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Locals "intimidated by cyclists"...

Surrey County Council is exploring ways in which sportives and other mass participation cycling events around Box Hill can be registered - residents on the hill feel "imprisoned" by the sheer numbers of cyclists says a local councillor.

The leafy lanes of Surrey have made the county a weekend destination for thousands of Londoners looking to escape the city and test themselves up the iconic climb of Box Hill.

As well as the profile generated by the Olympic road races last year, Surrey has an above-average rate of bike use, with 20 percent of residents riding at least once a month, compared to the national average of 15 percent.

But the country’s popularity as a venue for sportives, and high cycling rate is generating something of a backlash. A local councillor says that residents feel they are trapped in their homes during large events.

Councillor David Preedy told the BBC that the council is exploring ways in which events can be regulated.

"Imprisoned"

Councillor Preedy, who leads the Lib-Dem group on Mole Valley District Council, said the main problem was the "sheer number" of cyclists.

"Every weekend there are hundreds and hundreds of cyclists and then on top of that, big organised events," he said. “The pressure on residents is just getting too much, they're feeling imprisoned, they can't get out.

"A lot of them, particularly in Box Hill, are older people who feel intimidated driving through large numbers of cyclists."

"I welcome a number of events but we have got to get some of the organisers to look at limiting how many events they have so residents don't feel imprisoned in their houses, aren't frightened to drive out every weekend, and aren't intimidated by cyclists."

Olympic effect

You might say, “Well now they know how cyclists feel all the time,” but Rob Hillman, event director of sportive organiser Hman Race, says Councillor Preedy has a point.

“David very much has his residents at heart and given the vast increase in recreational cyclists going over Box Hill since the Olympics then he has a tricky job on his hands,” he told road.cc.

“We organise a large number of events and go through very thorough processes with Councils, Highways, Parishes etc to gain support of the events we deliver and share information. This isn’t the case with everyone and when you have instances where sportive routes are going in opposite directions to each other on the same stretch of road it is frustrating knowing that if other events had gone to the same lengths then this dangerous situation could be avoided.”

Near misses

Hillman says that Box Hill is already a special case. As it’s owned by the National Trust, organisers should contact the Trust and agree a license for use of the area. But, he says, “I know that a lot don’t!”

“We had several near misses a fortnight ago when the [Human Race-organised] London Cycle Sportive went the opposite direction to the Capital to Coast event (which the National Trust and David didn’t know anything about). It is only a matter of time until those near misses translate into something more serious as two sportive packs with motorists on both sides of the road too doesn’t make a happy picture.

Hillman said he would welcome some degree of regulation of events in the area.

“Given the number of events seems to be increasing at a great pace, the instances of routes clashing is also likely to increase. At the moment there is very little regulation and imparting a degree (none of us want to get caught up in too much red tape) would ensure that organised events can co-ordinate what they are doing and who they are affecting.”

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.