With a little more than four months until the inaugural edition of the closed-road sportive Vélo North is due to take place, parish councillors in Teesdale have called for a public meeting to be held amid concerns of the impact the event will have on local communities.
The event, which is expected to attract 15,000 cyclists to the north-east and with 50- and 100-mile route options was launched in February with the support of Durham County Council.
The call for a public meeting was made at a meeting of Middleton-in-Teesdale and Newbiggin Parish Council by councillor Bob Danby, who also acts as joint project manager for Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (Utass), reports the Teesdale Mercury.
He said: “There was a petition brought into Utass by a shop proprietor in the village. As a result of that I went to speak to him and he feels quite strongly about it.
“We were also pushed by another parishioner down at the mart who felt very strongly about it. Obviously, the farmers up the dale are quite concerned about it as well.”
He explained that he had spoken to the chairman of the parish council, who had agreed to hold a public meeting about the event’s impact, and would be inviting the event’s organisers.
“I have also spoken to [county councillor] Ted Henderson who, if we hold a meeting, would be prepared to attend,” he continued. “He is quite concerned about it.”
“I have also spoken to Ed Turner, who is the police inspector, who would like to come along to see what the depth of feeling is – but it is outside his remit to do anything.”
He also suggested that Eggleston Parish Council be involved in their meeting, but its acting chairman, John Miller’s response was that it should be hosted by Utass given that the largest impact of the event was felt to be on farmers.
He added: “I don’t think there is a better way now because I think it is a done deal. But if they want to know the strength of feeling I think by all means and I am sure a lot of people will attend.”
Councillor Danby concluded by saying that the person who had raised the issue with him was worried that the event might result in hostility towards cyclists.
“The person we were speaking to, she is a keen cyclist and she is up in arms,” he said. “She said it will turn people against cyclists. She said the same thing happened after the last event.”
Another councillor, Nickie Hough, said that the main concern was that the timing of the event would see roads closed for the best part of a day.
“If it was a race fine, but it isn’t a race, it is a ride out. You can ride it any weekend free, and it is beautiful.”
Councillor Sue Bainbridge added: “The Tour de France, they are professional cyclists who go through in a big pack.
“So these would be like me setting off from Durham and, God forbid, trying to ride a hundred miles. I’d probably be back at 10 o’clock at night.”
As a number of stories we have published here on road.cc over the years show, closed-route sportives do tend to attract small but vociferous opposition from some locals who raise concerns about the effect on local businesses and residents due to road closures.
Such opposition can at times result in attempts to sabotage the event itself, for example through sprinkling tacks on the road or changing or removing signage, although equally it should be pointed out that plenty of people support events of their nature, which benefit local economies, provide a motor traffic-free environment for the day and a carnival atmosphere.
Vélo North’s sister events, Vélo Birmingham and Vélo South, both attracted similar opposition when they were unveiled, with changes made to the route of the former ahead of its debut edition two years ago.
Last year’s event was cancelled ahead of a relaunch for this year with a new route and name – Vélo Birmingham and Midlands – while what was due to have been the first edition of Vélo South last year was cancelled at the last minute on safety grounds due to forecast stormy weather.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.