A sportive event in the New Forest has come under fire, with motorists and farmers complaining that cyclists are inconsiderate when riding in the area.
The New Forest 100, which was held two weeks ago, was the latest cycle event to anger locals. Last year we reported how an increase in the number of cyclists there is posing a danger to pedestrians and livestock, according to the chairman of a body representing the rights of Commoners in the New Forest.
Frances Baye, a motorist, told the Salisbury Journal that she had been held up by the New Forest 100. She said: “I was trying to overtake the cyclists as I was approaching Burley and it was virtually impossible.
“A group of cyclists refused to get into single file and continued to overtake each other, despite knowing there was a queue of traffic behind them.
“I am not against these cyclists enjoying the fresh air and getting fit but think consideration has to be the priority.”
A resident, who asked not to be named, said: “Despite these types of events not being classed as a race, the competitors are consistently in a hurry to pass other competitors at speed and in large packs.
“They can cause anguish to Forest stock and other cyclists, including children, who are not involved in the race, as well as cars and other vehicles.
“Last weekend was really the last straw with a ridiculous numbers of competitors.
“There were as many as four cyclists abreast on each side of the road; they were nearly crashing into each other at speed, going downhill, never mind the traffic trying to go up and down the road.
On the cycling section of its website, the New Forest National Park Authority says “You are welcome to cycle on public roads, byways open to all traffic, public bridleways, restricted bridleways, and dedicated cycle routes. You are not permitted to ride over the Open Forest, or on Forestry Commission tracks which are not dedicated cycle routes. Cycling on public footpaths is also not permitted.”
The National Park’s boundaries roughly correspond to the area of heathland and woodland within which some 500 commoners are entitled to graze livestock including cattle, donkeys, pigs, sheep and, most famously, ponies.
Last year, Dr Graham Ferris, Dr Graham Ferris, chairman of the New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association (NFCDA), established in 1909 “in response to the increasing conflict between the spreading urban populations around the New Forest’s fringes and the commoners’ animals,” said that the number of cyclists riding in the New Forest nowadays meant that “The roads are effectively obstructed and confrontations leading to a breach of the peace are likely.”
Concern for livestock was cited then and now as reasons to keep cyclists in line during mass events.
But data compiled by the New Forest National Park Authority clearly demonstrate that it is motorists, not cyclists, who pose by far the the greater risk to livestock in the Forest.
During 2009, 24 foals and 41 mares were either killed outright or had to be put down following collisions with motor vehicles in the New Forest. There were no reported occurrences of animals being killed in incidents involving cyclists.
Director of UK Cycling Events, organisers of the New Forest 100, Martin Barden said: “Some 1,300 people took part in the New Forest 100, many of whom travelled from all over the country to take part, to experience the beautiful national park and assist the local economy in these difficult times.
“There are one or two people who live in the New Forest who believe they own the New Forest roads.
“The roads are public highways and cyclists have every right to cycle along them and get fit and enjoy the New Forest.
“The event on Sunday was a non-competitive event, with riders’ start times spread out from 7.30am to 10.15am.
“As per our terms and conditions, anyone who is deemed to be racing would be disqualified.
“We ask cyclists to ride considerately and in single file where possible, although riders are legally allowed to ride two abreast.”
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.