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.