In a direct contradiction to threats made by his predecessor, Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry has said that the council has no power to regulate sportive rides in the New Forest, and is fully committed to supporting cycling in Hampshire.
According to the Southern Daily Echo, Councillor Perry said: “Neither the district or county council have legal powers to restrict large-scale cycling events.”
Councillor Perry’s remarks come after Councillor Ken Thornber, whose role as chairman of the council is largely ceremonial, recently 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.”
Councillor Perry said event organisers already cooperated with the council.
He said: “We do endeavour to work with event organisers across Hampshire on traffic management plans, which include issues around briefing participants, signage, speeds and duties of marshals. In general these are effective in managing any traffic and safety issues. But the production and implementation of such traffic plans is purely voluntary on the part of event organisers.
“The concerns of local residents relate very much to the scale and local impact of larger cycling events attracting thousands of riders to particular areas, which is disruptive to everyday life and business in the local community.
"In this regard local councillors are quite right to raise legitimate concerns on behalf of residents.
“Any event which brings thousands of people to an area, whether they are on foot, two or four wheels, needs to be carefully managed to limit the impact on the local community.”
Risk to animals
The effect on wildlife is often cited by New Forest residents as a reason for their opposition to large-scale cycling events in the forest.
However, the New Forest National Park Authority has no record of any animal accidents involving cyclists.
Nigel Matthews, the head of recreation management and learning for the New Forest National Park Authority rtold road.cc: “The Verderers’ Office keep a database of all animal accidents reported to them; the current system dates back to January 2008. I have checked and there are currently no incidents involving cyclists on this database.”
Traffic control measures in the park have steadily reduced the animal toll over the last few decades, but that trend seems ot have reversed this year.
Mt Matthews said: “Sadly, this year has so far seen an increase in animal accidents (mostly caused by car drivers) so we anticipate that the end of year statistics will not be as ‘good’ as the last three years.”
Events such as the Wiggle New Forest Sportive organised by UK Cycling Events also bring substantial economic benefits to the area, according to organiser Martin Barden.
“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.”
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.