SOUTHAMPTON residents are fortunate to live within a short distance of that jewel in Hampshire’s crown, the New Forest.

Many of us will have visited the Forest in the recent sunny spring days to enjoy its beautiful and unique ecology.

Unfortunately, many of the journeys will have been made by car and contributed to the degradation of the very environment that visitors enjoy and care about.

Wherever possible, visitors should travel to the New Forest using sustainable transport; by foot, bicycle or train. Not only will this help preserve the Forest for future generations, but livestock and pony deaths will be reduced as well.

Accessing the Forest by bicycle should be an easy matter.

However, the cycle route out to the west, known as the Western Approach route, is soon to lose the essential cycle contraflow section on Second Avenue, which is being removed to allow two-way lorry movements. Despite numerous objections from local cyclists, council planners have agreed to a planning application which will see cyclists sharing Second Avenue with a much-increased volume of vans and HGVs.

As well as the loss of the Second Avenue contraflow, cyclists are also to lose the useful path running from the south side of Central station to Millbrook station, a convenient and direct route and an alternative to the dangerous Mountbatten Way.

Readers may be unaware that this path, to the south of the railway, is required by Network Rail for the installation of an additional track and will therefore soon be closed to both cyclists and pedestrians. Network Rail will be carrying out consultation with interested parties to look at alternative routes but, as all the land south of the path is owned by ABP, it is difficult to see where it could go.

Local cyclists concerned about the closure of this path should make their views known to their local councillor or the rights of way officer at the council.

Southampton Cycling Campaign is disappointed that cycle paths and facilities appear to have little protection, even when their removal compromises cyclist safety.

LINDSI BLUEMEL, secretary, Southampton Cycling Campaign.