The organiser of a series of sportive rides that have met with vociferous opposition from New Forest residents has attempted to reassure local people that the next event has been organised to minimise inconvenience.
Residents and councillors have maintained a steady stream of protests against the Wiggle-sponsored sportives organised by UK Cycling Events. Attempts were made to sabotage both of last year's events. Signs were torn down, drawing pins and mud spread onroads and drovers deliberately blocked riders by driving slowly through the forest.
Opponents have claimed riders endanger horses and walkers, and swear at motorists. There has even been a police investigation into claims that riders have defecated on village greens.
The event base for the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive on April 12-13, has moved from Brockenhurst to Matchams Leisure Park, which is outside the New Forest National Park area.
But opposition to the event has followed it to the new location, with a Ringwood councillor complaining that it doesn't benefit his constituents, despite wide-ranging assurances from the organiser and National Park officer.
The Bournemouth Echo reports that at a meeting of Ringwood Town Council, UK Cycling Events director Martin Barden said that extra marshals would be provided to help prevent complaints about the event.
As previously announced, the number of entries to this year’s event has been reduced, and Mr Barden told councillors he expected about 1,800 riders to turn out for the ride.
He said that riders’ bib numbers would be more visible so that reports of poor behaviour could be more easily dealt with, and that UK Cycling Events would not publish individual finish times in a bid to reduce competiveness among cyclists.
Steve Avery, director of park services at the New Forest National Park Authority said that a cyclists’ code had been agreed and that a charter was due to be published by the end of the year.
Councillors said that riders would pass through one of the most built-up parts of Ringwood in the middle of the Easter holidays.
Councillor Neville Chard said he strongly objected to the event, claiming it was not in the interests of his constituents.
However, Mr Barden said cyclists were told to obey the Highway Code as well as observing the event’s terms and conditions.
In a previous interview, Martin Barden pointed out that his events bring substantial economic benefits to the area.
“The last event alone provided a financial benefit of £325,000 to the local economy,” he said. “We also wish to continue promoting cycling in the National Park which is in line with its aims of providing enjoyment for all.”
The danger from cyclists to livestock and wildlife is often cited by opponents of the rides but according to the New Forest National Park Authority there have been no incidents involving animals and cyclists since records began to be kept in 2008. The majority of animal accidents in the park are caused by drivers, and after many years of improving safety on New Forest roads, 2013 saw an increase in incidents.
Motor vehicles pose the biggest risk to animals in the area according to the New Forest Verderers too. A detailed breakdown of figures on the Verderers’ website shows that there were 64 deaths of livestock and 14 serious injuries as a result of road traffic collisions within the New Forest in 2012.
Some 51 ponies were killed, along with seven cattle and six donkeys, most of the incidents taking place at night. The figures do not include deer, which are not within the Verderers’ jurisidction.
Private cars are responsible for the vast majority of death of or serious injury to livestock in the New Forest, according to the Verderers’ figures
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.