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New Forest sportive organiser responds to threatened crackdown

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.

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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