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

by Simon_MacMichael   October 7, 2013  

New Forest Sportive 2

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.

57 user comments

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There seems to be quite a lot of opinion about whether Sportif style, large participation cycling events are a nuisance or dangerous.

I have yet to see any evidence that they endanger wildlife, livestock, other road users, or cause a significant nuisance to local people.

What is happening here is a very small, but well organised group of New Forest residents have run a very effective anti-cycling campaign.

So effective that even on this cycling forum cyclists are having a bash at Sportif events and calling for 'regulation'.

Can we have some facts please.

posted by seanbolton [145 posts]
7th October 2013 - 20:19

20 Likes

On the New Forest National Park Website there is some guidance to cycling event organisers and riders. All very good common sense advice.

It would be interesting to know if the Sportif organisers followed this advice in respect to the Wiggle ride.

http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20045/things_to_do/36/cycling/7

posted by seanbolton [145 posts]
7th October 2013 - 20:23

14 Likes

I was on the Sunday ride. Great day out, very pleasant locals and the drivers were very patient too! I thought Wiggle also did a great job of running the event and marshalling the route at key junctions/feed stations.

My only negative point was the numbers. I thought it was heavily over subscribed. I've done a few sportives and barring the Etape du Tour the 'groups' tend to trickle out after the first 10 miles or so, at some you wouldn't realise you were on a sportive until you got to a feed station or the finish! Yesterday there seemed to be a constant stream of riders for the whole route. At hills this quite easily bunches to 4-5 riders wide. On some of the narrow roads this could get very frustrating for road users.

One thought I had was they could try one of the big sportives on a weekday....I wonder how many complaints from locals you would get then, mind you I wonder how many people would turn up!

Ben Burns's picture

posted by Ben Burns [61 posts]
7th October 2013 - 20:40

14 Likes

Mass participation events like this will always create problems with locals. Seems a pity that a couple of thousand cyclist seem to cause so much intense interest. If couple thousand poluting cars drive through the new forest nobody even bats an eyelid. Smacks of Hypocracy especially the farmer who in his/her tractor driving slowly made it dangerous for all public users to use that road.
However whilst I am a cyclist I do not think these events should be quite so big, after all they are here to make the likes of Wiggle a lot of money!

We're all entitled to a reasonable opinion!

posted by Guyz2010 [291 posts]
7th October 2013 - 20:54

15 Likes

Its certainly a thorny issue, especially in places like the new forest. makes me weep to think of all this aggro and then think of events like L'Eroica, and L'Ardechoise, and Vätternrundan, where our continental colleagues are content to shut down the equivalent of an entire county so everyone can have a nice time on their bikes...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
7th October 2013 - 21:02

25 Likes

I know the Scottish legal setup is a bit different, and our Local Authourity may be pushing things a bit, but they require sportives (and other public events on the roads) to get a parades permit. A route map, risk assessment and marshalling/signing plan gets sent round the police, roads and other council departments. Road works (council, utility or private) require permits too, so the benefit is that as well as control over different sporting events clashing, there are controls over road works affecting your event too.

posted by CarlosFerreiro [67 posts]
7th October 2013 - 21:27

13 Likes

You can't please all of the people all of the time.

posted by pwake [313 posts]
7th October 2013 - 23:22

14 Likes

Just a thought: could cases of cyclists riding 'irresponsibly' be reduced if sportives stopped providing timing?

That really takes away any last notion of it being a race, as against the current nudge-nudge-wink-wink practice of 'requesting' riders to be responsible, and not treat it like a race.

middlering's picture

posted by middlering [43 posts]
7th October 2013 - 23:45

15 Likes

I've ridden charity events since before they were called sportives and organisers have always been clear that littering, road hogging and public urination are not on. However, some drivers get upset if people ride two abreast, which is legal, and attemptto deter overtaking on blind bends and brows. Then I read in local rags that people were riding five abreast, which won't even fit on a lot ofthe country lanes used! Its just impotent drivers exaggerating lawful behavior to make their complaints seem reasonable, in most cases.

Sportives are actually better than charity ridesof old because they're less like racing. With rides where not every rider is timed, you're in the first bunch (and the local press photo) or you're nowhere, with the entirely predictable dangerous riding that results.

posted by a.jumper [727 posts]
8th October 2013 - 6:56

6 Likes

Quote:
Just a thought: could cases of cyclists riding 'irresponsibly' be reduced if sportives stopped providing timing?

I can understand why Sportives provided timing originally, in the days before GPS and widespread use of bike computers. Now I think it's pointless, especially when it stops as you enter a feed station! You want to know the time, use a Garmin!

I can't understand the mentality behind it - why would you travel all the way to a Sportive (by definition probably riding somewhere you've not ridden before) and attempt to blat round it as fast as possible without even looking at the scenery? Last Sportive I did (ages ago), I stopped at a cafe in one of the little villages. Smile

posted by crazy-legs [568 posts]
8th October 2013 - 7:40

12 Likes

middlering wrote:
Just a thought: could cases of cyclists riding 'irresponsibly' be reduced if sportives stopped providing timing?

That really takes away any last notion of it being a race, as against the current nudge-nudge-wink-wink practice of 'requesting' riders to be responsible, and not treat it like a race.


I reckon that horse has bolted. Take away "official" timing and people will simply turn to Strava for it.

posted by Al__S [645 posts]
8th October 2013 - 7:45

15 Likes

a.jumper wrote:
I've ridden charity events since before they were called sportives and organisers have always been clear that littering, road hogging and public urination are not on. However, some drivers get upset if people ride two abreast, which is legal, and attemptto deter overtaking on blind bends and brows. Then I read in local rags that people were riding five abreast, which won't even fit on a lot ofthe country lanes used! Its just impotent drivers exaggerating lawful behavior to make their complaints seem reasonable, in most cases.

I'm not so sure, of the two sportives I've been on the 'group' mentality seems to be to treat the roads as if they are closed which is understandable as when do we as cyclists ever get the chance to ride with a great number of others.

posted by thebungle [115 posts]
8th October 2013 - 8:06

9 Likes

My concern with licensing events is how it might effect small local charity rides, audaxes and sportives. Many cycling clubs and organisations like CTC/Audax-UK hold annual challenges where perhaps a couple of hundred people turn up and pay £7.50 on the day. They're issued with a map and directions and left to get on with it. 'Feed stations' are en-route cafés, and your timing chip is your watch! These grass-roots, low-key events have minimal impact and probably contribute more directly to the local economy. It would be a terrible shame to see these go if the cost of licensing, health risk assessments and insurance forced them to stop. In my mind, these events properly embrace the historic spirit of organised cycling events in the UK - far more than the commercialised Wiggle-type affairs.

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [181 posts]
8th October 2013 - 8:30

16 Likes

I did the Sportive on Sunday. I didn't see any issues or come across any angry locals.

What I did see was some participants acting as if it was a race, jumping red lights and generally being obnoxious. It was a minority but they were the highly visible ones.

I think the organisers need to act on their threat and remove these people from the Sportive. It would be easy to do - just stand by traffic lights.

I might be chubby but I love cycling Smile

posted by Cantona07 [2 posts]
8th October 2013 - 10:06

12 Likes

Cantona07 wrote:
I did the Sportive on Sunday. I didn't see any issues or come across any angry locals.

What I did see was some participants acting as if it was a race, jumping red lights and generally being obnoxious. It was a minority but they were the highly visible ones.

I think the organisers need to act on their threat and remove these people from the Sportive. It would be easy to do - just stand by traffic lights.

that has happened on the dragon ride in years past. i'm not sure if they do it every year.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
8th October 2013 - 10:14

10 Likes

dafyddp wrote:
My concern with licensing events is how it might effect small local charity rides, audaxes and sportives. Many cycling clubs and organisations like CTC/Audax-UK hold annual challenges where perhaps a couple of hundred people turn up and pay £7.50 on the day. They're issued with a map and directions and left to get on with it. 'Feed stations' are en-route cafés, and your timing chip is your watch! These grass-roots, low-key events have minimal impact and probably contribute more directly to the local economy. It would be a terrible shame to see these go if the cost of licensing, health risk assessments and insurance forced them to stop. In my mind, these events properly embrace the historic spirit of organised cycling events in the UK - far more than the commercialised Wiggle-type affairs.

yup, that's a fair concern. i'd think it would be pretty easy to make a distinction based on field size, need for signage, etc.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
8th October 2013 - 10:17

11 Likes

Dave Atkinson wrote:
dafyddp wrote:
My concern with licensing events is how it might effect small local charity rides, audaxes and sportives. ...

yup, that's a fair concern. i'd think it would be pretty easy to make a distinction based on field size, need for signage, etc.


That would be good and by allowing smaller events to go ahead with fewer costs, it would probably ensure a place for them alongside the new-style big sportives. A lot of charity rides seem to have become sportives in all but name and that's not always an improvement.

posted by a.jumper [727 posts]
8th October 2013 - 11:43

11 Likes

Maybe this event could evolve in response to these acts of attemped sabatage. Instead of putting up route markers that are likely to be moved/removed maps or directions could be given to participants. Having to find your own way would make things interesting and provide a chalenge other than simply riding as fast as possible. Without route markers it would also be difficult for the route to be comprimised with mud, tacks or go-slow tatics as it would not be clear to non-participants what the route is.

An unmarked course would also allow riders to choose alternative route options to avoid any problems on-route, whatever the cause.

posted by Matt eaton [498 posts]
8th October 2013 - 11:52

9 Likes

Agree with the need for regulation, limiting field sizes and organisers carrying out the threat of removing those riders who break the highway code- it would show to locals and motorists that we aren't simply a group of arrogant road users who ride dangerously (I know we generally aren't, but that's not the point), and would largely remove their objections.

Leaving the situation unchecked as it is, simply poses a danger to health and safety as well contributing to bad blood between road user groups.

Personally I enjoy entering sportives - I usually either attempt to set a good time or simply to finish the course if it's particularly tough. And I do this WITHOUT breaking the highway code. It's a personal challenge, it's motivating and I find it an easy way to take me out on routes I had not thought of riding before, and I always like the camaraderie of riding with others.

I also enjoy group and solo rides I've arranged myself.

Would be a real shame if these were stopped due to public protest about bad organisation and behaviour.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
8th October 2013 - 12:05

11 Likes

Riding two abreast is always going to wind up a motorist, whilst its safer for a rider the impatient drivers who do not understand the reason will get aggresive. Better to carry on single line and move to the inner middle section of the lane to 'block/restrict' their passage until its safe to pull in closer and wave them by. Eye and awareness contact ALWAYS helps.

We're all entitled to a reasonable opinion!

posted by Guyz2010 [291 posts]
8th October 2013 - 12:05

10 Likes

Am I missing something here? I thought the whole point of a sportive was that you followed a set route, had a feed station or three and without racing get a time to compare with your mates.

Removing signage would possibly increase costs as far more maps would be needed. Alternative routes kind of defeat the objective of a set route. No support? So what's the point of paying if you are going to make up your own route, use local facilities and not get any support? Might as well grab a OS map/GPS/Garmin and ride as fast you can, any time you want.

I for one, use sportives to get into an area I didn't know and don't have to worry too much about navigating. Also being able to top up fluids/munchies allows me to go further than I would normally. Maybe I've been spoilt with Evans Kings of .. or the Rydale Rumble and recently a few European sportives. But after paying £15 for a paper map and a banana on the CTC Jimmy Saville Challenge, I felt also most cheated out of my money.

It seem to me that we are missing the point here. These people, like those in Surrey, don't want to share their bit of the world with anyone else. If we cyclist leave the area alone, then more than likely other protest groups will jump on the band wagon and shut other events/areas down for mass participation.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [344 posts]
8th October 2013 - 12:34

8 Likes

Guyz2010 wrote:
Riding two abreast is always going to wind up a motorist, whilst its safer for a rider the impatient drivers who do not understand the reason will get aggresive. Better to carry on single line and move to the inner middle section of the lane to 'block/restrict' their passage until its safe to pull in closer and wave them by. Eye and awareness contact ALWAYS helps.

One of the key reasons to ride two abreast (apart from to 'block/restrict' in the same way as taking the lane does) is that overtaking a group of cyclists in two files is a lot quicker than one long single file. This means that the car spends less time on the other side of the road and the car is next to the group for less time too. The extra distance the car needs to go over on the other side of the road is minimal compared to halving the distance between the first and last riders.

Educating drivers of this though is the key, they simply don't understand so do get aggressive as you say, but I think the answer should surely lie in spreading the message rather than riding single file.

Si

posted by sim1515 [139 posts]
8th October 2013 - 12:44

12 Likes

sim1515 wrote:
Guyz2010 wrote:
Riding two abreast is always going to wind up a motorist, whilst its safer for a rider the impatient drivers who do not understand the reason will get aggresive. Better to carry on single line and move to the inner middle section of the lane to 'block/restrict' their passage until its safe to pull in closer and wave them by. Eye and awareness contact ALWAYS helps.

One of the key reasons to ride two abreast (apart from to 'block/restrict' in the same way as taking the lane does) is that overtaking a group of cyclists in two files is a lot quicker than one long single file. This means that the car spends less time on the other side of the road and the car is next to the group for less time too. The extra distance the car needs to go over on the other side of the road is minimal compared to halving the distance between the first and last riders.

Educating drivers of this though is the key, they simply don't understand so do get aggressive as you say, but I think the answer should surely lie in spreading the message rather than riding single file.

+1 to this. This is what BC cycle leaders are taught and I tend to agree with the logic.

Realisticaly its actually very difficult to overtake a large group of cyclists safely on a single carridgeway road whatever positioning they use so impatient drivers are always going to get funny about group rides.

posted by Matt eaton [498 posts]
8th October 2013 - 13:26

10 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:
Maybe this event could evolve in response to these acts of attemped sabatage. Instead of putting up route markers that are likely to be moved/removed maps or directions could be given to participants. Having to find your own way would make things interesting and provide a chalenge other than simply riding as fast as possible. Without route markers it would also be difficult for the route to be comprimised with mud, tacks or go-slow tatics as it would not be clear to non-participants what the route is.

An unmarked course would also allow riders to choose alternative route options to avoid any problems on-route, whatever the cause.

This already takes place, it's called Audax - the entry fees are typically about 10% of a sportive. No official timing results either Smile

posted by Arthur Scrimshaw [48 posts]
8th October 2013 - 19:06

9 Likes

Regardless of whether I like or dislike sportives or find the rationale for riding sportives questionable, I don't see how a large group of cyclists can cause significantly more disruption than motor based traffic and transport. The idea that cyclists are racing at high speeds is laughable when the road is carrying vehicles that would be driven at much higher speeds and make a lot more noise than any cyclist could, however the highway code should be followed.

The fact that there are over a 1000 paying customers to ride a sportive suggests that there are enough people who wish to take the opportunity to ride around one of our national parks for a day as part of an organised event and enjoy the sights and the countryside, some may be pretending to race, others will enter with the spirit intended and be mindful that it's not a race.

The only criticism I have of sportives is their use of timing chips to encourage speed, and sometimes rewards for finishing earlier, it's perhaps that which would plant a seed in someones mind that makes them disregard give way and stop signs or pass horses without the required care and cautiousness.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [148 posts]
8th October 2013 - 20:16

9 Likes

Maybe bring in a no draughting rule like some triathlons? The biggest issue I spotted Sunday on my ride to work through the forest was the mass groups of people making it impossible for traffic to pass.

posted by antozzi48 [17 posts]
8th October 2013 - 20:39

9 Likes

Yup, I did the sportive too (i was the fat bloke in the planet x top, riding a black ribble - diet started already!) and it was a good ride. Parking was good, good signage, pot holes clearly marked. Aside from the ride, the feed stations were good, far better than the dragon ride.

Not so good was the supply hot food vendors - one hog roast vendor !. As for the locals, most were good or indifferent. However we did get a follically endowed (nasally and cranially) irate 4x4 driver that was a tad impatient - at the start. Plus the odd yummy mummy/daddy cutting us up before stopping and turning left/right; Impatient petulence with an hurrumph. Most riders were considerate, hardly any litter.

The biggest problem is that most road signage is geared to cars. Where roads are narrow, signs indicating single file would be good. They do this in Spain. It would help, I think.

Regarding the roads, Wiggle do a good job of marking pot holes. Does anybody know if they take location data wih these. I think some councils may find that kind of survey information useful for repair planning.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [125 posts]
8th October 2013 - 22:43

8 Likes

posted by didds [42 posts]
9th October 2013 - 17:14

7 Likes

The ConDems are working to privatise the Forests to make every one of of them into a 'Leisure centre' full of 'Holiday lets' and'Activity centres', destroying the ecology and any sort of culture of being a resource for everyone, irrespective of their investment account.
Yet it's a CYCLING event that gets local hostility rather than something which will destroy the very nature of where they live?!
This is a very odd set of values for people who live in the New Forest. It's not a value of all locals (The 'Save Delamere Forest' campaign is a stark contrast) but it's certainly a sign of people who smell 'A killing' in the air.

Plainly most people who used to live in the New Forest (Of which I was one) have been replaced with affluent and aggressive 4x4 driving scum from London who regard the Forest, not so much as a treasured environment as their personal investment account.
This is borne out by the way in which they chop down the trees that surround the original houses to build massive McMansions which make the place look more like Kensington (With all the attendant hostile and ugly 'Security') than a Forest (Let's remember, Kensington USED to be the countryside).

I suspect it's not merely the car-hugging hatred of cyclists at work here but that it also includes some difference of how they see the future of National Parks - whether as facilities of private corporations or as a public park and environmental sanctuary.

posted by Phytoramediant [23 posts]
10th October 2013 - 12:43

6 Likes

Maybe it's just me, but I think the publicity that gets given to this kind of behaviour does more harm than good. In fact that's the case about a lot of 'newsworthy' events; some illegal or underhand activity gets a bit of airing on the news then all of a sudden the same behaviour starts breaking out all over the place. The media really do have a lot to answer for in my opinion!

posted by jgmccabe [3 posts]
10th October 2013 - 13:18

5 Likes