Saboteurs target New Forest sportive for second time this year
Fears for rider safety as signs torn down at Wiggle New Forest 100 and mud allegedly spread on road
For the second time this year, a sportive in the New Forest has allegedly been targeted by saboteurs, with signs torn down and one road rendered impassable amid claims that a farmer deposited a layer of mud an inch and a half thick on it.
The latest event targeted, the Wiggle New Forest 100, took place on Saturday and Sunday. Organisers of the event, based in Brockenhurst, have raised concerns about rider safety after signs were removed.
Speaking to the Bournemouth Echo ahead of yesterday’s second day of the event, Martin Barden, director of the organisers UK Cycling Events, said: “We are making constant checks throughout the event
“There have been no injuries yet caused by the saboteurs but we have been keeping one step ahead of them.
“There was potential for serious injury to cyclists and that's why we are taking these precautions.
“It's important that it continues not just for the riders to enjoy their hobby but for them to enjoy the national park.
“The important thing to say is that the event has been extremely well received by the riders and it's been a fantastic boost to the local economy.”
The event had already attracted controversy locally due to the annual pony round-up, or ‘drift,’ when the animals are counted and checked over, cancelled due to safety fears as a result of the large numbers of cyclists attending the weekend’s events.
However, Wiggle New Forest 100 organisers UK Cycling Events said that while sufficient notice of the event had been given, the Verderers who organise the drift had rejected offers to alter it and instead decided to cancel the round-up of ponies.
In April this year, the New Forest Spring Sportive was disrupted by sabotage, with drawing pins spread on the road, more than 1,000 signs torn down, and some motorists driving slowly to impede cyclists’ progress.
Bodies such as the Commoners’ Defence Association, which acts on behalf of the owners of the New Forest’s ponies, and the New Forest Equestrian Association have criticised the growth of mass participation cycling events in the New Forest, claiming they place livestock and other road users at risk.
However, it is motor vehicles that pose the biggest risk to animals in the area. According to a detailed breakdown of figures on the Verderers’ website, there were 64 deaths of livestock and 14 serious injuries as a result of road traffic collisions within the New Forest in 2012.
Some 51 ponies were killed, along with seven cattle and six donkeys, most of the incidents taking place at night. The figures do not include deer, which are not within the Verderers’ jurisidction.
Private cars are responsible for the vast majority of death of or serious injury to livestock in the New Forest, according to the Verderers’ figures; the last recorded incident of a bicycle being involved in such a collision was in 1999.
Last month representatives of 19 organisations ranging from cycling groups to ones representing local residents met in a follow-up meeting to one arranged in July by the New Forest National Park Authority.
The latest meeting focused on potential changes to the Code of Conduct for cyclists in the New Forest, which will be discussed further at the next meeting, due to take place in December.