys on our back doorstep will no longer automatically load the bike into the car and drive to their starting point. They can do it all on two wheels which must be good for all of us.