|Pupils from Oak Lodge School on the ‘all ability bikes’|
with National Park Authority Members and Officers
The group of 10 pupils with special needs were using bikes that have been adapted for a wide-range of requirements.
The nine new bikes have been made available thanks to a successful bid for £30,000 from Hampshire County Council’s Aiming High for Disabled Children fund, £5,000 from the National Park Authority and £1,000 from New Forest District Council.
Chris Gregory, Transport and Tourism Officer at the National Park Authority, said: ‘The New Forest National Park is a popular destination for cyclists and has an off road cycle track network extending over 100 miles. It offers one of the best family cycling experiences in the UK. However, before this scheme, it was difficult for young people with disabilities to enjoy the experience of exploring the New Forest National Park by bike.
‘These highly-specialised bikes cater for young people with a range of disabilities. By getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the National Park we hope the quality of life and well-being of these young people and their families will be given a real boost.’
‘We are excited to be the first group to use these bikes,’ said Beverley Hawker, Head Teacher at Oak Lodge School. ‘These specially-designed bikes offer pupils at Oak Lodge School an opportunity to explore the New Forest, increasing their confidence outside the classroom.’
The bikes are available from Brockenhurst cycle hire operator Cyclexperience. Ross Kempson from Cyclexperience said: ‘Cyclexperience is delighted to be working in partnership with the National Park Authority on this community scheme that is going to benefit so many local people who would not otherwise be able to enjoy the local off-road cycle trails.
‘We are pleased to be able to offer such a comprehensive package of bikes and the New Forest is going to become a better place for accessible recreation and exercise as a consequence!’
A survey in 2010 of visitors and residents showed that around 10% of visitors to the New Forest have a long-term health issue or disability which impacts on their daily activity. Feedback from Cyclexperience staff also shows there is a demand for all-ability cycles, some of which can be operated by hand, or carry wheelchair-users as passengers.
The bikes can also be used for individual hire and group sessions, where they will be delivered to specially-selected Forest sites, from which suitable trails can be accessed.
Recommended Reading: Dorset, New Forest and the Isle of Wight with Kids (Footprint Travel Guides) (Footprint Dorset, New Forest & Isle of Wight with Kids)