Hampshire MP calls for licensing of New Forest cycling events
Politician cites potential collisions between riders and livestock... but it's cars that pose the greater danger
A Hampshire MP is calling for a formal licensing system to be introduced for sportives and other mass cycling events amid ongoing opposition from some locals to cyclists in the area. The news comes as the National Parks Authority (NPA), which is responsible for some matters within the New Forest, plans to draw up a code of conduct for cyclists taken part in events there.
According to the Southern Daily Echo, the Conservative MP for New Forest East, Dr Julian Lewis, has written to transport minister Norman Baker urging him to put in place a licensing system for such events.
In his letter, Dr Lewis says some riders taking part in events in the area, which hosts the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive this weekend, which 4,000 cyclists are expected to ride, of ignoring the Highway Code.
“We should not wait for a serious incident before deciding upon an appropriate degree of regulation,” wrote Dr Lewis, “not something heavy-handed but something recognising that both the frequency and size of these huge commercial cycling events have greatly increased.
“Events of this size on public roads clearly need some form of regulation and/or licensing,” he added.
Dr Lewis also highlighted what he claims are two near-misses between cyclists and livestock, with the prospect of such collisions being one of the chief reasons for local opposition to mass cycling events.
Besides the issue of whether a pony or cyclist would come off worse in a collision, in reality it is motor vehicles that pose the most significant threat to livestock in the area, responsible for the deaths of 70 ponies a year, according to the NPA.
We have been unable to trace any report of a pony being killed after being struck by a cyclist.
A spokesman for the NPA told the Southern Daily Echo that since they are not races, sportives do not require formal permission to be held. He added, however, that the NPA plans to draw up a code of conduct for cyclists, as well as a charter for organisers of such events, in response to calls from locals.
However, a Code of Conduct for cyclists in the New Forest already exists, drawn up jointly by Sustrans, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council and the Forestry Commission – the latter three, along with bodies such as the Verderers’ Court and the NPA, all being responsible to a greater or lesser degree for aspects of the New Forest, depending on the specific issue in question.
Martin Barden from UK Cycling Events, which organises the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, pointed out that the event had a staggered start, with groups of riders released in waves over a two and a half hour period.
“Cycling is becoming more and more popular and it is the responsibility of every motorist and cyclist to share the roads in a considerate manner,” he said.
“Any cyclist seen to be breaking the Highway Code will, as part of our terms and conditions, be banned from future events.”
Row or no row, the New Forest continues to be a popular destination for cyclists and later this month there is an oportunity to join one of the true legends of the sport there as RadioShack-Leopard's Jens Voigt hosts a charity ride there - places are still available, just bring along your bike and your legs (and make sure tell the latter to shut up).