Surrey County Council is to push for government legislation to force mass participation ride organisers to notify various authorities at least a year in advance of their taking place, although it has not yet defined the type of rides to be targeted.
The council will debate its Cycling Strategy, with the stated aim of “supporting the development of cycling as a means of transport and to secure economic, health and environmental benefits for Surrey” on Tuesday.
The published strategy document notes in its foreword that “Surrey has been on the map as a destination for cycling.
"Every weekend hundreds of people head to the Surrey Hills to cycle through our beautiful countryside. We welcome this element of the Olympic legacy but recognise that it comes at a cost to some of Surrey’s rural communities.
"We want to act to ensure that all those who use our roads act safely and respectfully of others”.
On the other hand, it notes that every child in the county should learn to ride a bike and that ordinary people should cycle for transport and leisure.
One major concern of the council is that there is no current legislation to control events such as sportives that are not classified as races. The strategy document notes that: “The regulations date back to 1960 and we are concerned that they no longer reflect the situation, with a sharp increase in events that are not covered by the regulations. We are very concerned that, with no requirement for event organisers to notify the police or highways authority, there are risks to safety as well as potential inconvenience to local communities.”
The council says that it will lobby government to address these concerns by forcing legislation over these events.
A supplementary council document defines a sportive as “An unregulated organised, mass-partipaton event. A sportive is a ride rather than a race, although participant times will normally be recorded.”
The council names the London to Brighton ride in aid of British Heart Foundation as such an event.
It proposes that event organisers must notify the council a minimum of 12 months ahead of any ride and obtain a permit from the relevant highway authority.
And not only must sportive organisers notify the council of their plans, but also anyone planning “an activity which has a footprint on the highway or may affect movement on the highway,” - which could even include large club rides. It is not yet clear how the council intends to draw a distinction between rides.
The Cabinet will also debate its support for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive and Classic race over the next four years. The minutes for the meeting note that: “Over 16,000 people took part in the 100, including about 2,000 Surrey residents. Over £7m was raised for charity.”
As part of its considerations the council will look at two petitions, one entitled Surrey County Council: Stop Surrey being turned into a cycle track, with just over 3,000 signatories, and Surrey County Council: Interact and give knowledge to those you represent, in direct opposition - created by road.cc user Gkam84, with almost 4,000 signatures to it.
But it is expected to give a formal endorsement to the agreement to stage RideLondon on Tuesday, despite the protestations of the founder of a local widlife charity who told the BBC the decision to do so was "reckless and undemocratic".
Simon Cowell, chief executive of the Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF) said charity workers were unable to leave its base for at least two days a year for the last three years because of cycle events.
"As a result of these cycling-related road closures, WAF has often been unable to respond to emergency callouts on the days of these events," he said.
"I was appalled to hear that [the council] had made a deal behind closed doors and had committed Surrey to hosting these extremely disruptive cycle races every year for five years.
"I am spitting blood about this. It is reckless and undemocratic."
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.