The New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) could consider lobbying for a change in the law to regulate sportive events taking place within the area, in a bid to control the number of riders participating in such events and the frequency with which they are held.
The issue was raised in a report on cycle events submitted to the authority at its meeting last week and prepared by its head of recreation management and learning, Nigel Matthews.
According to the report, pressing for a change in the law could be one way of resolving conflict between some local residents on the one hand and sportive organisers and participants on the other.
Sportives currently do not require a licence and unlike road races or time trials are not subject to the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960 and do not need police permission.
Mr Matthews explained in his report that if sportives were to be governed by legislation, it would most likely be through those regulations, which are made under the Road Traffic Act 1988, or through the Licensing Act 2003, which does not currently cover outdoor sporting events.
He said: “Given the magnitude and increasing popularity of sportives there is a strong argument that such legislation should be brought up to date. Julian Lewis MP has written to Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill to this effect.
“However, we do not know how likely it is that the Department for Transport and other key Government departments could be convinced of the need and net benefits, or how legislative changes would in practice enable a local authority to control the size or frequency of events. “
The biggest events in the area are the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, held in April, and the Wiggle New Forest Autumn Sportive, which takes place in October.
Both are organised by UK Cycling Events, and each event has been targeted in the past by saboteurs opposed to sportives in the national park, including spreading tacks on the road and taking down or moving signs.
Earlier this year, the NFNPA published a draft charter for cycling events, drawn up after consultation with the Cycling Liaison Group it had established that brings together a variety of organisations including those representing local residents, horse riders and cyclists.
UK Cycling Events is also involved in the Cycling Liaison Group, and at the time the draft charter was published its owner, Martin Barden, said it contained nothing the company was not already doing.
In his report to the authority last week, Mr Matthews said the company was “fully engaged” with the Cycling Liaison Group and added that the business had made a number of changes to its major events over the past year, including “a 20% reduction in the number of participants, an increase in the number of marshals, no longer publishing results in order of performance,” and “improved management of feed stations.”
The report went on: “Although not without issues, especially around one of the feed stations, it was widely agreed that the UK Cycling Event in April this year caused fewer problems than similar events in April and October 2013. For example, the Police received only two complaints about the event.
“Looking ahead, we are aware that constructive discussions are already in hand regarding their October 2014 event – with potential issues being identified much further in advance, leaving plenty of time to resolve them.”
Besides suggesting that legislation might be one way to regulate sportives, the report also highlighted that some NFPFA members had said they would support using an Article 4 Direction, which falls under planning law, to place restrictions on events through the start venues they use.
However, that could only be done for events beginning in the national park itself – something that is no longer the case for the sportives organised by UK Cycling Events.
It added: “We are not aware of any other planning authorities that have used this means to control cycle events and the grounds on which any restrictions are made would have to be carefully thought through.”
Surrey County Council has previously called for sportives to be regulated through legislation, as has British Cycling following an incident earlier this year in which riders participating in an event found themselves on the course of the Yorkshire Regional Road Race.
Some of the participants in that sportive ignored instructions from marshals to get off the road while the race passed.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.