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Unprecedented numbers of riders head to Surrey at the weekends to try out London 2012 route for themselves

Extra police patrols have been introduced at Box Hill as a result of growing friction between local residents and motorists on the one hand and an increasing number of cyclists on the other who wish to try out for themselves what will be the main climb of the London 2012 road race.

As one of the highest points in the South East of England, Box Hill, owned by the National Trust, has long been a popular destination for the region’s cyclists. Its inclusion in the Olympic road race route, however, has seen unprecedented numbers flock to the area, including many from further afield, reports the BBC.

According to the BBC, both Box Hill itself and the A25, which runs through the neighbouring town of Dorking, have seen a “significant” rise in the number of cyclists using those roads, particularly at weekends.

The BBC adds that a number of road traffic incidents had taken place and that locals had also complained about the “nuisance” created by cyclists riding two or three abreast.

As a result, police have increased patrols in the area, including stopping people to warn them to expect large numbers of cyclists.

Sergeant Andy Rundle of Surrey Police told the BBC: "We are taking any community concerns very seriously," adding that for several weeks now a car and bicycle patrol had been put in place at Box Hill.

"This isn't an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop," he continued.

"We are stopping motorists and cyclists and making sure that all road users are mindful that they are likely to encounter increased numbers of cyclists.

"It is a challenge the local police have to rise to and make sure that everyone is considerate of every other road user," he added.

Adrian Webb, chairman of Redhill Cycling Club, pointed out that the Highway Code permitted cyclists to ride two abreast so long as it was safe to do so.

"Box Hill is not on a main arterial route,” he commented. “It is a leisurely zig zag road up to a small village and a National Trust outlook so it should not be impeding anybody's way."

Responding to claims that some riders had shown menacing behaviour towards  drivers attempting to overtake, he said: “If cyclists are aggressive, that is inexcusable."

He added that bike riders were at times forced to ride in the middle of the road due to potholes.

"Cyclists are traffic as well," he explained. “That is a leisure route and people should be able to cycle up there.

"This is a partnership between cyclists and motorists. The two have to work together," he concluded.

Box Hill has proven to be a controversial choice of route for the Olympic Road Race ever since the final itinerary was announced earlier this year.

Its inclusion on the route had been an open secret for long before that after the IOC and UCI vetoed the original choice of route, a loop starting and finishing in Regent’s Park and including a loop around Hampstead Heath, since they wanted to showcase more of London’s major attractions.

That was partly because, with the men’s road race being the first event of the Games in which medals will be awarded, the event provides an opportunity to use locations such as Hampton Court Palace as a backdrop to television pictures that will be beamed around the world.

The men’s race will tackle the Box Hill loop nine times, and the women’s race twice, before heading back into Central London to finish in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall, where both races also begin.

In further controversy, however, most fans will be denied seeing first-hand what should be the some of the most gripping moments of one of the Games' showpiece events; while spectator access is free to the entire road race route other than the start and finish, the National Trust has severely restricted numbers on Box Hill to just 3,400 wristband holders to help protect the rare fauna and flora found there.

 

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.