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National Park says local drivers are biggest hazard to animals

Hampshire County Council is threatening to regulate cycling events in the New Forest if organisers do not agree to a code of conduct to reduce the claimed impact of  rides and sportives in the area.

County council chairman Ken Thornber said: “Competitive cycling is changing the character of the Forest for the worse. If the organisers don’t agree to enforce a code of conduct it falls to us – the local highway authority – to take action to regulate these events.

“We cannot allow masses of cyclists to sweep down our lanes two or three abreast at high speed, disregarding horse riders and endangering residents and animals.”

Local roads for local people

According to Chris Yandell of the Southern Daily Echo, Mr Thornber said the New Forest was the jewel in Hampshire’s crown: “We will share it, but it must be on our terms.”

Speaking at the annual Beaulieu Estate dinner, Mr Thornber said that the council might apply for a bye-law giving it the power to license events.

“Every event would have to be licensed, which would enable us to insist that there’s a limit on the number of cyclists taking part, plus more stewards and a greater number of police to police it,” he said.

“The organisers would also have to clear up after the event. If not there would be a charge.”

UK Cycling Events said it has taken on board the complaints of New Forest locals.

“There has never been a horse or livestock animal killed by a cycling event” in the New Forest, said Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events, organiser of the Wiggle Sportive that has been a focus for complaints by New Forest locals.

In an email to road.cc, Mr Barden criticised Ken Thornber’s comments and claims about cycling events in the forest.

He said: “Cllr Thornber has not done his research as our events are non-competitive sportives, not races. In addition he states, ‘We will share it, but it must be on our terms.’ Once again, he seems to be mistaken. The New Forest is a National Park set up for everyone to enjoy. It is not an extension of Cllr Thornber’s back garden.”

The event will continue in the New Forest, Mr Barden said, not least because of the enthusiasm of local businesses and accommodation providers.

“The last event alone provided a financial benefit of £325,000  to the local economy,” he said. “We also wish to continue promoting cycling in the National Park which is in line with its aims of providing enjoyment for all.”

Nevertheless, Mr Barden said that UK Cycling Events had been working hard to listen to the local community and would be making a number iof changes to the way its events ran to help improve the harmonious relationship with New Forest residents.

Those changes include:

  • Moving the event HQ from New Park Showground to outside of the National Park. This will reduce the need to have a temporary speed limit restriction between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst.
  • Removing some ‘hot spots’ for local tension from the route, for example Blissford Hill.
  • Replacing some narrow lanes with double width alternatives.
  • Reducing rider numbers by 20%.
  • Providing additional port-a-loos at rest stops.
  • Supporting a local charity in addition to our national charity partner.
  • Providing additional motorbike marshals to patrol the course ensuring all riders are cycling within the highway code.

Local drivers biggest animal hazard

Some of the loudest complaints about cycling events in the New Forest have come from local horse-riding groups, but the National Park authority says the biggest danger to forest animals comes from local drivers.

Tony Hockley, chairman of New Forest Equestrian Association, said: “We’ve seen more than 5,000 cyclists on a weekend and they don’t want to slow down for other users, which is what makes it dangerous for horse riders.

The New Forest National Park authority says: “The evidence shows that most animal accidents are caused by local drivers who drive along the same roads regularly – often several times a week.”

According to the National Park, animal deaths and injuries in the New Forest have been falling for the last several decades. The number of animals killed and injured in 2012, 82, was the lowest since records began in 1956.

The authority cites the 40mph speed limit across the Open Forest as the most significant measure to have improved the animal death toll. All the materials and measures intended to reduce the animal death toll are aimed at drivers and include pinch points in villages and on the open road, and education campaigns asking locals to drive carefully.

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.

42 comments

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JeevesBath [155 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't partake in many oganised events, so there's no impact on me, but because of the general attitude displayed by Surrey and Hampshire towards cyclists I will do my best to avoid spending my hard-earned in these counties in future. I may even break my own rule and go to McDonalds if in these places, just to ensure that as little of my money goes to the locals as possible.

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step-hent [718 posts] 2 years ago
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I do find it ridiculous that the local council seems to think they own the national park ('we will share it, but on our terms') - it isnt theirs to decide whether to share or not!

That said, I have no problem with events being regulated, provided it is done sensibly. Is there any chance of that, I wonder?

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noizebox [21 posts] 2 years ago
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“Just crossing the road is extremely difficult if the cyclists won’t give way, which most of them don’t.”

Who has right of way in this situation?

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Colin Peyresourde [1636 posts] 2 years ago
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noizebox wrote:

“Just crossing the road is extremely difficult if the cyclists won’t give way, which most of them don’t.”

Who has right of way in this situation?

I know. The debate is pretty nonsensical from start to finish. The problem is the language of it all, in that I believe these events are a pest to the locals, but they can't really explain why without making serious allegations which are largely spurious.

However, if they feel these events are 'regulated' then it at least gives them respite, rather than wondering if the place will be turned over to one or more hoards of cyclists each weekend.

There are two real problems, and 1) is the numbers all setting off on the same route over a period of time - I don't think any of us could not be affected by an extra 3,000 cyclists or so on our local roads 2) the need for the individuals to complete a fixed length route. If I know that I am tired or have a problem out on a ride I can pretty much find a direct route home or use public transport. But out on these things that is a bit trickier - so cyclists are a little less forgiving to allow people to cross the roads - it is a race without being a race. All this affects the locals and how they can use the roads.

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stuie78 [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I wonder if this regulation, if it happens, will extend to tourists who are not locals, contribute to traffic on the roads and contribute to the number of people waiting to cross the road (either by being a person crossing the road or being in a car not giving way to a pedestrian). I do think there is a point to be made about the sheer number of cyclists who do these things at once, and the numbers should probably be reduced, but if cycling gets regulated (or is it just the organised events? Not sure on this one!) then it feels a little unfair that cyclists are targeted. I think the event organisers can nip this one in the bud, or at least show willingness by limiting the numbers at any one event.

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BBB [295 posts] 2 years ago
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Will there be any crakdown on motorised traffic, too?

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Simmo72 [584 posts] 2 years ago
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Each year I have to 'put up' with 2 running events and 1 triathalon, For the running events the roads are fully closed but I don't hold any resentment, and the triathlon athletes are considerate.

We also have to tolerate a couple of local drag hunts. These are the ones that annoy me.
They park their 4x4's all over the place, blocking footpaths, the horses take up all the road with no regard for other users
They dump their littler out of their cars
The area is covered in a mass of horse sh*t
I had a big run in with them when they took up both sides of the road when i was on a bike and made no effort to slow down and control their dumb prey animals.

Not to mention at one point I had 2 of the stuck up morons on my front lawn until i muttered the immortal lines 'get off my land', with the satisfaction that a petrified fox caught up in the pompous sport was hiding in my shed.

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Leodis [399 posts] 2 years ago
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Another case of NIMBY's worried about house prices.

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ridemybike [10 posts] 2 years ago
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County council chairman Ken Thornber said: “Competitive cycling is changing the character of the Forest for the worse. "

It may be timed events, but it isn't a race - sportives are not "Competitive Cycling"

The NF events I've done already have a code of conduct - including don't break the law and ride within the highway code.
There are cyclists that ignore the instructions from organisers, but then there are drivers who ignore the highway code and riders that deliberately try and make life difficult for everyone else. These are the people spoiling it for the majority - cyclists, visitors and residents alike.

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Forester [111 posts] 2 years ago
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Many ponies dying on the New Forest through eating acorns at the moment, owners won't take them off the forest and very few pigs released onto the forest this year, which is supposed to be the solution. Animal welfare does not seem very high on commoners' priorities, which leads to the question of whether free-roaming horses can be justified. The New Forest was established as a royal hunting park, not a playground for people playing farmers.

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Goldfever4 [213 posts] 2 years ago
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To be honest, there's a lot that cyclists could do to be less of a pain on large sportives. For instance riding 3 abreast on a main road where it's difficult to overtake - that kind of riding must really tick off local people trying to get somewhere. I don't see that it's a massive change to riders and it is part of the Highway Code as well to be considerate.

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mrmo [2016 posts] 2 years ago
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Goldfever4 wrote:

To be honest, there's a lot that cyclists could do to be less of a pain on large sportives. For instance riding 3 abreast on a main road where it's difficult to overtake - that kind of riding must really tick off local people trying to get somewhere. I don't see that it's a massive change to riders and it is part of the Highway Code as well to be considerate.

I do understnad what you are saying, but read the highway code on how to overtake cyclists, many times riding three abreast isn't actually a problem if you obey the letter of the law and the guidance in the highway code, the problem is most drivers ignore the law and the highway code and think that anything that stops them driving at 60+ mph is an obstruction and shouldn't be there

I do know the highway code suggests not riding more than two abreast... but there is nothing illegal about it. If you actually think about it, it is safer for all concerned to overtake 10-20 riders riding 3 abreast than in single file.

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CanAmSteve [245 posts] 2 years ago
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I just read that 31 New Forest ponies have died so far this year. From eating acorns! But of course the horses in question here are the ones being ridden by folk who would prefer the roads were reserved for them. A certain percentage of horse riders seem upset that anyone else disturb their isolation, whether it be a car or bike or rambler.

That being said, almost any "mass" cycle ride is a disturbance and IS competitive. Unless no men are allowed, there will be silly little races riding five-abreast trying to overtake on a blind corner. That's because there are a lot of stupidly competitive men out there, and some of them ride bicycles.

I agree that events (basically, ALL events) should be regulated to mimimise impact on nature and other users. Ideally, sections could be closed off for scheduled events or at least use moderated so that anyone entering a specific area knows an "event" is occurring, which would have priority at that time.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not a fan of the well heeled horse owning Nimbys in the New Forest, but Tony Hockley, chairman of New Forest Equestrian Association, has a point when he says,“Just crossing the road is extremely difficult if the cyclists won’t give way, which most of them don’t.”

I came across a woman trying to get her mother (who was in a wheelchair) across a road during last year's London to Brighton ride. She told me she had been trying for 15 minutes. When I stopped the stream of riders, so she could get across, I was met with the nastiest of reponses from just about every cyclist, and some of them looked like they were club riders.

Sportives do much to encourage cycling but, with human nature being what it is, in the euphoria of organised events, we must be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

You need one big event, once per year, in each area, perhaps even as big as the London to Brighton, on closed roads (wouldn't you all prefer riding on closed roads, with massive pelotons, police outriders, people cheering as you go by) but once only. And ALL profits should go to a local cause (like filling potholes on the route, for instance), not private organisers who will take your cash and disappear up the motorway. Endless events in popular areas, where (apart from a few cafes) there is no benefit to the local comunity, interupting local businesses, and leaving a river of gel wrappers for wildlife to eat, is not the best way to improve relations with drivers, and will surely precipitate us into a whole heap of red tape quite soon I suspect.

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Goldfever4 [213 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
Goldfever4 wrote:

To be honest, there's a lot that cyclists could do to be less of a pain on large sportives. For instance riding 3 abreast on a main road where it's difficult to overtake - that kind of riding must really tick off local people trying to get somewhere. I don't see that it's a massive change to riders and it is part of the Highway Code as well to be considerate.

I do understnad what you are saying, but read the highway code on how to overtake cyclists, many times riding three abreast isn't actually a problem if you obey the letter of the law and the guidance in the highway code, the problem is most drivers ignore the law and the highway code and think that anything that stops them driving at 60+ mph is an obstruction and shouldn't be there

I do know the highway code suggests not riding more than two abreast... but there is nothing illegal about it. If you actually think about it, it is safer for all concerned to overtake 10-20 riders riding 3 abreast than in single file.

I agree on the technical points (e.g. leave as much space as you would a car, a shorter group is better for cars overtaking in many cases etc) but my point is just that sportive riders are generally pretty inconsiderate of the wider surroundings and other road users - we could do more. I'm not convinced that 'its not illegal' is a constructive way of approaching this sort of thing either.

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Guyz2010 [302 posts] 2 years ago
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"“Every event would have to be licensed, which would enable us to insist that there’s a limit on the number of cyclists taking part, plus more stewards and a greater number of police to police it,” he said."

All added to the cost of the sportives themselves of course!
Guess we will end up voting with our wheels and letting the horse riders and locals have their way and cycle elsewhere. Plenty do sportives in Dorset, Wiltshire etc. leave the locals to their cream teas.

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mrmo [2016 posts] 2 years ago
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Goldfever4 wrote:

I agree on the technical points (e.g. leave as much space as you would a car, a shorter group is better for cars overtaking in many cases etc) but my point is just that sportive riders are generally pretty inconsiderate of the wider surroundings and other road users - we could do more. I'm not convinced that 'its not illegal' is a constructive way of approaching this sort of thing either.

I am not going to argue that there are many inconsiderate sportive riders, part of the reason i don't bother is experiences from the few i have done.

But, i am also aware of how little respect motorists give cyclists. Overtaking on blind bends, squeezing through gaps which don't really exist.

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md6 [181 posts] 2 years ago
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I think part f the reason that sportive riders can be inconsiderate is that many are not used to riding in groups, and often fnd themselves riding near a group but not in the group. If they aren't regularly on club runs etc, then the ettiquete and other knowledge is, in some cases, lacking. Organisers should be more explicit in instructions before the start and advise people to be considerate, such as not riding 3 a breast - which whilst legal can make it hard for other vehicles to pass.
I wouldn't do a sportive in the New Forest because of the attitude to the 'locals' but that probably is just what they would want.

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William Black [193 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

...leaving a river of gel wrappers for wildlife to eat, is not the best way to improve relations with drivers

This summer in the Jurassic Classic I saw a bit of red when coming up on a group of I saw one of them throw his gel on the floor, stopped to pick it up then chased after him to return the litter and give a bit of talking to about it not sure he was too happy about it or maybe that was because despite having a full on Super Six he was about half dead. This really f88ks me off about 'the new generation' of mid life crisis cyclists. I don't know who they think they are to be honest maybe they don't want to get their Assos/Rapha jerseys a bit sticky or perhaps they are just the sort of imbecile who drops litter everywhere.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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Guyz2010 wrote:

"“Every event would have to be licensed, which would enable us to insist that there’s a limit on the number of cyclists taking part, plus more stewards and a greater number of police to police it,” he said."

All added to the cost of the sportives themselves of course!
Guess we will end up voting with our wheels and letting the horse riders and locals have their way and cycle elsewhere. Plenty do sportives in Dorset, Wiltshire etc. leave the locals to their cream teas.

You're right, the cost would be enormous, sportives would die a death because they're currently organised for profit, not for the common good of either the cyclists themselves or indeed the communities through which they pass.

Sort yourselves out, suggest to locals that there should be one big event in their area, and all profits would go to local projects, and you'll not only have them welcoming cyclists with open arms, but they'll probably help with marshalling as well. It is so, so simple. If peeps don't, the golden egg laying goose will stop laying.

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shearer27 [22 posts] 2 years ago
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Some valid points above to which I will now add my own. I have lived in the New Forest for all of my life and therefore have ridden the roads and forest tracks for many years. I have competed in a couple of the new Forest Wiggle Sportives, and although well organised, I cannot help but think that the shear volume of riders on the narrow Forest roads are going to annoy many residents living along the routes used. Drivers become irritated and bad tempered when trying to negotiate and overtake many riders – and riders become impatient with slow vehicles and those that pass too close (due to the road widths) so it really is a recipe for disaster.

Yes, you can say that everyone should respect each other and show consideration to other road users, but when there are so many riders using the same routes in high Summer (usually) then tempers are bound to fray. But what really annoys me is the fact that horse riders tend to use these roads too although they have unlimited access to ALL of the forest - so why aren't they off-road using the bridleways? I've given up on these Sportives now as it does seem to have gotten out-of-hand and I personally think that they are giving cyclists a bad name.

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Guyz2010 [302 posts] 2 years ago
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Good point Neil753.
I intended to do sportive every month this year but some costing £40 for a banana on a 60mile ride is ridiculous. Making a few quid is one thing but paying someone of a timing chip and a broom wagon is out of odds for me now.
Joint the audax rides at a fraction of the cost and the challenge is still there along with the added benefits of a Brevet too.

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sean1 [175 posts] 2 years ago
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Cycling (and other) large scale events are already registered and monitored in the New Forest.

The New Forest Safety Advisory Group (run by New Forest District Council) consults with all large event organisers.

http://www.newforest.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=8426

The Wiggle Off-Road Sportif in December is shown on the forthcoming events list.

Ken Thornber is a Conservative Councillor for Brockenhurst.

Most of the large sportif rides are based at Brockenhurst.

As far as I can tell, there are only a few large sportif events in the New Forest.

The Wiggle Spring Sportif (2 day)
The New Forest Rattler (1 day)
The Wiggle Autumn Sportif (2 day)

So there are only 5 days in the year that a Sportif ride might cause some level of disruption.

The Wiggle events attract about 3000 riders per day, and the Rattler around 1000 riders.

There are some other much smaller sportif and charity rides.

So all told, there are about 15000 sportif cyclists per year visiting the New Forest.

The New Forest has 13.5 Million visitor days per year. So even if each Sportif rider came for 4 visitor days it would be less than 0.5% of all visitors.

http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/learningabout/whatisanationalpark/factsa...

The majority of visitors arrive by car. (So that is a lot of cars).

There is no evidence that cyclists are causing a significant nuisance or danger to other users and animals.

What is happening the New Forest is that a very small, but influential, group of residents are trying every possible route to restrict cycling events.

The last effort was via car parking permits at the showground. Now they are trying to pull the political strings in the (wrong) council.

They can never actually produce any evidence to support their claims, just turn out the same tired statements, "3 abreast", "high Speed", "danger to animals", etc, etc.

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chadders [83 posts] 2 years ago
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Guyz2010 wrote:

"“Every event would have to be licensed, which would enable us to insist that there’s a limit on the number of cyclists taking part, plus more stewards and a greater number of police to police it,” he said."

All added to the cost of the sportives themselves of course!
Guess we will end up voting with our wheels and letting the horse riders and locals have their way and cycle elsewhere. Plenty do sportives in Dorset, Wiltshire etc. leave the locals to their cream teas.

If you feel the cost increase is excessive what stops riding the route but without all the timing etc that your paying for in the event, there are quite a few runners who do this.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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seanbolton wrote:

Cycling (and other) large scale events are already registered and monitored in the New Forest.

The New Forest Safety Advisory Group (run by New Forest District Council) consults with all large event organisers.

http://www.newforest.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=8426

The Wiggle Off-Road Sportif in December is shown on the forthcoming events list.

Ken Thornber is a Conservative Councillor for Brockenhurst.

Most of the large sportif rides are based at Brockenhurst.

As far as I can tell, there are only a few large sportif events in the New Forest.

The Wiggle Spring Sportif (2 day)
The New Forest Rattler (1 day)
The Wiggle Autumn Sportif (2 day)

So there are only 5 days in the year that a Sportif ride might cause some level of disruption.

The Wiggle events attract about 3000 riders per day, and the Rattler around 1000 riders.

There are some other much smaller sportif and charity rides.

So all told, there are about 15000 sportif cyclists per year visiting the New Forest.

The New Forest has 13.5 Million visitor days per year. So even if each Sportif rider came for 4 visitor days it would be less than 0.5% of all visitors.

http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/learningabout/whatisanationalpark/factsa...

The majority of visitors arrive by car. (So that is a lot of cars).

There is no evidence that cyclists are causing a significant nuisance or danger to other users and animals.

What is happening the New Forest is that a very small, but influential, group of residents are trying every possible route to restrict cycling events.

The last effort was via car parking permits at the showground. Now they are trying to pull the political strings in the (wrong) council.

They can never actually produce any evidence to support their claims, just turn out the same tired statements, "3 abreast", "high Speed", "danger to animals", etc, etc.

I hear what you're saying Sean, and I only have experience of charity rides as opposed to sportives, but I just feel that tensions are brewing because of the sheer number of these events. You say there are only five large sportive days in the New Forest, but the adverse publicicty stretches over several weeks, hightening the tensions between different factions.

I think the real resentment comes from the fact that people are experiencing an element of inconvenience, as a result of commercial enterprise, whereas if these events were to support a local cause then the tolerence threshold would be much higher. Of course, no-one expects cyclists to be perfect but, even within the cycling community itself, there is a clear recognition that the behaviour (and litter) on sportives appears to be a problem that has hitherto been unsurmountable.

It's all becoming rather adversarial, and I worry that people just out on their bikes are feeling the brunt of this hardening attitude towards cycling, and that this resentment (sometimes even aggression) is due in no small part to the rise and rise of the sportive.

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freespirit1 [222 posts] 2 years ago
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I know you don't want to see this but in Surrey there have been so far in 2013;

191 Time Trials
46 Road Races
70 Sportiv Events
9 Triathlons
(Source Surrey Police)

That is heading towards one event per day

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freespirit1 [222 posts] 2 years ago
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Unfortunately most of these have occurred I would assume on Saturday and Sunday when families want to spend some time together and possibly go out.

Is that so selfish when the parents are at work Monday to Friday?

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alun [45 posts] 2 years ago
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freespirit1 wrote:

Unfortunately most of these have occurred I would assume on Saturday and Sunday when families want to spend some time together and possibly go out.

Is that so selfish when the parents are at work Monday to Friday?

I bet you can hardly move in Surrey for all those cyclists !

I would assume that most of the riders are at work Monday to Friday as well!

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ironmancole [276 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds like the usual arguments put up by 'inconvenienced motorists' who feel they are being deprived of their God given right to continue driving in a way that results in 'only 82 animal deaths', supposedly a record low. How many animal deaths have been caused by the lethal cyclists I'd wonder?

Usual case of one rule for the protected motorists and one rule for the vicious cyclists. As for the 'we'll share it on our terms' nonsense proof alone as to the type of over blown sense of entitlement some people have on the roads.

How about banning general motoring in the national parks all together?

We could create one safe zone in the entire country where anyone can go cycling in complete safety. Oh, to have the luxury of simply going cycling without the fear of being killed by a speeding 4x4 driven by an orange lady updating her Facebook page.

Isn't is dire that there are no motorist free roads of any length for cycling in the entire country? Can't all local councils surrender lesser used rural roads to create a large patchwork of cycle routes across the UK?

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freespirit1 [222 posts] 2 years ago
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They probably are, but we could all learn to share.

It is no wonder people are irritated though is it?

I am only assuming that the figures are similar in the New Forest, as mentioned above we need to learn to share the resources we have.

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