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Surrey* hates mountain bikers too: horse riders object to new trail at Leith Hill

*Well, some people in Surrey

 

They don't just dislike road cycling in Surrey. Objections to people having fun on bikes have kept a new mountain bike trail closed at Leith Hill while Surrey County Council waits for a formal complaint from local equestrians.

The British Horse Society said the track, which has been built on National Trust land, is too close to existing bridleways and the potential combination of horses and cyclists could be fatal.

Bob Milton, from the society, told the BBC that the path was illegal and that the authority had not carried out adequate consultation.

He said: “It has been constructed, it impedes access and it is on a common.”

He said there was clear guidance from the planning inspectorate that had not been followed.

Penny Tyson-Davies, BHS bridleways officer for Mole Valley, told Martha Terry of Horse and Hound that there had been no input rom equestrians into the building of the mountain bike trail.

“If they had consulted the BHS, they would have been told that a fast off-road cycle track alongside and crossing bridleways is out of order. Mountain bikes whizzing in and out of trees, jumping ramps above horses’ heads, around an established sunken horse track, is an accident waiting to happen.”

In a statement, Surrey County Council said it was waiting for Mr Milton to confirm whether he wanted it to investigate his complaint.

It added: “Should he decide to take the matter to the planning inspectorate we will co-operate fully with any inquiry.

“In the meantime we have made a request to the landowners for the trail to remain closed for the duration of any investigation.”

Julie Rand, from the national cycling charity CTC, said: “There are bridleways and tracks all over Surrey that are quite happily co-existing at the moment without too much anguish and they respect each other.

“People are anticipating problems that may not actually arise.”

Sam Bayley, National Trust head ranger, told Horse and Hound that dedicated tracks for mountain bikers will improve safety, because cyclists have been “creating unauthorised trails at Leith Hill following and crossing many bridleways”.

“We aim to balance the needs of everyone,” he said. “The design will ensure cyclists naturally slow down at crossing points by appropriate turns and signage.”

Rob Fairbanks, of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Board said: “It is not feasible to ban biking in one of the most popular areas in England. We want to work with the BHS to educate cyclists about the priority that needs to be given to horse riders, so we can all share the Surrey Hills.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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