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"Someone could be killed": Path users blame speeding cyclists for New Forest danger

A bridge closure means access to one route is via two steep gravel paths — a popular spot for cyclists, walkers and horse riders, something visitors say has caused conflict

Walkers and horse riders have complained of being put in danger by cyclists riding down steep gravel tracks at high speeds at a popular New Forest beauty spot.

 Speaking to local news outlet the Advertiser & Times one walker suggested "someone could be killed" if cyclists continue to descend the incline rather than dismounting to walk as signs ask.

The embankment paths connect two sections of a route separated by a disused bridge which is to be demolished. To continue on the path, users must descend to the level below before rising back up the other side.

Christine Day told the press: "They are supposed to dismount and walk up and down the paths but they don't. Instead, they seem to view it as a sort of super challenge where they go really fast down one path so they can get up the next without stopping.

"It's really scary when you are walking along and suddenly a bike is hurtling towards you. I fear someone could be killed by either being knocked over, or a cyclist coming to grief."

The path user reported seeing horses spooked by a group riding the trail, causing them to charge towards her and a friend.

"The horses just took off in our direction. If we had not been able to jump out the way I think we would have been killed," she continued.

"We had the horses in front of us and the cyclists rode up really fast towards them. The horses were spooked then, to make it worse, the bike riders started shouting and waving their arms around.

"Some cyclists using these paths don't seem to care about anyone else at all."

The bridge has been closed for five years, with Forestry England saying it is "beyond repair and needs to be demolished".

However, a sign saying works will begin in early 2022 has been defaced by frustrated path users, prompting a spokesperson to say it has been delayed by the pandemic and an increase in popularity of the area.

In another incident a horse rider was taken to hospital after being thrown off and dragged along the gravel when their animal was "spooked by a cyclist hurtling down the railway embankment".

"He was spooked by a cyclist hurtling down the railway embankment and he shot forward," they said.

"I stayed on as long as possible before giving in to the inevitable – my injuries made worse by holding on to him and being dragged along gravel."

On the social media post sharing photos of the rider's bruising, a mother said she does not walk with her toddler there anymore having been scared off.

Disputes over access and use of the New Forest's network of off-road paths are nothing new. Last May, the Beyond New Forest sportive was cancelled after Forestry England threatened legal action against the organisers.

> New Forest sportive cancelled after Forestry England threatens legal action

Roughly 500 riders had been due to ride the 62 or 100-mile events, but it was cancelled after Forestry England, which is responsible for off-road tracks within the New Forest, said it would seek an injunction to prevent it going ahead.

At the start of 2022, the New Forest Association said it had recorded 550 instances of cyclists riding off designated tracks and blamed the "anti-social" behaviour for damage to the national park.

The comments came almost a year to the day since Forestry England was told to "toughen up" action against "out of control" cyclists, prompting fears that more than 100 miles of off-road cycle routes in the New Forest could be axed.

Main image: Mike Faherty / Geograph

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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